charm quotient

Natalye Childress

i had 36 hours in baltimore, like a
new york times travel writer. but it
wasn’t the weekend, and besides,
i wasn’t trying to craft the perfect
itinerary. in the morning, i skipped
avam and fort mchenry, but not the
coffee. i drove to the suburbs, first
to the high school, and then to your
house. i stopped at the church and
walked the grounds. your prayer
garden had been removed. forty-
eight hours had passed since we’d
met. resigned, i thought to leave,
but you called me, so i sat on a picnic
bench given to the glory of god and
we talked for an hour. later, i drove
to hampden. i went to atomic books,
where i bought two books of poetry.
the owner gave me free comics, a
button, and a book bag, but i didn’t
see john waters. i wrote him a letter
anyway. that night at a brewery in an
old romanesque revival church, i wrote
you a postcard while they hosted trivia.
when it ended, i talked with a guy in
overalls and a pink sequined cowboy hat.
we took a selfie and he insisted we trade
hats, so we did, but only for the photo.
he bought me a pint glass and gave me
two cans of beer, and then he left. an
hour later found me in bed, drunk
and sobbing and writing strangers on
the internet. it was my last night in
america, and all i could think of was
how i was slowly moving further away
from you. the next day, i got on a
plane and flew home. maybe i’ll come
back one day and cruise along the
harbor or visit poe’s grave. i’m sure the
city has charm quotient, but right
now, all it does is break my heart.