Thirteen of us meet downstairs in the hostel lobby at half past seven
where my stomach is still troubled after a burrito from the Seven-Eleven.
Hasty, awkward introductions are led by a rep speaking with a stutter
and I end up talking to a Canadian girl with a smile to set my heart aflutter.
Elise, who is an accountant and is travelling with her accountant friend,
they’ve travelled from Toronto, and are staying in Boston for the weekend.
Elise is quiet, reserved, as most accountants are, and talking to her is hard
but becomes easier the more she drinks, loosening up from bar to bar.
She has a dimple on her right cheek which shrinks to a speck with a grin,
she smiles often as the night goes on, knocking back her glasses of gin,
in sports bars where we don’t watch the game, but watch each other
talking about politics and baseball before she tells me about her brother.
I tell her about my own, about my childhood and my friends back home.
I tell her everything, and yet she somehow ends up telling me more.
She recommends poutine, which I find out later is basically chips and gravy
They love it in Canada; they seem to love everything in Canada – all gravy.
I come to know Elise well in that Harvard evening, when it grows cold quickly;
In which she steals my hoodie and returns it later in the hostel lobby.
It’s way too big, and dwarfs her, but she suits it, the maroon shades
matching the colour of her hair, which glows copper as the light fades.
Through, and under, the material I trace her spine as we eat at midnight
In a beat-up Boston diner where she’s pressed against me shivering, tight.
We’re overly fond of food after ten pints, and we walk back to the hostel giddy
Fond of each other, arm in arm, a lovestruck couple who’ve met in the city
I think I do love her in that moment, although that could be the beer talking.
I’d tell her, but it’d ruin the mood, and we’re not yet done with our walking.
The distance seems further than we both remember, but it doesn’t matter
because the longer it lasts the longer we can wander with our idle chatter.
Then I see her the next day at breakfast and I barely recognise her there,
she looks different, warped in a wicked hangover after our short-lived affair.
Then she cracks that grin, and it all rushes back, the night seeming surreal
as we talk some more and exchange phone numbers over soggy cereal.
Boston bar crawls and a brief romance passing by under tavern rafters,
in four bars, in four ages, from bloom to blossom to the morning afters.
I told her I’d write her a poem on the spot, and I suppose this is it, belated
a month or so later, when the memory of her is all I have left to work with.
I’d rather have Elise in everything, in Boston once again, for one more night
to see where it would it take us, so I could leave content at first sunlight.
Elise, in Boston, in a baggy hoodie, holding a shot of tequila in her right,
holding my own hand with her left, swinging it while squeezing tight.
Boston, June 2016