When he came back with the bowling shirt that had been my prize, my dapper irony planted on a svelte cotton emblem of style, the shirt was ruined. There wasn’t anything to say about it but I couldn’t keep quiet. You owe me, I kept saying. Repeating it, like every extra ounce of breath would somehow change the situation. And he just kind of smiled the same smile as I went on and on. We had all made such a mess of everything. Every last one of us was indebted to the other.
A year later, cuffed in the back of a cruiser, deep into a tantrum, I had that moment where you remember something else and all of the anger slips out of you. It was the soiled bowling shirt and his smile when he returned it to me, a smile he offered because he didn’t have anything else. The anger of my impending incarceration crept back in and I lost the calm of recollection. But for the briefest time, I saw what he saw. And it made me laugh.
by Hank Cherry