Take me back to the night we met.
The Cinema Bar, German beer,
first time alone in that atmosphere
since my early 20s.
Onstage: a man with a sad guitar,
movie star good looks,
songs of doom and gloom.
The player wasn’t you,
just someone I knew as a widow.
My husband: Gone four years.
A parade of stalkers and
balladeers tramped through
my love-life. I had invited them in,
later making an abstinence vow
to disallow the wrong fingers
from handling me.
Was 49 going on 15.
Sometimes it felt
like there was no one.
was playing on the jukebox
when you skulked in.
We stared each other down
then parsed the lyrics.
I could feel your wear and tear,
searched your outerwear
for sparkles of hope:
Overcoat, Irish flat cap;
that overlap in your two front teeth,
like mine, only different.
Wanted to tell you,
“I feel Grateful. I feel Dead”
but cut out of that bar instead
before you could make a move
or enable me to find
things about you
to disapprove of.
Wondered if I’d ever see you again.
You’re like a hybrid
of Mary Ann and Ginger,
you messaged me on Facebook.
After the official friend request,
I scoured your Timeline
on a quest for clues,
found booze and pizza pie
at Casa Bianca, an olde-tyme place
with Tiffany lamps
and upholstered booths.
Booths were our underpinning.
For our first date,
you’d promised to deliver me one.
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go,”
I chose Dear John’s, a dark bar
with the older-woman lighting;
got there early, sat there fighting
an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.
You got there late.
I hated dating
though your style was crackling:
to whereabouts unknown,
prescription Ray-Bans, same ones
my Fairfax Grandpa used to wear.
We shared a love of vintage biker jackets.
Fondling mine, you said, “Good quality,”
like a scrawl of graffiti.
Everything was going great
until you mentioned your dealer
while listening to me ramble on
about psychics and healers,
messages from beyond;
how I talked to my husband’s ghost
on a regular basis.
had both saved me
and kept me bound to what was.
My heart was a haunted house.
You were a safe bet;
59 and never married.
And so we made the rounds
to every Westside and Eastside
café, bar, and diner
where we wrangled about drugs,
the definition of love, and Socialism.
Now every place we ever went
has shut down
and/or become something else.
Centanni changed to Double Zero,
serves plant-based pizza,
Taix is on the decline,
soon to become
a smaller version of itself
with housing and retail space.
Meshuga 4 Sushi has become
Spitfire Grill, traded up for craft beer
and “ingredient-driven food.”
Those loved places
all disappear over time.
But what happens
when a memory
is scheduled for demolition?
“Wichita Lineman” was our song.
You’d play it on Friday nights
at the Culver Hotel
when I was in the room
Did we need more than want each other?*
I know you learned guitar
as a way to get girls,
played to show parts of yourself
you otherwise couldn’t reveal;
your heart concealed, endangered.
Take me back to the night you left.
We’re at Vito and I’m 55,
clinging to worn-thin comfort:
your snap-front Pendleton canyon shirt;
that hole in your ear
where a ring used to be;
the length of your beard, rabbinical.
As you glare at enamel saints
on a grief-aged neck,
toenail polish named “Miss Independent,”
with nothing left to love about me.
Remember when you said
you “wanted to be part of a team”?
I believed you,
signed on for being alone together,
even if it meant
making a deal with myself
to live without being
Once, we clutched each other
like prey animals.
Now I’m as numb and disengaged
as Joan Didion in that book.
Take a closer look, you’ll see
my husband’s clothes
hanging in the closet.
I felt guilty for living;
the years, disappeared
Wanted to kill my husband
but he was already dead;
blamed you instead
you couldn’t give me, everything
I thought I wanted.
Stop rolling your eyes.
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
is a poet, playwright, novelist, and essayist. Her writing has appeared in the
anthologies Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine (Rare
Bird Lit), The Black Body (Seven Stories Press), I Might Be The Person You
Are Talking To: Short Plays From The Los Angeles Underground (Padua Playwrights
Press), and elsewhere.
She’s the creator/curator/producer of the monthly literary series Library
Girl, now in its 13th year at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA. Library Girl was
cited as the Best Local Literary Series in The Argonaut’s Best of the Westside:
Editor’s Picks. In 2015, Hayden received the Bruria Finkel/Artist in the
Community Volunteerism Award for her “significant contributions to the energetic
discourse within Santa Monica’s arts community.” The proud mother of
singer-songwriter Mason Summit, she lives in Sunset Park with her husband, music
journalist Steve Hochman—and a cat named McQueen.
⚡ Susan Hayden: Creator of the Long-Running LA Show “Library Girl” by Kathleen Laccinole (circa 2016) at ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere)