Kevin Rabas

Buzz Me In

First year of college, and I haven’t touched a girl, and it’s late, around 10, and I’m at Amber’s apartment entryway, my finger on the black metal button, and say, “Hi, Amber. It’s me. Buzz me in,” and she says, “Who?” and I say, “You know, James,” and she says, “Really?” and I know this may take a while, so I speed things, say, “And I have chocolates, flowers,” and she says, “Really? What kind?” and I say, “Let me see. There’s coconut and cherry-filled and dark truffles, and the flowers, they’re blue roses,” and she says, “Unique,” and the door hums and hisses and buzzes, and I take the knob and push. She says, “Sweetie, come on up.”

Black Cherry

Tara’s blonde, 16, and has a little mustache, but I love her. Tara says she prefers people who you can’t tell whether they’re women or men. I pass.

Tara lives in a little yellow apartment near the movie theater. I met her there. She said, “You want butter with that?” and, though I’m allergic, I said, “Yes.” Near the drinking fountain, at the trash, I dumped the top layer of popcorn off, got rid of all that butter. Is it really butter? In the theater dark, my hand in the popcorn tub, I thought of Tara. After the flick, she was still there. I asked her out for a Coke, and she said, “But there’s Coke here? Do you like Black Cherry?” I said is that a new kind, like New Coke, and she said, “No, silly, the band.” From the ‘70s? “That’s the one.”

Back at her apartment, she set the LP spinning, while her mom snoozed in the other room, and she kissed me, our hands together by the turntable knobs. When her mother woke, I did a card trick, and Tara’s mother said, “That’s a good one. Impressive. How come all the cute guys I meet are gay?”

Meeting Lisa

Let me begin by saying I’m not really crazy, never was. I hit my head in a pick-up basketball game, and my new wife thought psychology was the answer, a string of shrinks, when what really worked, once I knew, was yoga, massage, and a series of long naps—and writing, bringing a notepad along to puzzle out what had happened and what might happen next, to retrain the brain to be cool, to watch out, to think. That time made me a poet, older poets said, and though I have notebooks of my fears, and bad poems, that writing strung me, like Perseus’s thread, through the labyrinth of a hard time: head injury, divorce, no job, living again with my parents. I was a bad bad personal ad, and a kind paralegal lady took me in, led me up the blue carpet stairs to her apartment and showed me the city again, Kansas City, city of youth.

And that paralegal, she was fine. Raven hair. Black leather vest and miniskirt. Baroness glasses. You know, like the femme fatale in GI Joe, TV show of my childhood. But benevolent. She just looked bad-assed. But to stride through the city without faltering, without falling, you have to have some bad-ass in your spine, strolling your bones. And she had it, clicking along in those long black boots.

First date, I arrived early, and she walked her rooms in a robe, chatted at me through walls, while I sipped an Earl Grey tea, smoke ‘round my mouth as I spoke, steam coming from her bathroom, her hair dryer on high.

We walked the sidewalk hand in hand over ice, used the Plaza Barnes and Noble like our own private library that night. She, too, loved books. Bibliophiles unite! Sounds like some crime, but’s really only the love of books. Only. Haven’t banned that yet. Though they might try.

We looked over the brims of each other’s books in the store coffee shop, sipped our Starbucks. Our eyes meeting as if over bed covers, papers, pages as sheets. We played footsie until the shop shut down and we took to the slick sidewalk again, and she slipped once in her black, knee-deep boots, and I caught her with my arm, and she held and kissed me.

My head spun, my head rung. Then, it calmed like a lake gone to ice. With her, I could stop, I could see. With her, I could skate on into Monday, as if my boots had blades.

Spotter, Trainer with Long Nails

As at the salon, when the stylist leans her crotch into you to reach a spot on the top of your head or rests against you the edge of a breast, or when the dental hygienist does, her finger in your mouth, you lying down, something sharp near your tongue. Don’t move. And so now, my bench press spotter’s hands near my hands, her crotch against my head, my elbows and forearms wobbling, rumbling, like the ground when an earthquake shakes the soil, the grass, the rocks, and my spotter, she says, “Push, Kevin,” and I focus with my eyes, my nose tip, my knuckles going white and red, and she says, “Good,” the bar back in the rack, my back flat, her nails long and red and sharp, like teeth, like zipper notches, like the knives of wood left when lightning kisses, splits a tree.

Dr. Kevin Rabas chairs the Department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism at Emporia State and leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Green Bike, Eliot’s Violin, and Spider Face: stories. Rabas writes regularly for Kansas City’s Jazz Ambassador Magazine (JAM). Rabas’s plays have been produced across Kansas and in North Carolina and San Diego.
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