just another number

the last I heard

he was off the ventilator 

“so  far, so good”

I felt relieved

then the news came

he didn’t make it

my eyes welled with tears

I was physically shaken

I never even met him

he was related 

to a close family friend

the news was a stark reminder

of the darkness all around 

what was the number today?

35,879 in N.Y

316,378 in the U.S.

1,691,942 worldwide

each number has a story 

each number is someone we can’t get back

each number carries emptiness, pain and sadness

to the world

he is now just another number 

added to the growing tally

to his family

he was dad, husband, brother, uncle and friend 

he didn’t think it could happen to him

yet it came and took him without mercy

so many numbers

so much grief

I pray to make it through 

we are so close

too close to be 

just another number



I feel betrayed and

mocked by my shortsightedness 

rosy never existed

our world

at war with an invisible foe

front line warriors essential

unmasked and exposed

desperate for a truce

March became sober

olympians became mortal

sin city dropped to its knees

the golden state taking the first sip

the apple was cored

the boot kicked closed its doors

our world united

by staying apart

yet another war brewing

zooming into our flaws

unmuting our souls

life choking us from all sides

we gasp for air

unable to breathe

we all need to breathe

yet here we are 

still trying to define all

i’m ready for this to be over

after all

hindsight is 2020

20. disco fever

the market disappeared

as if it never was

not a single remnant

the energy regenerated

shifting to local nightspots

after dinner we parted

her and her friend

he and I

he led me down

a secluded ally

to a stairwell

leading down

to a hidden discotheque

the space was small

yet electrifying

lights sparkled

on mirrored walls

the bartender waited

nervously I blurted


even Italians knew 007

one sip burned my eyeballs

where to sit

I pointed to a sectional

of course it was his favorite


he dominated the room

in his alabaster suit

dark curls

black brown eyes

a cleft chin

like John Travolta

stark contrast

to my golden blond hair

fair skin and hazel eyes

disco was at its peek

Gloria Gaynor, Sister Sledge

the Bee Gees

the music was intoxicating

we danced all night

oblivious to all around us

the floor was ours

he leaned into me

chest shaking wildly

a seductive belly dance

his eyes pierced right through me

the music slowed

we held each other

savoring the spell

I breathed in his musky scent

and felt safe

19. he chose me

when I awoke, he was gone

she and I took our time

shopping and exploring

we passed his stand

there was another girl

sitting on a chair

they were talking

she was beautiful

why would he want me

I started to walk away

too late

he looked up

he smiled

motioned for us to wait

the girl left

he walked over

kissed me on the cheek

wanted to meet for dinner


he chose me

18. first night

what did I expect

one bedroom flat

two girls

two guys

he lead me to the bedroom

her friend rolled out a mattress in the living room

do you always sleep with your jeans on?

17. getting to know him

her and her friend walked in front

we lingered behind

long narrow cobble stone streets

the luminous glow from the majestic Duomo

whispers of ancient masters at every turn

“‘where are you staying tonight?”


he knew

I walked a little faster to catch up with her

down another moonlit street

a large wooden door

six flights of stairs

a simply furnished one bedroom flat

pinup on the wall

no tv

soft breeze from an open window

her friend made tea

he was entertaining

vying for her attention

gradually the conversation 

shifted away

excluding him and me

he seemed bored and uninterested

her friend turned and spoke to him

I didn’t understand

he mumbled something back

I felt pressured to talk


no, from Iraq 


Baghdad, like Ali Baba

hmmm, not familiar

slight language barrier

he warmed up

he should visit America

hard to get a visa

wait, what?

you need a visa? all I needed was a passport?

reality check

where you are born makes a difference

16. non c’è problema

It was just a hole in the wall 

two tables

the kitchen was across the alley

they called it non c’è problema

no menu

I ordered spaghetti

wine and sparkling water were complimentary

the tables were covered in

red and white checked cloths

he poured me a glass of wine

she made small talk with her friend

he casually flirted with me

they wouldn’t let me cut my spaghetti

it was not proper Italian etiquette

I struggled slurping the spaghetti and stopped eating

he felt bad and traded me with his pasta

I savored the moment

an evening breeze from the open door to the alley

candlelit faces of friends laughing

warm wine making it’s way to my cheeks

the scents from an authentic Italian kitchen

for me it was surreal

15. Mercato di San Lorenzo

as far as I could see

open carts with canvas tops

lined both sides of the street

merchants vyed for our attention 

replacas of Renaissance treasures

flaming strings of coral

leather purses, jackets and gloves

I was entranced by the warm balmy scent of leather

 Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights

there was a guy she met with friends on spring break

he may let us crash at his place

we found him selling purses 

she showed him pictures

he gave her a key

he had a new roommate

pointed to a leather stand down the street

we would fetch our luggage

settle in

and meet them both for dinner

14. arrive in Florence

Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station was bustling

we found the sign “deposito bagagli”

checked in our luggage

so thankful we didn’t have to drag our luggage

we took the night train to Florence
a twelve hour journey

the train stopped
it was still dark
I looked out my window
heard people talking
saw the cherry of a mans cigarette

they were on strike
we were near Venice
I was concerned
no worries she said, it was common

three hours later the train started moving
how bizarre

finally the next morning
we arrived in Florence