Thin strips of card stock, a suicide king: bookmarks all. Metaphors for my placeholder finger, they separate the pages I have read from those I may never read. Half-solved puzzles mystify me even as they hold my place in stories that no longer interest me. Photographs of my lost love remind me where I’ve been and that I was once lovable; documents from an officer of the court command me to appear to give testimony for what I’ve done or thought or been. They stand in for my hand between the pages where I’ve stuck them, separating my Crime from the Punishment I hope I can put off forever by reading no further. The reviews aren’t good. Because of what I haven’t seen, my Emma Bovary’s toying with her Leon still; she hasn’t met, may never meet and betray me with her Rodolphe. Raskolnikov at the pawnbroker’s stands forever, axe above his head, arguing moral superiority. And finally, until you compel me to testify in yours, mine is The Tale of One City. We didn’t have a shotgun wedding, but you did respond to something loud—a starter’s pistol? a biological alarm clock?—and sprinted down that aisle, vaulted the flower girl, grabbed a ring and a meaningless kiss and flung the bouquet like a baton over your shoulder on your way toward making a life for yourself. And I’ve been sidelined here, starting project after project, Doctor Jekyll and whatever comes after, I quit them before they can hurt me. How many books would I have to not finish to put unfaithfulness itself on hold? So. Now you need me to act. Now, listening to it ring, I stand here hand on phone, knowing how, exactly how you need me, wondering if it’s time to start another chapter.

Copyright ©2006 David Hodges

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