You pay for us,
the two women you've had,
you pay for our soft yellow curries,
even though you're only sleeping with
one of us now.
You open the big wooden box
with the bill inside
and I ask how much I owe,
you tell me, before saying not to worry,
you'll pay, flashing your silver credit card.
While you pay, your girlfriend and I stare away
and I wonder if she's thinking
the same thing I am,
if she's laughing inwardly,
if she's thinking we're a harem,
the three of us.
I suspected you'd pay,
when you held your girlfriend's shoulders
going up the stairs,
as your fingers touched briefly,
and you exchanged a small, intimate glance.
I suspected that guilt might get you,
or that you'd feel sorry for me,
watching the two of you,
then looking away,
staring off into an unusual cold December night.
I suspected it when,
over and dinner and conversation,
and us listening to your girlfriend talk
about her daughter,
you looked at me,
and that look was strong, intense,
I knew what it meant, I saw
your desire and your hunger, I saw it.
Your girlfriend saw it too.
I saw her seeing it, looking at you, at me.
And she wasn't jealous,
you knew that.
Because one day this relationship too will end,
she will end it, like I did.
Except she'll end it because you're younger,
she's been married,
and you still want to settle down.
But these are excuses.
The real reason is your hunger,
it does not give way,
insatiable, it devours everybody,
they can't fill your hole,
or pour in love.
Instead, I sat there,
in your Thai harem,
looking at an empty seat,
wondering who'd be next to fill the spot,
who you would choose,
or be chosen by.
I've chosen no one new,
you can see that.
As you left me at my front door,
I felt alone, useless,
I realised you weren't mine anymore.
But I wanted to know that I could reach
out and grab you, that you, a man,
desired me, sought me out.
I wanted something that night,
watching you depart in happy coupledom,
would have sufficed on an
unusually cold December night.
(Published in The fire in which we burn)