by X Gerard Lee

I went out last night.
My parents went to bed
early. My father
was very sick and went
away in the middle of dinner.
Smyrna's face was half-disgusted
as she wheeled him from
the dinner table. My mother
immediately started to smoke
at the dinner table,
getting ash all over the 
Pottery Barn placemat.
She then took a desperate
gulp from her overfilled wine glass
and continued to hack away
at the bloody steak on her plate.

I called a cab at seven
after putting on my best clothes –
a guayabera that my father
had once wore in his
younger days – "That's his whoring
shirt, you know." – and a pair
of linen shorts my mother
never cared for. The taxi driver
was quiet, too, but less so
than the one who had driven me
to my parents' house days prior.
She was a rather reckless driver,
whipping around the stout
Suzuki like it was a sportscar.
The roads were long and as night
settled in her nest the jungle
emerged as a single, dark-faced

	Are there many streetlights?

I asked, but as soon as I finished
saying it, I realized it was a rhetorical 
statement. The driver, however,
did not pick up on this.

	No, there aren't. In Bassterre
	there are, but here, no.

The bar was one of the most popular
on the island, and by the time
we were within a city block
I could hear the music and the dull
din of the intoxicated crowd. There
was a line to get a booth but the bar still
had a few open stools.
Now I have never been one
to go to bars for obvious
reasons. It's not a very good
rendition of me and anyone with eyes
can figure out that the man in the
picture isn't actually me, but I was lucky
enough that the bartender did not check.
I later found out from my mother
after she laughed at me
when I stumbled in piss drunk – compared to her,
I was only lightly buzzed – that the drinking
age in St. Kitts and Nevis is in fact eighteen.

The bartender was a white woman
of average attractiveness and average
intelligence who delivered average
jokes in exchange for an average
tip. More often than not she catered
to the white tourists that crowded the
bar like vultures,
Piρa coladas and sex on the beaches
the life-sustaining carrion which kept
the tans on their backs brown and muddy.
It was a clever rouse, too, to hire a white
bartender in a country frequented most often
by white people. Who else could win
the sympathy but the "charming, captivating
young bartender with the blond hair?"

She turned to me and smiled
when I sat down.

	You look a little young
	but that's okay. You look like
	the college type to me.

I was flattered that she didn't mistake
me for some other "type" of person
and gave her a respectful giggle.
What'll it be?

I did not know what to order
but I knew I did not want something
touristy, so I went with what I had
drank at home. 

	Vodka…on the rocks. With ice,

She looked at me and laughed. 

	Coming right up.

A tourist next to me
was prattling away in German
to her friend, who was listlessly
swaying back and forth
to Prince's "Baby I'm a Star."
Every so often she would scream
"Baby I'm a" in a rather deep
Austrian accent before thrashing
her head and shaking her red hair
When the woman noticed
I was listening in, 
attempting to put to use
the one year of high school
German I suffered before
switching promptly
to Japanese, she scoffed
and turned away from me.
The bartender then returned
with my drink and placed
it in front of me on a bar

	I hope that's enough
	ice for you. 

She laughed, but there was no

	So where're you from?
	I know you're in college.
	What school do you go to?

I felt obligated to respond
even though I did not want to at all.
I took a sip –it was literally magma –
and responded after clearing
my throat.

	I go to Barrow College, up in 
	New Jersey.

The bartender's eyes enlarged
as she smiled wide,
her teeth as sharp and white
as tiger lotus petals.

	No kidding! I'm from 
	Jersey, too. I went to
	Willy P!

I looked the girl over again,
my perception of her altered
by her school choice. In my mind,
though I know it was wrong,
I lost respect for her and I feel
bad for it even now.

	Oh, okay. That's great,
	William Patterson is a great

I was lying and she could tell.
I took another nervous
drink and burned my throat
to nothingness.

	Well it wasn't the right
	fit for me. I transferred
	to UVI and I haven't
	really left the Caribbean

She laughed and this time – 
perhaps it was the booze
or maybe I was too awkward
to control my social bearings 
anymore – but I laughed too.

	What are you in school for?

The German women had gotten up to
go dance, leaving their seats vacant
and smelling of sweat.

	I'm still undecided. I have one
	more year to declare. You?

The woman walked away briefly to
fill up another person's drink, halfway through
my sentence. I was a little wounded, and I turned
to stirring my drink with my pinky
finger – unsanitary, I know, but fucking sue me –
before she returned. 

	Well, I graduated a few years ago.
	I studied biology. I hope to be a
	doctor one day. But I suppose
	watching rich people get shitfaced
	is also an amusing living.
	I might be making more money
	than a doctor would, too.

I of course did not believe her
at all. The elitist strain
which is at the very core of my being
refused to acknowledge her statement.

	That's great about the doctor thing.
	Good luck to you in grad school.

She saw that as a rather polite way
of ending the conversation – which
was my intention – and retired to assisting
the other clients at the bar.

I sat maybe an hour, drinking to
myself. I took quick, small gulps
to spare myself the pain of gagging.
I imagined that people were watching me
and judging me and maybe they were. After
a while, I had begun to feel the effects. She
came by and filled my glass again – "Can you
water it down with a little club soda, please?" – 
and I drank the second one in one quick gulp.

I danced a little, something I don't get to do.
When I got home, I found this in my pocket
on a dirty bar napkin, smudged
with lord-knows-what.
I do not remember writing it:

	the poet cuts out
his own eye and calls it
filial piety

the poet slams his foot
against the bedroom door
and calls it innocence
the poet melts his cries
into a primer
and calls it art

Basseterre by X Gerard Lee

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