Why I Was Late

I could accuse those potato jugglers
with their contest in Washington Square.
They blocked the trolley track for hours
while I wagered Skittles with the woman
sitting next to me
over which spuds would fall.
We finally pulled away during the last round –
tossed mashed potatoes with gravy.
Neatness would be judged.

I suppose nothing would have become
of our friendly Skittle exchange
had we not been delayed for yearly maintenance
when we stopped at Brandon Hall.
That night, we lay on top of the car,
the metal chill seeping through our clothes.
We lied about which constellations
we could see
as we wriggled closer to fend off the cold.
“That’s Venus, the Love Goddess,”
I said pointing to the horizon.
“It’s a streetlamp, you idiot,”
she replied with a thwack to my arm.

At Coolidge Corner, we were bushwhacked.
A posse of vegetarian cowboys held the car hostage
and sang campfire songs
about the love between a wrangler and his calf.
They released us once everybody
had tasted the meat alternatives.
She and I shared a tofu burger,
licking ketchup suggestively from our fingers.
“I don’t want this trip to end,”
I asserted.
She smiled saying
“You have mustard on your chin.”

At the St. Mary’s Street stop,
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were first in line.
They planned to begin their end time gallop at Harvard Square,
but the driver wouldn’t let their horses on –
even when the four claimed to be blind
and their horses were seeing eye certified.
But the argument ended
when Famine wandered into a Dunkin’ Donuts
and his comrades couldn’t convince him to leave.
The driver had let that guy on though,
the man that she had once ridden the Red Line with.
He leaned over me to talk to her.

As the overloaded car finally
plunged beneath the ground,
they renewed their friendship
with re-played memories –
the Park Station serenades,
the Central Square coffee,
and the bookstores near Harvard
with stolen moments amid the shelves.
And I stared out the window at the lines
in the concrete tracing out erratic EKG’s.

I don’t know how the UFO
squeezed into Kenmore Station.
The aliens announced plans for medical experimentation
and twenty-two college students volunteered.
“Take him,” I shouted, pointing at Mr. Red Line, but they didn’t.
I fingered the Skittles in my pocket
as I looked at the two of them, happy and oblivious.
I volunteered.
When the aliens finished dissecting my pancreas,
they left me at the Boylston stop
and I had to walk the rest of the way.

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