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.