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Lousy Lunch

Jodie took a sip of frosted wheatgrass juice, then shook her head.
You wasted yourself,’ she said.
I eyed her a moment. Wasted?
You could have been a poet,’ she said.
I sighed wearily. After eleven years she was still going on about this?
I didn’t want to be a poet,’ I said.
Jesus, she hadn’t changed at all. In Jodie’s world, poets were at the top of the literary tree, followed in descending order by novelists, playwrites, journalists, copywriters, the guys who write instructions for shampoo bottles, and then television writers, of which I was one.
You just need to reach deep and pluck the strings,’ she said. ‘Don’t waste your talent, Alex. I know it’s in you. Give it a try.’
I glanced at the drinks menu. ‘Fine. I will.’
Now.’
What?’
She nodded toward the wintry trees in the park just outside the restaurant window. A few abandoned birds nests perched in the desolate branches.
Tell me about the trees,’ she said.
Jodie…’
The birds nests,’ she said. ‘What do they look like?’
I don’t know.’
Come on.’
Really, I don’t know.’
Speak from the heart!’
They look like bits of crap stuck in a toilet brush.’
No,’ she said – even though they did. She took a deep breath, then closed her eyes like she was summoning up a spirit. ‘They look like the frayed obsidian that binds promise to despair. Cracked outposts whispering Jehovah in the mist.’
Yeah, toilet brush. I’m going to get another drink, you want one?’
She didn’t.
I kept my eyes on the menu. I don’t why we’d decided to meet up again after all these years. Facebook putting old friends back in touch with each other. Yeah. Thanks.
The food arrived. A Polynesian wheatgrass bake, drizzled in apathy and served in its own shadow. It tasted like beige newspaper – but the art on the restaurant walls was imported from Guinea – so the place must have been good.
I was done talking poetry. I changed the subject. ‘So are you seeing anyone?’
She nodded. ‘Jake. He’s a poet.’
Fuck. Jodie and Jake. New from Mattel.
He’s a truly great writer,’ she said.
I didn’t like her implication.
He’s reciting at the Ballantine tonight. A beautiful piece that he wrote about Hiroshima. The passion in him, you should hear it.’
No, you’re right. Poetry, it’s going to save us all. They should air-lift him into combat zones.’
She laughed. ‘Say what you like, he doesn’t just sit around all day watching Bruce Willis movies. When he says he’s going to make the world a better place, he actually gets up and does something about it.’
So does Bruce.’
I went quiet and searched my plate for anything that looked vaguely appetizing. As I did, she started telling me about the novel that she was writing – a story about four Danish hairdressers who meet up in post-war Berlin to discuss agricultural relativism. There’s a great twist at the end apparently – it turns out that one of them had been using an outmoded definition of relativism, and she commits suicide on the bus home. I was right with her on that bus at that moment.
It was a long lunch. But it was great. I got home that afternoon and kissed my girlfriend like I’d just gotten out of jail. I grabbed a beer and put on Independence Day. And I’ll tell you, if aliens ever did invade earth, all we’d need to do is offer them wheatgrass – I’m pretty sure that’d get rid of them.