This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.
You know how some people have things they just really love? Like the guy from “Looking For Alaska” who loves last words or your weird uncle who collects guitars he can’t play? The people who never threw away their baseball card collections and never returned all the rocks they collected from their mom’s front yard?
I’m one of those people — but not about last words or guitars or baseball cards or rocks. I like palindromes. You know, like “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama?” Read that backwards and it still says the same thing. You wouldn’t believe how many cool palindromes there are out there. It’s kind of a rabbit hole once you get into it. Believe it or not, it led to me learning some Latin.
Well, you see, the palindrome rabbit hole led me to the concept of the bilingual palindrome. As far as people know today, there seems to be only one sentence that is sensical in one language going forwards and then in a different language going backward. What’s even better is that the sentences are, like, Shakespeare level — which is how I ended up dating a poet for three months.
You see, this cute guy started coming regularly to the coffee shop I work at, and I really wanted to talk to him, but all he ever did was sit there reading poetry. So, one day, after he caught me watching him and asked if I knew anything about poetry, the only thing that came out of my mouth was—
“Anger? ‘Tis safe never. Bar it! Use love.”
And suddenly, he thought I was a poet who wrote this because he’d never heard it before because the average person doesn’t go around memorizing bilingual palindromes.
So, of course, the next thing my brain jumped to was that “Anger? ‘Tis safe never. Bar it! Use love,” backward is “Evoles ut ira breve nefas sit; regna!”
Which is Latin for “Rise up, in order that your anger may be but a brief madness; control it!”
And when I said that, my credibility as a poet was pretty much solidified in this guy’s mind, his eyes wide with wonder. Plus, I was a barista who knew how to make trendy beverages, so I was basically this guy’s dream girl.
It was a pretty great three months. We went to parks and laid in the sun while he read to me aloud like we were in a Nicolas Sparks movie or “Pretty Woman” or something. But as the three-month mark rolled around, he started questioning why I didn’t have any new poetry. He didn’t like the idea that someone caught up in a whirlwind romance such as ours would be battling writer’s block. Emotions feed creatives or something like that. I don’t know, guys, I’m a business major dropout.
Anyway, when I couldn’t hold out anymore, I couldn’t think of any poetry that he wouldn’t recognize and what ended up coming out of my mouth was—
“A man. A plan. A canal. Panama.”
So, yeah, that’s the story of how I got picked up by and dumped by a poet, all because of my love of palindromes.