Pittsburgh, 1977 – Jaclyn Grimm

There were no miracles, no new shoes,
just chlorine from the public pool.
He swam the years away even though
third-place medals rust and only dead
fish float. His first pair of jeans
that weren’t hand-me-downs split over
his knees when he got pushed
and he cried for a week. I’ve never seen
him cry once, but when I ask him
he remembers. How when he came home
from sixth grade, his mother was gone
but he noticed the couch missing first.
How his birthday kaleidoscope shattered
and his sister dropped the garage door
on their neighbor’s poodle. Every time
he used the car he’d run it empty and
his brother would beat him up. His skin
turned brown as dirt in the summer from
laying bricks, painting houses shirtless.
He laughs now when he mentions Dairy
Queen, remembering that time he crashed
outside the drive-through and when his dad
picked him up he was drenched in McFlurry
and bawling like a baby. He tells me about
the time he hooked up skis to his friend’s
truck and thank God it didn’t kill him. I
tell him my fear of cars must be genetic
evolution and he tells me how he almost ran
a girl over while riding a motorcycle
and her dad screamed if I see you again
I’ll kill you! I ask him how he rode
motorcycles if he couldn’t afford new shoes
and he reminds me you don’t need
shoes to have rich friends. One of his rich
friends flew him in a sardine can
to ski in Colorado and he says he might
have enjoyed the flight if he didn’t
keep glimpsing heaven. His dad didn’t
believed in doctors even when his
headaches got so bad he’d cry and vomit.
I tell him I cry too when I get
headaches and just as often when I don’t
and I wonder if it runs in our
genes and if one day my tears
will dry up too.

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