It Could All Probably Be Different. Probably.

The coffee shop’s empty and I’m peacefully reading
When a rusty spring screaks and I hear,
“DUDE, you SUCK!”
Four baseball players from the local high school,
arriving together, searching
for snacks and status.
Their dynamic is clear.
The tall one leads, fueled by the desperate flattery of his
Acne-punctuated sidekick, who would disown his family
For a few laughs. Then there’s the observant
One, who doesn’t belong here and will probably one day drift
Out of the group just as smoothly as he’s drifted in.
And tailing them all is this short, chubby kid,
The one who sucks,
a fan of these few who
just wants them as friends.

But he’s screwed from the start,
because he’s got the body of
a scapegoat, and so with each desperate joke and question
he adds his humble share of dirt to their
circle’s fiat of his rejection.
You know he knows this
because of how he recklessly rambles when
conversation gets awkward, and because of
how he wears his shirt at pools. He wears

the shirt that was made two years ago, by a
32 year old in some Indian factory. The man had just joined the
company and spent a lot of his time quietly humming to himself
and studying the pixels on his phone. All in attempt at
avoiding the ten-year factory veteran who’s promotion he pilfered, all in attempt
at avoiding the incompetent boss who’s dad was a founder, all in
attempt at avoiding the group of father’s who always eat lunch at
the same time and table,
who have not once invited him to
sit or have asked him any questions.
Lunch at the father’s table is always full
of stories, like the one told by

The newest member about how his son, Alex, was born just
last week in Lincoln Memorial Hospital. And everyone
was rejoicing and tearing
Up at the beauty of it all until the doctor said,
“He’s at risk here, we need to get him
To the nursery.”
So Alex was taken away from his parents and cousins,
And from his grandfather, who’d come up just for the occasion,
to the safety of the newborn nursery,
Where two of the babies had already hit it off, and
Were saying stuff to each other like
“Uhhhhhh,” and “Ohhhhh!”
And it looked really appealing to Alex,
Who was already trying to stifle this strange feeling of want,
so he played it cool, casually rolled over to face their adjacent cribs,
took a deep breath,
and mustered up the courage to flash
them both a big toothless smile.
But the response was hostile, met only with a gurgling of their spit
and teasing tears, perturbed by this overt expression of human need–

Loneliness.

The same loneliness that hits Alex’s grandfather as he resettles in
The nursing home’s stiff-backed chair,
sinking into its compositing
Cushion under the weight of
Weltschmerz and flesh, eyes
Greying in the room filled with
Teammates and coworkers past,
the room where physical deterioration
has finally made clear what has been
present all along. Where the ones
Who did right and the ones who did wrong
sit silently, basking in a silence that proclaims
“We have done our part.”
There is no bragging, no condescension,
no social acrobatics; there is only
the aged, enlightened quitters
who don’t want anyone to sit with them, because
they’ve done all that before,
and they know it doesn’t work.

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