Nights On The Town
A little slow, they say, they say he
is a just little slow in the head,
can’t hold a simple job in retail
because he is uncomfortable asking
people for their money though he quickly
learned how to operate a cash register
so how slow could he be?
He likes to re-visit Walmart, sitting in the
leased-out deli area with the small two-top
plastic tables once a brilliant primary color
but now dulled by time, usage and
commercial cleaning solvents.
Popcorn, Icees, sub sandwiches and all flavors
of soda are on offer but he usually has the
$5 meal of the day with a Diet Coke.
Holding the straw about twelve inches above
the plastic lid on the soda he stabs it down
hard, aiming for the lid’s perforated circle
(about a third the circumference of a dime),
plunging the straw into the drink. Cool when he
is accurate, messy un-cool when his aim is off,
Coke splashing onto the dull blue table top.
All the while he is talking Walmart talk with
the girl behind the counter: weather, TV, stuff.
(“This place needs a jukebox. Did you hear
one of the Everly Brothers died?
Don’t know which one.”)
Sometimes he has a deli dinner on Saturdays
to watch young families come in for their
weekend entertainment, young parents letting
their kids go crazy in the toy department, running
up and down aisles—a family night out without
the cost of a movie or a babysitter.
Later, walking across the parking lot, he heads
downtown, about a half hour walk, and there
are always girls in tight jeans or slacks
to follow to make the journey seem quicker.
It’s been twelve years since we worked together
and she never, ever was on time so why will
today be different? In ten minutes we’ll see.
Maybe a marriage and two kids have changed her.
It’s March 10 and 54° and sunny, the warmest
day of the year so far.
Have a leather jacket on, keeping me warm enough
to wait outside if I choose but, no, I’ll wait
in the restaurant foyer, in a sun patch that causes
my decades-old jacket to smell leathery.
I’m early, as I usually always am.
I hired her straight from college with juvenile
work samples and in a few months hired her
sister, too, nearly as young and already married.
It’s 11:59. In another minute she’ll be late.
It was okay. Cheeseburger and fries always helps.
All in all, though, I wish
she hadn’t shown up.
Waiting in the reception area, sitting with
legs crossed, he runs his index finger,
the underside with the fingerprint,
down a crisply-pressed seam
of business-black dress slacks,
doing it several times, ignoring
the Sports Illustrated open on his lap.
He’s early, more anxious than nervous.
He wishes all this could be done online.
He wishes even more that he didn’t
have to wear a dress shirt and tie
for the next forty years.