Joe Costal

AmericanEyes

We wait in line for half-priced Broadway tickets.
See a kids’ movie adapted for the stage, not
Hamilton, not even Evan Hansen. The blonde girl
friend, she’s pissed now. I feel her “good-bye” like it
comes from my own body. The tingle of a mouth sore.
Familiar as Christmas on this chestnut wind. By day’s
end, I’ll be alone, again. I judge this from her walk, her
stare up at skyscrapers I know she knows by heart.

I can only guess at how my Cuban ancestors felt
about this city. Landing at JFK. Breath like dragon’s smoke.
Walking in snow they had never before seen. Did they
touch it with bare, Caribbean hands? Did they find hope in its
quick melt between thick brown fingers? Or did they
wind around it? Fearing its wet touch against cheap tennis
shoes. Does it even snow in New York anymore?

And I can only guess how those real Cubans felt
about this city. Fresh from Havana heat. Wearing loneliness
awkwardly as their winter coats. Chatting restlessness, foreign
words like incantations. Steam from bodega cafe con leche rising
and fading like Communism itself. Could they have dreamt of me?
Back in this city to lunch, money to Broadway burn.

This blonde girlfriend. This $45 hamburger.
These tweets at Lin Manuel Miranda. “He’s Puerto Rican,”
she reminds. “He’s Upper East Side Puerto Rican,” I add.
“We Should’ve Seen Hamilton.” she says. “Next time?” I try
not to pronounce the question mark. Flash my sweetest smile and
wait for the kind of recognition that only shines true-blue from American
eyes. Pero nada. Instead, she reads me like she reads the mail, then fingers
her phone for the times of the trains going home.

Author Portrait

Joe Costal writes about everything from amusement parks to the Constitution. Most recently, his writing has appeared in Barrelhouse, The Maine Review, Philadelphia Stories and is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly. His poetry has recently been included in the anthology Challenges for the Delusional II by Diode Editions. He is a regular contributor to the Quirk Books website and volunteers with Murphy Writing workshops. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University at the Jersey Shore, where he lives with his children. His writing has earned distinction from Grub Street, Writers & Words and Rider University's Hispanic Writers Workshop.

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