He thinks about this:
He does ok.
Puts 92 in his car
(well, a ten year old Lexus).
Listens to KMHD, 89.1
on the FM dial. All jazz, all the time.
It’s public radio, so
he makes sure to pay his annual fees
even doubles them, because he can.
Because he should.
Has the donation swag to prove it. A
sticker on his Lexus, a cap,
a coffee mug.
All with monikers that read
KMHD Jazz Radio.
Quality programming from
a community station. His people.
His music. No satellite.
Buys local, gives to the shelter, doesn’t hate.
Gets angry when people do, especially when they
hate the gays. Has friends who are.
he’s passionate that they should be free to
love whom they want. Just as he is.
He’s not gay. But wouldn’t care if he was.
His wife might.
Works in public service, but as an
Puts 92 in his car. Safety is important.
That’s why the Lexus.
That and quality. That’s why the 92…
Quality and safety.
House, car, furniture, art, music, clothing,
kitchen utensils, bed. All quality. All safe.
Been at his job for
two decades. Has tenure. Safety. And
he’s been told…
his work is
Still, he thinks,
he’d walk away.
Wishes he could walk away.
Wishes he could
consider walking away. Or
doing it over? Yeah, if he could.
No safety, no tenure, less quality. Just 87.
in playing jazz music,
not just listening to it.
Making art, not just buying it.
drink too much. Some drugs.
A bar fight.
(He’d only been in one fight. In high school.
Sitting next to his friend… a black friend. Another kid shouted
a racist remark. Goddamnit, that pissed him off… he hated that word.
He hit that kid so hard! Still got his ass kicked though.
But oddly, it felt good… and he remembered.)
Flop on a friend’s couch.
A weekend in jail. A week in jail. Maybe end up
doing a little time in the joint? That’s how
he’d say it… because it
sounds cool. But
that’s too much, too long, too far.
No, just day to day. Week to week. No promise, no
safety. A different kind of quality.
Living big, dreaming small.
That’s what he thinks about.
He’d never last.
That Lexus needs 92
Two and a half minutes,
outside of Kraftworks Taphouse, early July, 2016
These are the words he used to describe his discomfort… “I’m better when I sit there,” pointing to a set of chairs, backed up to the pub’s exterior wall.
An attentive woman tipped her head to the side, narrowed her eyes and nodded, stepping forward.
They sat, her expression suggesting uncertainty.
But I knew.
I knew the moment I noticed him approach the sidewalk seating and sensed that he had noticed me first, and everyone else in the immediate location, assessing us within the casual, situational elements of walls, windows, furniture, dress, drunkenness, gesture, and relaxed behavior.
I knew when I noted the ink, resting on skin pulled tight over well-defined muscle, peering out from under his left, short sleeve… the lower third of the gray-green letters composing the words, Leave No Man Behind.
I knew when he approached the tables with a slight limp in his left leg, and again when he turned slightly to scan the seating options and the people sitting, including me. I caught the trace of a pink scar spanning a third of his skull, camouflaged by his auburn hair, cut high and tight.
I knew when he sat, and the woman, sensing his discomfort, placed her hand in his and he half smiled, half sighed in return.
I knew when our eyes met and I slightly smiled, nodding a subtle bow of gratitude and apology. He nodded back, then tugged from his pocket a pair of aviator sunglasses, too reflective for me to see his eyes or the direction of his glance, and rested them on the bridge of his nose.
John Van Dreal has found that writing is a way to avoid meeting expectations: “John, a little help with the grocieries?” “Uh, nope. Writing.” As a result, very little is expected of him; that is why he is a successful writer.