Years ago I knew a guy who read comic books with the fidelity that some people reserve for going to church, kissing a spouse before leaving for work, or buying their favorite band’s newest album the day it comes out. Wednesday was his Friday: after work he’d walk to the comic-book store, buy the newest issues of his favorite books, and walk to the local diner. He’d order coffee and sometimes food and read the new issue right then and there, tracing a finger over scratches and long-ago orders in the Formica. Over time his buddies joined him and so then every Wednesday there’d be a diner full of guys in glasses who smoked their fingers yellow. At first they read in reverent silence. Then a slow eruption of fervent and adoring discussion. They’d stay there most of the shift, then saunter home to whatever they had waiting for them there, pop-eyed from too much caffeine and happy with the diaphanous joy of catching up on friends both quotidian and super-heroic.

I also once knew a guy who put his head on a woman’s lap. She sang a song about sleeping and leaving and in the weakened touch of a frail crescendo, a tear rolled from his eye. By the end her jeans were splotched and unsteady and when she rose his heavy heart fell upon the wapsed-up sheets, wrangled and twisted from long nights of this very anticipated moment. It was unknowable as a middle initial but fell with the lonely thud of a thousand human histories. Or perhaps just seven. Either way, when she returned she had seeds in her teeth and New Year’s Day kisses that he put in his pocket without affect.

Another guy had a wife who’d accused him of building them a home where she couldn’t live. Somewhere between lonesome and happy. For weeks she’d disappear and come back sweaty and tired with homes scratched out in quarter-inch blocks of scored wood and loose metal. She was never lonesome. On the sofa he’d pet her hair and she’d ask innocent and sullen why they couldn’t live together. At night when he entered her she’d cry and say she’d missed him so much. He was never happy. And asked why they could live together. She knocked the change-bowl on the floor and let it all lie where it fell, glinting and filthy in the AM light.


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