one red bulb
by E.B. Dufton
Remember your old apartment with the narrow metal steps that were dangerous and slick in the snow and the rain (I stumbled, fell, some nights when drunk) that would lead us up to your broken down porch with the one red bulb casting an erotic pall over the broken screen door that hung open like a tooth, the thick interior door with the broken down lock that you never latched anyway because no one tried to break in. You wrote poems about that one red bulb, long drawn out poems that were unpublishable at the time, early and unpalatable because your words were still raw and I was not yet jealous of you or your new girl. It was a broken down apartment in a broken down place and you were broken down also and paid 300 a month for that one small bedroom you had painted grey. You shared it with Dan (who would turn generously and face the wall while we conspicuously but – we thought – secretly made love, quiet and muffled underneath your sheets, an early morning love while Dan pretended just to sleep), and, waking, clothed, our secrets spent, Dan would always say, I don’t know why it’s red. And we’d laugh, eat breakfast in cold grey light, the bulb still lit because we couldn’t turn it off. It’s a bathhouse. It’s a whorehouse. It’s perfect, you would say.
So all day long that bulb was lit, a beacon, guarding over a kitchen too, a staunch square room that never received any heat, and a bathroom that scared me with its mold and its age so that I would wait to shower until I was home. It was such an odd time to be in love (we were too young and I was running away), and now, remembering, it’s been six years, and the apartment is over with and so are we (your mother loved me but I didn’t care) – now you’re in your new place with all your new poems, and with a new girl who my friends say loves you very, very much. I bet she would shower wherever you lived, not scared of lightbulbs or mold or pain. But we ended and I heard the night that we died you ran out to the porch with a hammer or a bat and smashed that bulb down, crushing it under your feet, wild, drunk, still deserving of my love.