Sentinel Poetry (Online) #25     2nd Anniversary Issue    December 2004

DAVID ALLEN

FRAN
 
She was beautiful and smart
and possibly the best
reporter in our bureau,
a free-spirited Californian
working her way up
the newspaper chains.
We toiled for a Virginia
mid-sized daily. She
had come from a smaller
paper in Delaware,
where her biggest story
was a feature on the jumpers
who chose the Chesapeake
Bay Bridge for their final exit.
 
I loved her, we all did,
but she arrived too late for me.
I was engaged to the woman
who would bear my children.
Fran attended the wedding reception
and, in a scene replayed
in my mind a thousand times since,
she took me aside and asked,
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
 
I already had, I answered.
We became good friends,
part of a small clique
that hung around my backyard barbecue
and, with burgers and beers in hand
we talked about where we'd go and
which papers would be next.
 
She became close to another reporter
to whom she shared her secret doubts
and fears, like how she once parked
on the railroad tracks and waited
trembling for the train that never came.
 
A year passed.
And then one day
she was gone.
We later learned
she had driven back
to Delaware and parked
her car in the middle of her bridge
and made her jump.
I never got to say,
"Are you sure you want
to do this?"
 
Instead, I ran to the men's
room at work and howled
and mourned like I had never before
or since.
 
She haunts me sometimes
in dreams - though not as
often these days - her clothes soaked,
smiling through broken teeth,
gesturing to a bridge.
"Care to take the leap?" she asks.
"The fall was exhilarating
and though death's baptism hurt
it did not last. And I am
no longer insecure."
 
"But you are also
no longer," I answer.
And I turn away
and awake and
return to where I am
in the middle of my
own leap into life.
 
I am sure I want to do this.

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