What We Have to Offer
Inspired by “What I Have to Offer” by Eels
Clouds in the summer sky and always the freezing wind and nowhere to park.
“Bad parking karma,” Eddie said, grinning at me. I smiled back, rolled down my window all the way. It was our first date, but there were no spaces in North Beach. “Bad parking karma is my middle name,” I said. “Can we even call this a date if I can’t get out of my car?”
An hour and a twenty-dollar parking garage tab later, over drinks, Eddie told me about something he’d recently gone through — taking care of his father at the end. How death came down to the most unforgiving details, stuff he didn’t want to think about now but kept thinking about anyway.
“Drinking and good company helps to blot it out,” he said.
He told me that he lived in a rent-controlled apartment with no heat, swam in the freezing water, lived for his writing. He looked down my shoes.
“What size do you wear, anyway?”
It seemed an odd juxtaposition but I rolled with it because I liked the size of my feet. What did I feel I had to offer a man at my age? The company of some very nice feet. “Size Five,” I said. He gave me five. I liked the way his broad lips met each other in the middle. He said he had tickets to Eels at The Great American Music Hall, would I want to go with him, next weekend? “Want to take those dogs dancin’?”
Blackberry juice on my lips, from the muffin at Peet’s we shared before the concert the next time. “I don’t want to die like my father,” he said. Could see he was still thinking about too much. We danced to Eels, shared his flask of whiskey, kissed each other with fifty-five-percent lips. Spent the rest of the night talking in his beat-up car.
A few months later, I met him at the Dolphin South End Swimming club. He’d been swimming in the bay, was shaking like a cold wet dog. “I’m looking to pick up a mountain pillow, today,” he said. “Off camping with my daughter, the grandkids too,” he said, kissing my cheek. I knew there was someone else.
Sometimes the moon lands on my tablecloth and I remember Eddie’s cheeks, how wide and strong they were, how much Eddie had to offer. When I found out he died, and suddenly, after a cold water swim, I thought: This is just how you would have wanted it, no lingering, no asking your children to wipe your ass before you drool on them one last time. You escaped.
Sometimes, I can’t help but remember dancing to Eels. How I tried, that night, to slide my myself right into his life. How I knew that he wasn’t going to let me. “You have a lot to give, my friend,” he said to me in his car, his tongue pushing into my mouth, making its way toward a pleasant but temporary cave.
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