Rogan Kelly

Silence at the Borderline Bar

A woman walks into the room with just-kissed lips, rendered bare. A man walks in after her, lips painted, a secondhand shade of gothic cinnamon. Those of us at the dank bar observe this clearly when they pass the well-lit open doorway leading to the kitchen. And what alerts us at the bar to the lipstick is the woman, striking, hair and clothes just askew, still fixing herself, though lips dulled in contrast to the rest of her sheen. Preening clown behind her, full of himself. They take up seats at the same large table, illuminated by candle, but not next to each other. The coincidence of their share-timed late arrival is met with light ribbing. Something about the next round on them. The two shoot shameful glances at each other, made more noticeable in how quickly they look away. Another woman in the group, possibly his wife or girlfriend coils her body away from the table and into shadow. Her chair pushed back, a kind of island, just out of reach of the flickering candlelight while the man in lipstick leans forward, illuminated, attempts to speak something funny, winning. The table and the bar and the servers and bartender hold their breath. The busboy bussing stops. The kitchen, alerted by the silence, but unsure of the happening, pauses. Everyone focuses in; everyone sees. Two women lunge forward with napkin, but it is the woman from shadow who puts cloth to mouth and part saving, part killing, smothers him whole, rubs his face raw. He forgets what he was going to say.

Rogan Kelly is a writer and educator, including a former D.C. speechwriter and special education teacher. He serves as Associate Publisher with Serving House Books. His poems have recently been featured or are forthcoming in The Citron Review, Diode, Edison Literary Review, PIVOT and Shrew Literary Zine.

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