"Fade In" by Shahé Mankerian
In the living room, boys huddled near the food table.
No one cared about the tabbouleh. We kept eyeing
the girls in bell bottoms, sitting on the green couch.
We dared each other to cut across the threadbare carpet,
the kind Aladdin used when he flew over Bagdad,
and ask if any of the girls would like to dance.
No one moved. When Radio Monte Carlo finally
played a ballad by Demis Roussos, the girl I loved
walked to the corridor and turned off the lights.
The curtains, partially parted, allowed the glow
of the late September moon to creep into the room.
Avo, who smelled like cigarettes at 13, approached
the girl I loved with the poisonous flair of Omar Sharif.
I should’ve never recommended Dr. Zhivago to Avo.
In a smoke-filled cinema, near the port of Beirut,
we sat in the back row, away from the traffic of rats.
Avo lost interest midway and slept through the revolution.
Mama said, “Any boy who doesn’t respect Pasternak
is a snake.” She was right. That night, Avo kept
coiling around the girl I loved. With his dirty nicotine
fingernails, he kept caressing her back—until the blackout.
A misguided bomb exploded in the alley.
Time passed—I reshot the end.
“I’m trembling like a leaf on a dying cedar,” I said.
The girl I loved smiled, squeezed my palm, and asked me
to count in silent—one, two, three—one, two, three—
Poet Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School and the poetry co-editor at Rockvale Review. His debut poetry collection, History of Forgetfulness, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in October of 2021.