Sunday Breakfast in North Philadelphia

My friend Carter pops the yolks
of his sunny side up eggs with a fork
and announces that someday
he would like to retire from optometry
and open a Curiosity Shop.

And just like that, the day seems
dangerous. As if we need to be careful,
lest it get away from us, or us from it.

“What sort of things does one sell in a Curiosity Shop?”

I ask, while scratching a mound of butter
from my wheat toast.

“You sell the unusual.”

I picture him growing into a fat-
thumbed, inquisitive sort, built
like a bundle of twigs, a wicker
knick knack of a man. A yellowed
Socrates, perched behind a scarred
counter, with fingerprints on his eyeglasses.

My mind makes me nervous.

The ladies restroom is an echo, a fine
place for some hysterics. The walls are
written in French, with an awful accent.
At the mirror, I brush my hair
in lengthy, slow strokes,
christen myself Banshee, and let out
a low wail, before returning

to the breakfast table.

Carter is eyeing up my toast, I offer him
a slice and he shoves it into what is left
of his runny eggs. I salt my home fries
and tell him that he will have to live
someplace warm, someplace with a
tourist season. People don’t often
buy curiosities

in their own hometowns.

I fancy his shop as small with little natural
light, on a side street, maybe below a
cheap apartment or two.
He’ll be an old man by then, pettish
and in need of a bath, wearing
the humidity tight, as a shrunken
wool sweater. He’ll be thick-necked

and mean.

I’ll visit each winter. We’ll drink
bitter tea from chipped mugs and
watch the dust build up around us.

I sprout nostalgia like a skin rash.

The parking lot steals our voices
in its wind and grabs at our jackets,
laughing in our faces. Clouds drop
beneath a dim sky, as the day becomes
an ugly stranger. The city
is a suffocation. Even my shoes,

feel too tight.



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