Stubbled slowly and gray,
he underestimates the heat of the afternoon.
Sweat beads on his brow,
rolling under his collar, kissing his neck.
The airconditioner in his Volvo is broken.
He pulls in across the street
from the John F. Kennedy High School.
There are hundreds across the country,
with hundreds of Volvos across the street.
The school bell rings out into the neighborhood.
There’s a drive-thru which shades him,
as he orders a sub-par strawberry milkshake.
The girl taking his order pops her gum,
distractedly pulling up her low-cut tank-top.
She dropped out a year ago and moved in with her boyfriend.
She slouches away, demin-shorts accentuating
youthful curves that bother older women.
Any other guy would stare at her walking away with
visceral, nightmarish desire, but he gazes past.
She brings back the milkshake, spilling some over the Styrofoam edge.
He takes One Big Gulp, sucking up
through the straw, eyes fixating past the 17 year-old,
past the other gaggle of short-skirted “waitresses”
over to the high school.
His ritual is near fanatical, but not without its divinity.
He chest tightens and the sweat continues
to seep out of his face and onto his plaid, buttoned shirt.
The box of cigarettes in his breast-pocket
is dampened and constricted by perspiration and breathing.
He reaches in and lights a Marlborough red.
The ritual is now nearly complete.
Sweat combated with sugar, and anxiety
fought with tobacco and nicotine, do not distract
from the one purpose he has at this hour.
He’s a filthy old man, desperate, lonely, and sad.
She comes out of the big, heavy, main doors.
Her books hooked under her arm, against her
still-forming hips, and her long blonde hair is
tousled by a breeze only seen on film sets.
She is for him, the epitome of beauty, grace, and lust.
He sighs, gently smoking the cigarette
to savor every moment he can before it’s time to go.
She giggles and continues to walk away, brazenly
displaying fifteen-year old thighs under white cotton pleats.
She’s so desperately far away, and he cannot move.
He turns on the ignition, having already paid for his
disgusting, second-rate milkshake.
In a flash she is gone, following her adolescent heart
to do adolescent things, unworried and virginal.
She is at peace because she doesn’t know he watches every day.
He drives home, sweating less and tranquil.
His predatory temper has faded after getting his fix.
His own flesh, several decades older, feels
renewed and stretched out, and happy.
He pulls in to his duplex at the same hour every day.
Throwing his keys onto the counter-top,
he removes his sweaty work-shirt, exposing his own
impure white cotton undershirt covered in desire.
He opens the refrigerator, pulling out a hot-dog and a beer.
He has scruples. He has a grill.
He sits down in the ugly corduroy sofa-chair, old like him,
reaches over for the remote, slurping cold beer,
takes a big bite of his home-grilled hot-dog,
and tries to forget for the next 23 three hours.