the proximity of entrances and exits (the only teenager i ever knew how to be)

“If you think of someone enough, you’re sure to meet them again,” she said in parting.
“Samsa in Love,” Haruki Murakami

I won’t need any help to be lonely when you leave me
It’ll be easy to cover
“Slipped,” The National

it is the day after Halloween as i leave for work
the black lab is sitting up anxiously in the dark garage
the chocolate lab lies just outside blocking the door and gate
he has always been drawn to the proximity of entrances and exits

the morning is unseasonably warm and wind chimes sing
in the breeze that is up well before the sun has risen
but there is enough light to see the blanket of clouds
covering the dawn as the promise of rain approaches

i am carrying a bag of comic books i bought the day before
a middle-aged man visiting a comic book store
like the only teenager i ever knew how to be
i pause before stepping into my car to listen to the chimes

i am six minutes later than usual for leaving
and my broken smallest toe throbs in the boots i wear
the interstate i know will be packed like a swarm of beetles
so i resign myself to a creeping trip alone in the car

i will turn on The National to sing along as i drive
i will change my mind from beetles to an infinite centipede
with thousands of red glowing dots on the segments
and then my mind will turn to you as it always does

foolishly as a teenager i thought i was as lonely as a human could be
gathering comic books to surround myself with the Marvel Universe
i could collect into neat plastic-bag rows and count on each month

and then each night alone in bed i would imagine you there
thinking of you over two decades before i would meet you
trapped then in the only teenager i ever knew how to be

what did i know of you what could i know of you i realize now
what did i know of being lonely what could i know of being lonely
it is a foolish and brave thing to imagine the one you love

it is Halloween when i feel compelled to buy comic books again
there is always long pauses of this adolescent compulsion
but The Sandman Overture series is published and my bones just know

i start reading a new Murakami short story before visiting the store
it is a story of Gregor Samsa falling in love in the wake of being a bug
his being human again for the first time and listening to the surge of his heart

i finish the story at home after buying several comic books and browsing
and it is there in the story that my mind turns to you as it always does
i am thinking of you as the woman Samsa loves talks of thinking of someone

she is assuring Samsa and then me who she does not know and cannot know
that people can and will meet again if the thinking of is true and warm
as i begin to imagine seeing you again for the first time as if that is possible

i will introduce the me who is not me but of course is the only me i can be
and i will hear wind chimes and think about my anxious black lab in darkness
while a warm day after Halloween blankets us with clouds and offers dreams

—P.L. Thomas