Revenge should have no bounds.
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.