Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 4, December 2010

Lucas Stensland
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


Love, Phones & Other Connections

Sitting at a table with my brother and two of our friends in a worn-down Thai restaurant that is struggling to be something it isn’t, hip and young, we’re listening to some guy DJ a genre of music that is foreign and foreign to me.  Even though I’m not quite the desired demographic, the place serves me noodles and vodka anyway.  My phone is on the table in front of me, and I can’t help but constantly check it for a possible missed call or unread text message.  I need some air.

Outside I light a cigarette in which I have little interest.  I feel I need an excuse to be out here and something to do with my hands.  I’m used to receiving four phone calls a day from her and at least seventy text messages.  I’m not kidding, seventy.  I just went through a messy break-up, and I don’t know what I feel for this new girl.  It dawns on me that I need a break from all romance, something I’ve often said but seldom believed.  I’ve been dating a lot, and it’s leaving me weary and wandering.  My happiness can’t be dependent on women I hardly know.  I should look out for myself for a little while and ease out of these situations.  After all, I’ve had a much longer history with myself.

this quiet boulevard . . .
I hear my phone
not ringing

“I’m getting a cat,” I announce to the table as I sit.  Turning my back on romance will leave a hole.  A cat seems like the ideal distraction, something to care about and something to show me tenderness, a perfect buffer.  The plan makes me happy, and I’m able to forget about my phone and follow the conversations.  The late-night happy hour starts, and we drink more than we say we will.

I get home, hit the couch and put on one of those Ben Gazzara movies where he’s pretending not to be sad.  Suddenly there is meowing outside my door in the apartment hallway.  It’s like something out of a bad fable.  I open the door and a dirty cat meows at me while running in.  It rubs against my leg, giving a world of affection. Being on friendly terms with my neighbors, I know it doesn’t belong to any of them.  Not knowing what to do, I reach down to pet the cat.  It licks my hand and headbutts my leg.  In the cupboard I have a can of tuna, which I open and offer, but the cat ignores it and continues rubbing and licking me.

Where I move, it moves.  I start rearranging my apartment in my mind, wondering where I could put a litter box.  But then I catch myself: I’m on the verge of becoming the guy who adopts a stray cat and thinks it’s an answered prayer.  I hear the cat meowing outside, where I tossed it, as I climb the stairs back to my apartment.

she offers to pay
half the check . . .
not ready for love


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