The Bachelor

by Robert Steckling

Writer and editor Robert Steckling’s poetry has appeared in Canadian Literature and The Gay & Lesbian Review. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers, he lives in Toronto.

 

The man who lives next door is walking home
all by himself again. He’s coming up
the street in steady measured steps, one by one
past the snow banks, eyes uninterrupted
that seem to look at nothing; carefully up
the stairs, his creaky ankle, whinging knee,
his smiles to neighbours brief, his nods abrupt,
slides across your peephole steadily,
clicks shut his door. The silent hall. The sound of TV.

You spot him later on the balcony,
bent low, his suit spread flat, repairing tears,
the creases smoothed, the crumbs brushed off, the tea,
his dress shirts strung up in the evening air.
Then he stops. An eye flicks up and stares.
A moment stopped. The needle’s twitch, the thread
dangles in the air. Neither of you moves.
He looks off first, steps back inside instead,
sews under kitchen light, then paints beside his bed.

You’ll see him out with friends all perched along
a table by the window where they sip
at pints and tut at passersby and fawn
at handsome things, applying coats of wit
to long-recycled anecdotes and quips.
“Why let him spend the night? He’s just a friend.”
A snort of laughs, a jealous glance. They sip.
In T-shirts tight across their chests the men
begin appearing. “Can you just imagine spending

all that money on injections?” With drink
in hand the men start cruising one another.
“His breakfast was a taxi home.” A twink
is trying to catch his eye. He doesn’t bother.
“If we start telling the truth, I’m done!” No other
pays them heed. The drag queens start their show.
“I said, ‘I ain’t your daddy or your brother!’”
He rises, downs his drink. He has to go.
They stand and kiss goodbye and fiddle with their phones.

No never with escorts, though they obliged,
not with the profiles whose photos were true,
trips to the tubs that turned out alright,
coffee with exes he had to sip through,
dates with newcomers like job interviews
veering ever towards nice but not stay
’till no became a normal sort of view.
The plants are boils behind the window pane.
Beneath a listless fan stand rooms of builder’s beige—

—Oh I know you. I’ve seen you here before.
I noticed you when I went to the bar,
writing in your notebook. You’re the bore
from my floor who never says hello apart
from trying not to stare. Okay, the part
about my friends is true: I could have stayed
another round, but it was time to start
work. So, home; yes, alone. These walls of beige
are canvases I prime to paint how was my day

to give it all perspective and a home.
I stack them high and sleep by them at night
and even though it feels I’ll die alone,
there is no other way, which is alright
whether you wind up alone in life
or not—and some of that is luck. The rest
depends on whether you care if I’m right
and how you choose, and who, and that’s the best
I can offer you. Enough of that. Get dressed

and come with me. Late winter afternoons,
when streets get full and trains exhale throngs
of people scattering home, I’ll leave my room
and take a walk and see the buildings donning
shadows in the early dark. Come along.
Perhaps we’ll meet my friends, or a man—such
things still happen. Stay with me as long
as you don’t talk—and if I hobble, clutch
my arm—and maybe I won’t notice you as much.

 


Writer and editor Robert Steckling’s poetry has appeared in Canadian Literature and The Gay & Lesbian Review. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers, he lives in Toronto.

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