Terms of Endearment

You called me sweetie
and though I realize
you were just saying it
because you’re one of those women
who calls everyone sweetie
and honey and darlin’
—still, I have to admit,
it sort of changed the trajectory
of my afternoon.

You wore a little too much rouge
on your cheeks and you peered
over the top of your glasses
with a puzzled look at the fruit
you pulled out of my shopping
basket, until you realized,
“Oh, it’s pomegranate.”

And I nodded, though
secretly I longed to unload
the burdens of my life
onto the check-out belt
along with the groceries,
knowing that you would
size up each issue, careful and steady;
that you would understand;
that nothing would surprise you.

You asked me would I like
to save 5% today by opening
a store account, darlin’,
and I said I already had one—
thank you— but felt it would
somehow spoil the relationship
to call you darlin’ back.

So I just soaked up
the endearments
like a parched plant
and later that evening,
as foolish as it sounds,
I thanked God for you
because your habit of speech,
though it probably wasn’t
meant to be taken personally,
took hold of me like an earthy
hug from a grandmother
who smells like home,
and I couldn’t remember
the last time anyone
had called me sweetie
or honey or darlin’.

Claire Juno, © 2013