Maybe

By Paul Allegra

Metal gurney against preserved flesh,

maybe this isn’t the first time

we’ve met.

 

Maybe we accidently locked eyes in a restaurant,

quickly looking to our plates in order to avoid

each other.

 

Or maybe I’ve walked by you

at a busy city intersection.

Two lives that came so close

but didn’t arrive until now.

Perhaps you’ve seen me

speeding down the parkway,

my yellow and red surfboards rattling amongst a nest

of fishing rods and an old white cooler

in my silver pickup.

 

While I headed south towards exit 98,

maybe you were heading north

to tell your family the bad news.

 

While I blasted the radio and rolled down the windows,

slamming my hand against the dashboard to the beat of

guitars, you drove in silence, rolling rosary beads

against your sweaty fingers.

 

While I thought of waves,

you thought of how to spend your final months,

or how you would break the news to your only son,

your caregiver.

 

Or maybe you were the woman in the tollbooth,

the person with whom I wanted to stop and talk,

but traffic laws necessitated our brief exchanges.

 

Maybe you didn’t know you were sick.

Maybe you did.

 

Maybe you were a nurse, or maybe even a doctor,

and you fell victim to the same illness you treated.

I may have been your apprentice,

maybe even your partner.

I scan your body,

shrouded beneath a green towel like a mummy

or someone hiding from monsters

in the dark.

 

I lift the towel.

You are lying face down.

I think that you may be uncomfortable,

I know I would be.

 

Maybe you died from cancer.

Maybe, you were not as lucky as my mother.

Maybe you never achieved remission.

Maybe.

You may have been the woman

sitting underneath the rainbow umbrella,

checking badges for the Manasquan Borough

so that I wouldn’t use the beach without paying.

 

Maybe we talked about how absurd it is

that one has to pay to enjoy a beach,

such a public place,

and maybe you let me sneak in.

But then again, probably not.

 

You may have given me a speeding ticket,

or I may have sat next to you on a bus.

Maybe it was a train…

 

Or maybe you lay next to me one summer day,

enjoying the vibrant sun against your warm skin

while I built castles

and unknowingly threw sand on you.

 

This is most likely our first encounter.

But when the time comes to flip you on your back,

I hesitate to look at your face,

because maybe, just maybe,

you’ve looked at mine.

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