There is this place in Orlando where I went almost every day the summer I slept in my Chevy. They would refill my pot of tea until the leaves barely remembered what it was they were supposed to be breathing into the water.
This cute boy worked there- he had an undercut and an upturned nose and always a grin, like he didn’t know I had spent last night in the parking lot and would do the same when the place finally closed tonight. Which was late because it served the queer bar crowd, dancing in from Parliament House and Pulse like they already knew what would happen the next year. So that summer we all got pretty good at pretending. I people watched and wrote poems, mostly just snippets of conversation cobbled together: it’s kind of like a mantra / and finally it was stuck on my engine / the cadence of it / it’s kind of like a vitamin / into your hands / into your hands…
And once I had a date, so I took her back home to the teahouse and a stranger in a blue suit paid for our meal because (I suspect) they had been stood up and wanted to kindness away the lonely. Another time I was supposed to meet an old buddy but a collision on the interstate stranded him for three hours and when he finally got to Pom’s, Pom herself made a free Thanksgiving sandwich for him because he must be hungry after all that wreckage. Several of my friends started making salads and rent there when nobody else in town would hire them.
I don’t know why I am telling you all of this. I just can’t get it out of my memory- how the teapots were chipped but they still held water the next June when I went back after several months away. That was after the gunshots. It seemed like the whole city was fracturing, all our little apocalypses radiating out from the tragedy like cracks across porcelain. That summer we all got pretty good at loss. I ended up homeless again, briefly. Pom’s was the natural mousehole. I think the cute boy must have lost someone because his smile seemed to have holes in it. People still spoke in poetry but they also talked less. Or maybe we had all just gotten better at being honest.
Troy Kody Cunio lives in Orlando. Their work has been published in Dream Pop, Voicemail Poems, Great Weather for Media, Rising Phoenix Review, The Literary Bohemian, The Beech Street Review, and others. They have performed at slams, open mics, dance parties, punk shows, art museums, streetcorners, and messy breakups all over the country. A Best of the Net Nominee, Troy won the first Poetry Slam Incorporated Online Slam and is the uneditor of Rejected Lit. Yes, they would like a hug.