During a quick trip to the grocery store today, I saw someone I used to work with about a dozen years ago. Fortunately, he didn’t see me, and I was able to escape without having to “catch up on old times.”

The first thing I noticed was that he had a twelve-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. The second was that he had aged considerably, lost about twenty pounds, and grown pale. He was an alcoholic and thin and pale when I knew him, but basically a nice person with a lot of ability. We worked together for about a year and got along well, but he would disappear unexpectedly for a day or two or three while on binges, leaving me and others to do his work. I’m not passing judgment here. I’m just saying how it was. He’d call me in the middle of the night and laugh and howl about how desperate he was, and how he needed help. One day, he begged me to take him to his doctor. I did. Another time, he called and asked me to go to his apartment. When I arrived, he was far beyond drunk in the middle of the afternoon, was surrounded by a sea of empty bottles, and had the baggiest, most bloodshot eyes I’ve ever seen. His apologetic, yet proud expression said, “This is the way it is, and this is how it is going to stay.”

As luck would have it, the outfit we were working for went out of business. He went his way and I went mine. Early on, I heard somewhere that he had left the state and gotten a job. I’ve thought about him several times, but not within the last year or two.

The thing is, I could have talked to him. I could have made one of my usual ridiculous remarks to get his attention and then said hello. He would have been friendly. In many ways, he was a likeable guy. At the same time, he’s not the only one who has changed. He probably would have been shocked to see what’s happened to me during the last dozen years — the long graying hair and the general degradation of my posture, especially, would have had him in stitches.

So what does it mean? Not much, probably. I saw a guy I used to know. We’re both older. He’s still drinking. In the parking lot, I saw him getting into an old car with a woman and a young boy, in all likelihood his wife and son. He was single when I knew him. Is he living around here now? Or was he just visiting? Who knows? Next week, or in another dozen years, I just might find out.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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