- Learning to Drive
What I want to tell you is that there were always other men. Men who taught me the things that I needed to learn.
I have loved other men the way you are supposed to love your father.
And when you left I did not care.
She says that somewhere in her body she still cares.
I must care now because I do things that I would not do otherwise.
I walk into clouds of cigarette smoke when I have the opportunity.
But still I have never smoked a cigarette.
You had to smoke a cigarette while you drove.
The filters of your brand were rust-colored.
They stained your nails. [End Page 115]
I can’t remember you ever taking me any place important.
Mom took us to the important places.
I have cried in public bathrooms before.
Rust on the leg of the metal chair on my porch is enough to make me cry.
I tell myself that I do not care.
On my 30th birthday you emailed me.
Five years since we’d seen each other.
And five more now.
You drove us to a parking lot on campus.
There was the man who taught me how to bench-press.
How he nudged my hands into place on the bar.
The way he tenderly wrapped an icepack over my shoulder.
It was all about left turns.
It was all about how I could never turn away from what you did.
How bruises on her face turned her away from attending PTA meetings.
I turn up in familiar places.
I walk into dive bars in Ohio waiting to find you. [End Page 116]
Where they still smoke cigarettes inside despite the fines.
I find these lines in a poem: My father is ink falling / in tiny blossoms, a bottle / wrapped in a paper bag.
She sees it when I drive.
Or when I drink.
I will find you, you wrote.
Or when I hesitate making a left turn.
The swinging of a hammer.
Another man taught me that move reshingling a farmhouse in Floyd County.
The summer sun destroyed the new tattoo on my bicep.
Eighteen and looking for an escape.
Eighteen and trying to be a man, too.
I still cared then.
How that hammer sits in my toolbox rusting.
Because I am writing this now.
It was important.
Learning to drive.
If you ever want a girlfriend you will learn to drive.
This is what you told me. [End Page 117]
And I believed it when I found out about your girlfriends.
One day I will show up at your work, your office, a reading, your home.
There were metal trash cans at the back of that parking lot.
Dented by my heavy foot on the gas.
“Easy!” you yelled.
What I want to tell you is that it was not easy.
What I want to tell you is that it has been so much harder these days.
I had a girlfriend that tried to pry you out from under me once.
Once she brought me to tears in her kitchen.
She smoked cigarettes on her porch in the rain wearing a sweatshirt.
We fucked each other like our hearts were empty buildings needing to be filled.
I let her do whatever she wanted to do to me.
We both had ideas on how to use people.
She drove me around a city in Texas because I did not own a car.
She taught me how to drive stick shift from her apartment to mine.
One night, she wore fake leather pants and smoked cigarettes and stared out at the rain on her porch.
She kept a rabbit in her house and ate kale for breakfast.
Mom met her once. [End Page 118]
Mom came down to Texas and ate barbecue and met this woman that smelled like your cigarettes.
Mom told me to get out while I could.
It reminded me of being helpless in the car with you.
With you in the house we all felt helpless.
You taught me how to drive away from the town where I grew up.
In the town...