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HOW CLOSE?

by John Grey

 

She’s a bored dish-washer.
He’s a devourer of the meals she prepares,
down to the last crumb, final drop of gravy.

There’s a lump on her right breast
that needs seeing to.
She fears the results.
He’s sick and tired of his job
unloading cargo at the wharf
but it’s all he knows,
all he’s good for.

She works part time
at a convenience store.
She can tell at a glance
whether a stranger is there for cigarettes,
ten gallons of gas from the pump,
or both.
The ache in his back
drives him to utter words
just out of her hearing.

They’ve been married thirty years.
And, only this week,
her twenty five year old nephew
was killed in a motorcycle accident.
She can’t help thinking how
another’s life
could fit so easily into the span
of a wedded couple
and leave room enough
for a little happiness.
He just muttered something like,
“He should have been wearing a helmet.”

The funeral was that morning.
He couldn’t get time off work.
So she went alone,
offered her sister a shoulder
for a swamp-load of tears.
He asked, “Was your Aunt Grace there?”
They were his only words on the subject.

He’ll watch the baseball game later.
She’ll take out the photo album,
revisit the dead boy through snapshots.
It’s another night
when each retreats to what the other
could care less about.

She hasn’t told him
about the lump on her breast.
He hasn’t mentioned
that he’s no longer up to his job.

For now, she mindlessly washes dishes.
And he’s one gulp short
of lip-smacking time.

Thirty long years –
they’re so used to the closeness,
it’s no longer necessary.

 


Learn more about John Grey.

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