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Revenge should have no bounds.


   She sponged foundation on my face to hide the flaws
   before I took the stage. An acned teen, I took her
   "You look great" as more than admiration of her work
   and, in one of the many scenes I spent backstage,
   asked her out. She laughed, her green eyes--
   every boy agreed they were one of her four or five best features--
   were cliches of joy, and she said, "I date college boys."
   Then, for the small offstage audience I hadn't seen:
   "Besides, I've seen your face without makeup."

   Two years later, before spring break, her friends
   asked everyone for five dollars. "We've done the math.
   The whole class chips in and she pays for the abortion
   without telling her parents. They'll think she's at the beach."
   (They included the price of sessions at a tanning bed.)
   "I can't. Pro-life," I lied. They scowled and knew I stood
   alone at our Catholic school's far left edge of teenage rebellion.
   They said they hated me, muttered something. Who cared?
   Four more girls who'd never talk to me
   telling everyone they'd never talk to me again.

   The baby I hoped would yank the makeup girl from school
   never arrived, and the story--miscarriage? abortion?--
   never came to me. Twenty years on, a mass email from
   our senior class president: the makeup girl (she'd owned
   nail salons, a true entrepreneur) died suddenly in her sleep.
   A collection for her kids, eight and twelve, their college funds.
   I hit "delete" then stormed around for days--I'm paying
   monthly insurance premiums to take care of my kids
   if something happens to me, and she ran two "successful"
   (the obit said) businesses and leaves us to care for hers?

   Her friends would be calling, the email said, asking for help.
   I rehearsed my lines at the mirror, shaving: "You wanted us
   to pay for kids she didn't have back then, now pay again
   for the ones she had?" In the steamy mirror, alone, I saw
   that I'd have given money twice if she had just said yes,
   or even said a nicer no. Of course I knew they'd never call me.
   No one kept in touch or had my number. Look at me, getting even--
   in all that steam, I couldn't see my own face.

Gary Leising's full-length collection of poetry, The Alp at the End of My Street (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014), won the 2012 Brick Road Poetry Prize. He is also the author of two chapbooks of poems, Fastened to a Dying Animal (Pudding House Press, 2010) and Temple of Bones (Finishing Line Press, 2013). He is professor of English at Utica College.

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Author:Leising, Gary
Publication:River Styx
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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