on reflexes

We were having lunch or dinner or some oddly timed meal at a truck stop somewhere in Ohio. I’d just spent $4.99 on chicken fingers and fries, and the only part of the meal worth the money was the biscuit. I would have spent the five bucks on just that.

Out of the blue, Mike started to talk about Kristin.

"It makes me sad," he said. "I really like her. I’ve tried to make things good so we can get back together, but she’s turned into such a hoochie."

"She has?" I already knew this, and maybe by asking I was merely urging Mike to talk more about himself and his situation and how the whole world was against him and how nothing was ever meant to happen for him – setting myself up for disaster. But at the same time, it had been a while since he and I had a good talk, and I missed that part of him.

"Yeah." He sipped his MGD, watching to make sure the cop had gone inside the store. He put it on the pavement next to him and shook his head. "She just drinks to get drunk, she hooks up with different guys every night – dirtbag guys, mind you – and that’s all that seems important to her."

"Well," said, trying to shed some light on the situation, "She’s only twenty. That’s what twenty-year-olds do, I guess."

He then went on to blame her for the reason he hadn’t come up with any art to trade in the desert. How he was so preoccupied with her and what she’d become that he wasn’t able to focus on anything else. I knew the conversation would turn to that – he always found a way to blame everyone else for his shortcomings and lack of motivation. It was never Him; it was always Someone Else’s Fault. I started to tune out – not on purpose, it just happened in conversations with Mike these days, but then he said something that sharpened my reception like a good set of rabbit-ear antennas or a free gift from the cable company.

"I just wish she had more of you in her."

Maybe I should listen more…