Looking across Nash Park
from the soccer fields of my kids’ present,
I see Kelly K’s house along with
my lost past. Her name an alliteration
buried forever in my ear. I wonder
how many men ever desired daily
as much as I did, delivering
newspapers to her neighbors,
but mostly missing her.
Even though Kelly had a route,
her family got the Sunday paper,
but that was Dad’s side of the street
and she was usually still asleep.
I always tried to time my daily route
so I’d finish and find the street she’d
most likely be trudging down:
81st if she was done with her own route;
82nd if she had yet to start;
the playground or park if looking
for a shortcut home.
A couple of times, I even constructed
reasons to run into her on her route,
like if she owed me money for doing her
deliveries one day or if I owed her
for the same, but that was rare.
She lived inside the the yellow and white
cape cod, a gaudy reflection of her
soft hair and complexion.
I’d get invited in maybe once
a month when I collected for the paper.
Always hoping she’d answer,
then hoping she’d come say hi
while I waited, often a good ten minutes,
mind wandering to which bedroom into which
I wanted an invitation. Though I at least imagined
Kelly never smuggled home an extra paper on Sunday
so I’d have to deliver her
and collect once a month,
standing where I was at that moment,
still forgotten in the foyer.
Usually her dad or Janice showed up with money,
even if I knew Kelly was there because I raced
over on my bike even before my sister was off
the phone with her. Or I’d seen her return home
from collecting on her own route.
Once in a while I got lucky with Kelly,
and she’d answer or emerge,
at which time I’d have nothing to say,
like that moment next to the birch tree with her
in my front lawn, as dusk and summer
held our bodies nearer than ever before.
I believed I saw desire reflected in your blue eyes,
and I know I could have kissed you,
even as any number of sleazy paper station
high-school burnouts topped your list.
Or the time we played basketball
and I claimed I’d use intentional fouls,
and you almost dared me to reach in,
but it was left in my court for a typical turnover
because I felt sweaty or otherwise
not ready for that kind of commitment.
The house, still there
as a monument to nothing
ever occurring. The same walls
that stood and saw me wishing for you
decades ago, that hid you from me
and housed you close to me, our youth
soaked up in coats of paint
painted over and refinished flooring.
Our memories of awkward kisses and beyond--
now only a whisper of a wish--
merely imagined, but more regretted as
forgotten desire than youthful mistake.
I’m still standing there in the foyer,
hoping you’ll float down the red carpet
on the stairs, like the ignored beauty
in an obvious teen coming-of-age movie moment,
except you’re wearing those signature tight jeans
or those black biking shorts, or
that dreamy prom dress or that fantasy
little leather skirt and tight shirt combo.
I smile as soon as I see you,
but your eyes drift off for a second before
your own smile lights your path,
your anticipation from above mirroring mine.
I say the words never once said
at the park, in my yard, on your route, or
in your house.
Would one time have changed history, anyhow?
Or only a few real memories.