-ponce funeral home*by frankie leone* just a man *i lied myself into thinking i did it for sex.

the lie coursed through my veins, and i told myself i would’ve preferred to have done it for sunrises and roses. now i know the truth. i did it desperately trying to feel a few rays from a sunrise and catch a whisp of a rose. looking backwards from the end of the line i would've preferred to have done it for sex. she did it because she could. she did it because she knew i would we both did it because it was where we were* *she always wore impure thought-inspiring skirts and vibrant red lipstick. it stuck to my lips without forgiveness. i always wore my scars, and a version of my truth she read through my shadowy green eyes like a pulp novel. after asking her why she liked me she bit words into my earlobes, “i love the way you touch me.” i loved to touch her. especially her legs. in braille they told me my favorite lies.* *once, way past midnight in my dimly lit bedroom the arachnid of my left hand crept deliberately across her features. she said to me, “you’re like a blind man.” i told her, “there’s a lot of dim lights in this city doll-face. they usually only tell me half the truth; if any of it at all. i normally wouldn’t want anything you wouldn’t want to give me. i’m sorry baby, i’m stepping off the lost highway. i’m trying to take your truth, and i’m not asking for permission” in hindsight i know i lied. the darkness only betrayed our silhouettes, but i saw

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the scoreboard shining brighter than the afternoon sun. it sneered onto both of us and smirked cruelly with the knowledge we would both lose those frigid february weeks* *she walked in out of the cold, and drew the door of my battered old car shut behind her. i put my lips on hers. they almost seemed there. the corner of lorimer & jackson might’ve felt embarrassed, but it had no reason to. our kiss was passionless. the fog on the windows was merely my faulty defrost. we spoke a lot about nothing. it was time to shift the gears of my jalopy’s automatic transmission. i did, and started steering towards the fourth street-light on the left and straight on ‘til dusk* *following their usual m.o. the streets gusting around the outside of my car were disinterested. i sensed they felt similar to a stunning woman exhausted after work trying having a glass of wine at a neighborhood bar. she and i were tipsy players approaching trying to make our nights. it was clear as we crossed the bushwick border into east new york that the streetlights, glowing under the prematurely falling winter sun, were reaching into their purses for spray bottles full of battery acid* *i knew i didn’t belong there, and i think she did too. i’m not completely certain though. the neighborhood smelled like bodega beer on the concrete, the police blotter and forgetfulness. it was ironic because no one standing outside our destination had forgotten anything. the sky was gray and unconcerned with the mirthfulness of anyone’s expression, especially those in front of the ponce funeral home in brownsville, brooklyn. their skin swirled with coffee and their eyes with espresso. skull caps hugged their heads while

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cigarettes burned matter-of-factly between their fingers. when they spoke it was to the point. they didn’t speak much because there wasn’t much to say. i admired them partly because of this. the re-realization hit me that the absence of something to say never impedes me from writing volumes of nothing across yawning air. one man’s expression remained onyx when i said like a fucking ass-hole, “i’m sorry for your loss. i didn’t know him but i’m sure he was a stand-up guy.” his eyes breezed freon into mine as his short response, bristling with an unconcerned intensity, etched itself into my psyche, “he was playboy.” we walked around. she held hands, was sad, and spoke soothing words softly and sweetly. i stood silently and nodded with nervous politeness. the only white boy in a room full of people who didn’t know me. the only thing i knew with near-certainty was that i didn’t belong.* *his (?) mother was beautiful. her hair was straightened and pulled back into a bun with streaks of gray. on her thick body was a black dress and blazer. she probably put the other ladies at church to shame most sundays. for some reason she directed a spaceheater at me; the lone white boy in a room full of strangers. she gripped her husband’s strong hand while they sat in the front row of folding chairs in front of his (?) casket. she parted full lips covered in rich red lipstick with a genuine smile. she asked calmly searchingly, “did you know him (?)?” “no miss my friend did,” i pointed to her and continued like a fucking asshole, “but i’m sorry for your loss. i’m sure he (?) was a wonderful son”

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i knew she was going to walk with her head pointed away from the concrete and her back straight most days despite any tears that might escape her light brown eyes. she continued to speak to me like she’d known me longer than an instant. her voice sounded like a violin solo absent of self-pity, “at least i had him (?) for thirty-two years. i tried to raise him (?) the best i could.” feeling everything i could i knew beyond any shadowy doubt i loved her* *we left the ponce funeral home. heading past masses of men and women wearing dark sunglasses at the end of that sunless day we stepped onto the streets and into my car.* *it was right after dusk in brooklyn and in my skull. she told me about her other men while i gripped the steering wheel with one hand quarter-listening. a dirty-south hiphop song played through my blown-out speakers. it told her, and me, it didn’t care. my tires continued to spin with indifference as i felt as little as i could make myself. as we crossed over into bushwick my consciousness was boroughs away frantically scouring the alleyways of my mind. i needed to find the woman i loved more than drawing breath. i needed to tearfully apologize and give the whole-hearted embrace i was too awkwardly afraid to give her. i needed to find mom; she’d been sitting in the front row of folding chairs in front of his (?) casket.*

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