The Old Man and his Lover
Damion Michael Higbie
have pulled away and left me to the darkness
of my car, to the pen in my hand
and the wrinkled scrap of paper I found
on the floor. And what I remember
is what I still see: a rusted-out Plymouth
at the far end of the parking lot,
exhaust blooming from its tailpipe
like a shapeless gray flower.
Before that, it was a simple phrase:
Here, honey. And the old man did his best
to make the words stick, paused
with a case of High Life at the car door
long enough for the boy inside to take it all in.
I say boy because he had a boy's neck—smooth,
thin like a doe. But he could have been forty,
a trucker who shaved and wore cologne
for that one special stop
on his way south from the Duluth.
Or maybe he's a local who can't show his face
around town, not since that night
he found himself in the rusted-out Plymouth,
his body tuned to the steady creak
of the springs, a neon sign flashing "Open"
along the small of his back.
To think that, moments ago,
among the racks of cheap scotch
and domestic beer, the old man stood
next to me and all I had was this:
the way he smelled like a mechanic.
And I knew, even before I looked,
that his nails hadn't come clean in thirty years,
that he was wearing the same blue shirt
they all wear—simple cotton
with a simple name embroidered on a patch,
two thin layers above the heart.