April 21, 2002

I bought burgundy sheets today,
Wine-red departure from the
Protestant-white linens of my youth,
And, if I'm honest,
Of my adulthood until now.

The purchase was quite unplanned;
I went looking for dishtowels and,
Drawn by the promises of fashionable sleep,
Came out with fitted sheets
And two matching pillowcases.

The woman whose domain the checkout was
Gave me a knowing look, held my selection high,
Proclaimed in loud tones how "special" they were.
I felt heads turning as far as four aisles away,
Even though I didn't raise my eyes to look.

I strolled in artificial nonchalance to my car,
My secret bedcoverings weighing my arms.
Eyes of those I passed zeroed in on the bag,
The red bull's eye logo calling their disapproval,
The blood-dark contents
Showing through semi-translucence.
They knew.

The bag sat across the width of the seat,
Hard against the opposite door,
The icon of this day's wild impulse,
Hovering always in the periphery of my vision
Like a dirty child that must be taken quickly home.

I drove on, pulse faster by a bit,
Warm with the windows up,
I imagined my naked flesh
Stretched across that maroon expanse,
Spread-eagle white in opposition
To 200 thread-per-inch linen,
Dyed three deep gasps beyond passion's crimson.
I would be naked, eschewing pajamas, the
Modesty of sleep on which I was raised,
Ignoring the body-shame that is a staple
Of all good Methodist households,
My blatant paleness laid out
On the color of original sin.

I lay in bed tonight, still awake,
The doors to my little rooms
Locked tight against the dark,
Snug in crisp white linens fresh from the line,
Loosened the collar of my pajamas,
Smiled as I thought of the package
Of burgundy impulse resting unopened
Next to stacks of neatly folded white,
Safe in the closet where those things are kept.
Who knows -- maybe tomorrow I'll
Put them on the bed.
Surely the day after.

James Carroll
JAMES CARROLL holds a BA in English and Education from the University of West Florida at Pensacola, and a BA in Liberal Arts from The University of the State of New York. He has held several teaching positions both in the US Navy and in civilian life. The author is also a qualified Submariner and a Deep Ocean Research and Salvage Vehicle Pilot. He has worked as a computer systems engineer in San Diego since retirement from the Navy in 1996. He has had several works published in local publications in southern California, and has published a chapbook , Singing Heart, Dancing Soul. His interests include jazz, photography, writing and distance skating. "I get some of my best ideas while skating through the miles of paths in the San Diego parks." His photography has appeared in previous issues of The Adirondack Review.