by Dan Burns

Took out my key, saw two keyholes,

Aimed for the one on the right.

Been five years and six months

Since the last time I got drunk,

Came home to bear her wrath,

Only to live with it each day since.

I stood before her, wobbly and wondering.

She stood, prim and proper, a false demeanor,

Sniffed me, made a face as though revolted.

Said she had been waiting all night,

Scared and thinking I was dead,

But it was only seven o’clock.

She asked where I’d been.

Told her McNally had quit and I’d been promoted,

Went out to celebrate, have a beer.

She said, “With a raise?”

I said, “I assume so,” so

She called me an idiot.

“We’re struggling as it is.

You understand how this works, right?

You work, you get paid.

You work harder, you get paid more.

Now, I’m going to see you less and get less.

I’m the loser in this one.”


Yes, indeed, my brain said and

I offered to take her to dinner, wondered how.

She sniffed me again, said, “You’re drunk,” and

“I don’t want to go out—with you.”

Now cut twice, only I didn’t bleed but

My ears turned hot and red,

Like an iron sword just pulled from the fire.

I fought back the urge, never felt before,

Stepped closer and told her I loved her.

She leaned back, said, “I hate you.”

I kissed her, she said, “I hate you.”

I kissed her, and she kissed back.

The heat dropped from my ears,

Merged with hers as we probed

With hands of ancient newlyweds.

My edge hardened and in the moment,

All I could think about,

Her words: You’re an idiot.

My brain said, “Go!” but which way?

I had to stop, break free for

I stared at a stranger.

Said, “Who are you?” and

She replied with the same question.



I took a deep breath, calmed,

Eyes clear for the first time,

Turned and cut my way through

The doorway without looking back.