Amelia Shults
I Used To Be A Day Person

I bought a book of poetry by Charles Bukowski called Open All Night. The little I knew about Bukowski I was afraid of. I was sure Mike would like him. The two of them share the same sense of vulgarity. So even though Bukowski (and Mike) scared me, I bought Open All Night and carried it around with me everywhere I went, anytime of the day. I was a day person. I woke up early, spent most of my day outside. I lived for warm weather. I thought everyone did, except of course, Mike. He was a night person. So during the day, I brought Bukowski with me everywhere I went. I brought him with me to class, to lunch; I even brought him with me shopping. Just in case I ran into Mike, which, of course, was ridiculous. Nevertheless, Bukowski always came along. It never occurred to me that Mike, as amazing as he was with his non-conformist ways, didn’t have supernatural powers. He didn’t have x-ray vision to look inside my bag. I was almost convinced, though, that he could feel Bukowski. He is that scary.
After about a week of waking up early and running to the coffee shop with Open All Night tucked safely into my black messenger bag, I finally had the courage to open the book in public. I was afraid that other people would just sense the crudeness of it. I was afraid of someone catching me reading a book with the word “fuck” in it. What if my mother saw me reading him? So, at first, I would only pull him out when I was alone. Early morning was my favorite time to read Bukowski. Not too many people were around. Eventually, though, I pulled him out at lunch. I would eat my chicken sandwich and read a poem here and there. I never started at the beginning. I would open to a page and read. Then I would flip around and stop and read again. It seemed like the safest way to approach Bukowski. I hadn’t figured out the safest way to approach Mike yet.
I finally decided I needed to read Open All Night somewhere else, somewhere closer to Mike. Early mornings at coffee shops weren’t getting me any closer to him. I started leaving earlier for the class that Mike and I had together, Bukowski safely in my bag. I would sit in the classroom and flip through Open All Night, keeping one eye on the door, looking for Mike’s long hair and dark brown, almost black eyes. I was practically willing him to walk through the door. The first day I did this, he didn’t come to class. As class time grew closer, I pulled Bukowski closer to my body, away from everyone else. I felt the need to shield my classmates from Bukowski, or maybe to shield Bukowski from them. I am not sure. The next time we had class, Mike was late. I had strategically picked my seat so that I could spot Mike as soon as he walked in. When he did finally come in looking calm with his Buddha beads around his neck and a cigarette tucked behind his left ear, pen already in his hand, he sat right next to the door, as far away from me as possible. I tried sifting my things around, picking Bukowski up and placing him back down on the desk loudly, almost obnoxiously. Mike didn’t notice. He never even looked at me.
I didn’t give up. I threw Bukowski’s name into what little conversation we had with each other. I had taken a long time getting my things together after class, and he was talking to our professor. Conveniently I finished packing up my stuff just as he finished talking to our professor. He was looking throw his beat up army green backpack when I walked up to him. “ I really need to stop staying up all night reading Bukowski.” I said. “I could barely stay awake in class today.”
“Oh?” Mike barely acknowledged me, let alone Bukowski. All he cared about was finding his lighter.
I still brought my book to class, still opened it, and slowly I stopped watching the door. I stopped being afraid that other people would see the word “fuck.” Once, I even started reading it at the beginning.
Mike did see me with Bukowski eventually. I think it was that day that I slept later than usual. The first time I can ever remember sleeping late. I finally found a place to get fresh coffee at three in the afternoon and I ran into him. I was reading at a small marble table, with my thin paper cup of coffee, black, in my hand when Mike came up to me carrying a Nietzsche book in his right hand. He pushed my thick book up from the table to see what it was.
“Open All Night, I don’t think I know it.” Mike raised his eyebrows at me.
“Really?” I asked, surprised only for a second. “It’s Bukowski, an outlaw writer.”
He shook his head. I laughed. I opened my mouth to offer Open All Night to him when I was done, but I stopped myself and closed my mouth. Bukowski was mine now.