As It's Rude to Not Partake
Jessica Lee | Poetry
I’m sick but drinking Old Fashioneds anyway at the bar where we’ve come to meet
your old friend and her new boyfriend, who tell us they’re getting married next June.
It’s been less than a year, but when you know you know. Of course, we agree,
smile, cheers. Her hand is on top of his hand, tight as the lid of the compactor trash can
on their registry and I know what she’s going to ask before she does—How long
have you two been together slicing through the air like a Wüsthof knife through onions
on a marble block. Their eyes bright as a set of matching bedside lamps,
waiting. Six years, we say, as the ice in our glasses melts in real time.
Later, we go to the dive to play pool. The boys are busy racking the table
when the bride-to-be whispers Don’t worry, he’ll come around eventually. I smile, she smiles,
we both wonder why the other one is smiling. Our glasses are filled to the brim with ice
so the cheers we make is watered down, the bourbon I paid for tasting less and less like itself.
Jessica Lee’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, and Poetry Northwest, among other journals. In 2020 she was a finalist for Narrative Magazine’s Poetry Contest and Rattle’s Poetry Prize. She holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University. Find her online at readjessicalee.com.