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online romance – that first birthday lyrics


you work down at the nickel arcade. you tear it up on
q-bert although you’ve never paid, because that’s the
perk of the place you work: you’ve got the skeleton key
card to all of the machines. i met you at the bike rack
outside. you told me about your brother’s stunt with
formaldahyde and some vegetable blend. you’re a friend
of a friend. you were fresh into town and yet you never
did strike me as green. the arcade pays you minimum
wage but everybody knows you were born for the stage,
in a bright green suit and some flamboyant boots, for
your parents to cheer on some connecticut road. i don’t
think i know your real name. ever since you moved here
they call you ‘anthony flame,’ but it’s no big deal
because names, they reveal much less than what a person
is actually owed. at se 35th and belmont you looked out
at the cars shuttling east and west below the
streetlights on pavement black as tar. you wondered,
‘am i destined forever to run?’ i have asked myself
that question, too. you’re not the only the one. you
traded me some nickels for dimes. we came to see the
movie and we byp-ssed the line we entered through the
back as the loud soundtrack played some lame jam that
all the rest thought was sweet. you told me about some
cards you’d received. you expressed your satisfaction
and told me how relieved that you felt to be gone, far
away from the lawn where you played as a child with all
the kids from the neighboring streets. i wondered how
you’d stayed so long, because in my own experience,
influenced by some songs, i left my hometown before age
twenty rolled around for a place by the sea where the
salt water flowed. i imagined all your family back east
and i pictured them gathered for a big birthday feast,
but they were all far away on that first birthday which
you spent ten states from that connecticut road. at se
34th and belmont you pointed at the stars, shining
faintly up above the streetlights, light-years from
where we are. you admitted, ‘sometimes i think i’ll
never find my home.’ to which i responded softly,
‘tony, you are not alone.’