To Think She Broke My Heart In 1983

by Michael Flanagan

A cop out of his cruiser tapped the window
with a clacking of something metal on glass.
Pressed against one another in the front seat
of the `76 Le Sabre we woke confused, as if
we'd known things bright and sure before
but had been drained of all of it during our
illicit rest. Nineteen years old, parked in each
others arms at the end of another ping pong
night of booze and half wit gatherings,
empty conversations. The pre-dawn light
was as much of a surprise as the badge,
the gun, the inquiry into our state of being.
The law didn't care about much other than
whether we were victims in blood of some
late night crime. Dumb as any other kid
on the edge of growing up I felt like a man
when he adjusted his sidearm and said he
guessed I'd want to get the lady home before
her people grew too worried. What I wanted
was to share nights and days, bills and children
with this girl. It was love and it was every-
thing, as it always manages to be when you
know nothing about it. This hard headed girl,
volatile, possessed of cruel humor, sulking
when anything didn't go her way, I would
have married her any day of the week, spent
Sunday's at the bar watching the game, Friday's
after work drinking with the guys. Three kids
eventually. Meals once a week at grandma's.
One trip to Disneyland before the children
weren't young anymore. Mortgage, lawn care,
car payments. I'd have joined the Elks Club
or the Knights of Columbus. Easter egg hunts.
Church Sunday morning. We'd have celebrated
the Fourth of July, said we loved one another
and almost believed it, a random first love
stretched thirty years. Neighbors helping install
the above ground pool. One vacation in Europe
that never happens. A lake house somewhere
you started wishing you could afford. Young
in our parents way, old like them. Death almost
a blessing when it finally grows near, trying
to congratulate ourselves on just getting through.

Michael Flanagan was born in the Bronx. N.Y. and raised in the New York Metropolitan area. His work has appeared in many small press periodicals across the country, most recently, Nerve Cowboy, Paterson Literary Review, Trajectory and New York Quarterly. His chapbook, A Million Years Gone is available from Nerve Cowboy’s Liquid Paper Press.


I like this piece because of how it shows that choices we make – or are made for us – can lead down a long curving highway to a terminal point which is completely invisible at the time of the choice.

In this case, Michael shows us what the nineteen year old narrator:

dumb as any other kid / on the edge of growing up

couldn’t have known, but was willing to chance anyway for the sake of love. And in the end, the hum-drum life of lawn care and car payments is just a could-have-been, and:

This hard headed girl / volatile, possessed of cruel humor, sulking / when anything didn't go her way

delivered a hidden blessing in her role as the callous heartbreaker.
Victor D. Sandiego, Aug 04, 2017