Off Central Park West

"But what about karma and all that?" Cheryl said
to us. I stirred my Vodka Collins and smiled.
All three of us--Cheryl, Rodney, and I--were recent
graduates working in New York City. We thought
we knew more than we did, but it was our opinions
that gave us character. We were in an upscale bar

off Central Park West, one of many cafes and bars
where we would sit for hours and drink and say
whatever came into our heads. Cheryl's opinions
about religion were eclectic and often made us smile.
"Karma is just God's eraser," Rodney said. I thought
that was clever and wished I'd come up with it. Recently

I seemed to be the last one to chime in. Recent
events in my personal life sometimes led me to bars
alone, where I would sit with my thoughts
and mentally rehearse what I would say
the next time we got together. Cheryl smiled.
She looked at me and said, "And what's your opinion

of all this?" "God forgot to give me opinions,"
I said, and that satisfied them both. I had recently
begun to wonder if I was attracted to Cheryl. Her smile
seemed personal sometimes. But I knew it was just the bar
atmosphere, where we felt free to joke around and say
things we wouldn't say to anyone else. If I'd thought

she really liked me, I might have told her what I thought
about her smile and the crooked way it turned up. Opinions,
though, about our personal selves seemed to be an unsaid
taboo. "I actually walked into a church recently,"
Rodney said. "It reminded me of being in a bar.
Dark with a lot of wine." Did it hurt to see Cheryl smile

at that? It wasn't even that funny. But of course I smiled
along. I realized that telling Cheryl my innermost thoughts
would upset the balance of our three-way friendship. "Bars,"
I began, and they looked at me expectantly. But my opinion,
if I had one, evaporated like the ice in my glass. Recently
I'd been leaving a lot of sentences unfinished. Instead, I said,

"I recently had this controversial opinion
about something, but I couldn't say what it was." Cheryl smiled,
and Rodney thought aloud, "Let's find a new bar."

by Vince Corvaia

Vince Corvaia received a BA in English from The New School in New York and an MFA from Wichita State University in Kansas. He has had more than 70 poems published nationwide and has recently received his third Pushcart Prize nomination. He lives in New Gloucester, Maine, where he is a freelance writer.

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