“So tell me: on a scale of one to ten,
what would you rate your life?” Somehow, again,
I’ve found myself inside a stranded bar
with made-up drag queens, doughy bankers. Far
away, the girls I came with flirt with men
in navy cargo pants and boat shoes. When
was that in fashion? I’m all set to leave,
depart in silence, pizza my reprieve,
until the strange man corners me and chirps,
“How would you rate your life?” Long-nailed, he slurps
what could be one of those Long Islands, though
I just don’t care. Probably, years ago,
I’d beam, but now, I want to take a knife,
and twist it into his perfect dimple. Life?
A rating system? No “hello,” not even
a cheeky wink? But I choke out, “uh . . . seven?”
His mouth falls open, slug-like eyebrows raised,
“A pretty girl? Just seven? I’m amazed!
I’d give my own a nine. Thirty-two years,
near perfect.” Girls behind me clink their beers,
engage in bored, half-hearted conversation,
skewered shrimp abound, the pink crustacean
I envy. Yes, I’d rather jab a stick
through me than talk to this simple-minded dick.
He presses on, “Look, I’ll be honest, I-
I think it’s rather sad you’d classify
your life so low. I mean, how old are you?
Too young to be so jaded!” Cheese fondue;
tiny cocktail dresses; toothpicks; just
me. He looks at me not with disgust
but hardly warmth, intrigue, or lust. I picture
pizza men, my couch. I’d skip this lecture
in some other sweet world, but now I’m stuck.
“Seven’s fine,” I say. “It’s passing.” Fuck,
I want this to be over. “Yeah, I guess,”
he snorts, “But don’t you ever, like, obsess
about how things could be? Why settle? Fake
it till you make it! I think you should make
better decisions and you’ll find the world
isn’t so bad.” Later, I’ll wish I’d twirled
and stomped away, or kneed him in the gut,
used Mom’s kickboxing skills—jab, uppercut—
blinded the cocky sucker. How dare he?
A stuck-up bastard whose reality
was some sick fantasy. Clearly, he never
had gone through any hardship whatsoever.
Better decisions? Really? I’d decided
to be so young and old at once, divided
into fifteen equally punctured parts?
Yes, when I got my Master of Fine Arts,
I chose to lie face-down all day. A child,
I simply checked a box—cross-legged, and smiled—
that said I wanted my old man to die.
My God, who is this freakish, dimpled guy?
But reader, you and I both know the facts:
I’m the kind of girl who never quite reacts,
the kind whom others pity for attracting
guys who. . . who what? Love their own lives? Love acting
superior? Later, I’ll wish I’d said,
well, anything, but it fills me with dread
to even dream about making a scene.
So I just laugh. “Yeah, I see what you mean.
Nice meeting you!” and hope to leave composed.
By now, I know the pizza place is closed.