The car mechanic’s counting out his bills
behind the E-Z Mart at one a.m.;
he’ll toss rocks at beer bottles just for thrills
until his dealer comes, it’s fine with him.
He draws in a deep breath and sees the light
swerve from the highway, puzzling the back wall
he leans against just to keep out of sight.
A quarter bag and some fentanyl, that’s all.
His phone vibrates again though nothing’s wrong.
For two years he’s been living in a trailer
with a girl who works at Publix. They get along
even if sometimes she says he’s a failure—
what can he say to that? Sure. He lives cheap.
They’ll fight until she forces a decision,
then roll around on the couch. Once she’s asleep
he’ll take a dose and watch some television.
At night he dreams of cylinders and sprockets,
the trucks and cars too busted up to fix;
startled awake, eyes aching in their sockets,
he’ll watch the clock hands grope their way to six.
A car pulls up but he can see it’s not
his hookup. Just kids with nothing else to do
but drink a six-pack in the parking lot
before they head out to the lake to screw.
He had his share of mischief, too, Lord knows.
The girls don’t eye him in the check-out aisle
much anymore, the ones with painted toes.
A few years back, at least, they used to smile.
The boys can see the grease that stains his hands;
they all think, damn, who wants to work that hard?
He spends the day beneath their dads’ sedans
while they play tackle football in the yard.
Chasing a football blew out both his knees
and broke his wrist. That was three years ago.
Customers say, “go Stags,” and toss their keys,
then look at him real close as if they know.
A text says no one’s coming. The BP sign
flickers over the pumps, and though it’s half-
past two now, and he’s tired, he’s feeling fine
enough to think it’s all a bust, and laugh.
And, anyway, it’s good to be alone
with the gas fumes and blinking traffic light
and fifteen missed calls lighting up his phone.
Later, he thinks, once he and his girl fight,
and once she falls asleep on his left arm,
he’ll stare at the divots on the ceiling tile
and wait to hear the clock sound its alarm
while the night’s odometer counts one more mile.