Today, Lise Quintana and Andrea Blyth explore “Dear Firebird,” by Becky d’Ugo, submitted for the Dearly Beloved anthology.
Ashes to ashes,
Funk to funky,
We know Major Tom’s a junky
Do you remember a guy who once bought you a drink and told you, “That’s for smiling at me”? You were glowing, sparkling, iridescent. Your golden dress clung to your curves as you wove through the tables, smiling, and waving and looking so fine. I don’t think you knew how absolutely breathtaking you were, oh you pretty thing…
* * *
I had so many dreams,
I had so many breakthroughs.
You did too. Do you remember pushing through the marketsquare in Jerez De La Frontera, stealing murmurs of appreciation from sultry strangers? “Ey guapa…” You had such a way with people. You made everyone feel special, even for a moment. The old caballero whose face would light up when you entered the bar because your smile made him feel young and handsome again. Even women would look at you and wonder how you did it, what your magic was. You were a genie, granting wishes to all, whilst yours went unheeded. You wanted to be the queen to my king. You believed in us. You told me, “We could be heroes”. But I played the villain.
* * *
Where are we now, where are we now? You kept asking me and the questions ring in my ears. The moment you know, you know. But I didn’t know, did I?
Safe in the sanctity of my cocoon, I lose myself in a morass of self-analysis and doubt, only emerging occasionally to dip my toes in the murky pool of social decadence before retreating to soothingly lick my wounds. I look at my watch. It says 9:25 and I think oh God I’m still alive.
* * *
Once I saw you outside that jazz bar in Valletta. You were holding court, everyone around you hanging on your every word as you entertained with your sharp anecdotes. As I walked past your coterie, you looked up and paused. Our eyes grazed each other’s fleetingly, and the words caught in your throat. I could feel your gaze sear the back of my head as I walked on by, but you delivered your punchline with rapier precision, and they bought you another round…Keep your mouth shut. You’re squawking like a pink monkey bird.
* * *
Can I open a magazine without seeing your face gracing the society pages, captured in all the right places, with all the right faces, and all the young dudes? Click flash selfie snap flash smile flash click snap… Snap… Snap… Till you did. Every heartbreak, every crippling disappointment was another twig on your pyre. And every time you added one to the growing pile, you wondered how much longer it would be, how much more you could take. I basked in the glow of your affection. I drank it all in. You told me I can be mean. And now, I drink all the time.
* * *
I know I’m a bit late to the party, but without you there is no party. I toyed with you once too often. I was that last twig on your pyre. You told me let’s keep the doors closed. Please.
* * *
Perhaps you’re smiling now, smiling through the darkness. My darkness. Your light. My regret. Your rebirth.
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way.