A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2009, vol 5 no 2

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Renee Owen


Behind the Old Walls

After the freedom of dorm life, I’m not exactly looking forward to living at home for the summer. Between the stupefying Florida heat and needing to find work, it doesn’t sound like a party. But with my parents in the throes of a messy divorce, and deep in the bottle, I manage to stay off their radar.

record storm surge
the beach lined with
oily murres

Tired of telephone magazine sales for minimum wage, I land a job waitressing for a fancy steakhouse. At the sight of my long hair and hoop earrings, the aging hostess who runs the show says, “You’re not dining room material, dear, but you can serve food in the bar.” A dozen or so dark booths where rich guys ply their mistresses with wine and filet mignon.

The Italian owners, Malio and Carmine, middle-aged twins and family men, love expensive cigars and pretty women. They glide through the restaurant in their dark suits, shaking hands and buying drinks for the regulars. When they come through the bar, Marion, a “lifer” waitress with an Oklahoma drawl, rolls her eyes and makes smoochey faces at me. She’s the only one who knows they take turns pulling me into the dark meat cooler for sloppy kisses. Heady stuff for a girl of eighteen.

behind the old walls —
snail trails leading

“They’re kind of old and pudgy,” I half-heartedly complain to Marion, “but they’re damn cute.” She winks and we both bust up.

Near dead on my feet after a double shift, I beg a couple of Wild Turkey and cokes off the bartender, then blast over to Gus & Lil’s seedy dive-bar extraordinaire. All my old high school buddies, three sheets to the wind, play pool or foosball, munching on stale peanuts and feeding quarters to the dingy jukebox. We manage to down a few more before last call.

My best friend and I stagger across the street to Sanchez Lounge for a night-cap. The owner, Denis, strolls through at the end of the night with his roving eyes. He smiles and buys us another round of Kahlua and crèmes, winking at my girlfriend before he saunters off. Like the steakhouse where I work, his bar’s an upscale kind of place, though just as dark.

closing time
nowhere to go
but home

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