This is not a honeymoon. It is a snowstorm. And you are a sedan, sans chains, stuck on the side of the road. A family car ride, canceled. The children are disappointed. Dad bought them Jolly Ranchers to cope. Mom sits in the passenger seat, squirms, and fights the urge to smoke. There is no patio to hide in. She gnaws on beef jerky and reads a romance novel. The shirtless man on the cover can bench press Nebraska. His pecs are chiseled prairies. He bathes in what’s on tap and bachelorhood. He’s also a fantasy for the author. She, too, has been confined to a car with complaining kids. Her husband’s pecs are saggy hills. His idea of a romantic evening remains just an idea of a romantic evening. Their marriage is a deserted highway. Plenty of rest stops can be found along the way. The forecast calls for the snowfall to cease. The family can soon resume their trip. Restart the car and their lives. Foot on the gas. Away they go.
This not a garter belt. It is a Russian judge. A steadfast nine held above his head amidst a row of tens. His stoic face is a glacier. A frigid solid that won’t budge. The Australian judge can’t fathom that the girl who twirled her body in between gravity shouldn’t be awarded perfection. The recipient of her first kiss was a constellation. She went steady with the sun. But no one is good enough to impress the Russian Judge: a man loyal to Communism and cosmonauts. As a peach-fuzzed teen, he dreamed of dating out-of-this-world beauty queens. He bought them boxes of chocolate and bowls of borsch. Strummed the balalaika’s strings for them during the reign of Stalin. Under the Moscow moonlight, he read them Dostoyevsky. But mirrors were their first loves. Reflections looking back at perfection. More taken with themselves than with his romantic gestures. And he became bitter against rest of the world. A life lived like his country’s roulette in the form of perpetual, “Nyet.” A sour man forever wedded to the role of spoiler. Where flawlessness can always be improved upon. And where everyone is always a bridesmaid.
DANIEL ROMO is the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Black Coffee Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, MiPOesias, and elsewhere. He rides his bike to work every weekday and plays a stellar outfield for the Long Beach Barons every weekend. He gets his James Franco on at danielromo.net.