Aptitude by John Grochalski

greasy jelled pop star hair
he makes the girls go wild at school
fourteen
wait…almost fifteen
and he doesn’t know his address
can’t tell me what it is
when i ask him for it
there are no signs of mental retardation
though he keeps talking to his buddy
about getting a tattoo
there are just a lot of ums and likes and…
he says, yo, i think i live on the corner
of 58th and 8th avenue
smiles like he just won a race
made some little harlot in retro ripped jeans all wet
that’s not an address, i tell him
our hero, the genius, says,
um…
like….
plays with his greasy jelled pop star hair
what about your phone number? i ask
i tell him, i need something to verify that he exists
our guys looks into the distance
deep and soulful
maybe like he’s got to take a shit
he starts reciting numbers
uh…9…um…1…uh…7
but then he stops and shrugs
his buddy says, yo bro, your phone
so he shows me the digits on his bright and shiny cell
of course it’s his old phone number
birth date, i snap
because i don’t like this kid
i’ve never been able to suffer fools
um, i think it’s some day in january, he tells me
look, i tell him
my six year old niece
knows her address
she knows her telephone number and birthday too
so i know this isn’t societal
he shakes his head and shrugs again
looks unimpressed
he’s got greasy jelled pop star hair
and three girls in the corner giggling over him
what does he need
with trivial things like
addresses and phone numbers and birthdates
look, when i was your age, i say
i had my brother up and dressed and fed
and off to school
sometimes i made dinner, i add
mr. mensa stares blankly
his buddy might be slobbering on himself
only i’m starting to think that i might be
the dumb one here
let’s try this again, i say
address?
um…
phone number
like…
birthday
uh…january?
we just stare at each other
like we’re two separate species about to become
engaged in a battle for our very life
um…never mind, he finally says
because the girls have left
and his buddy is in hot pursuit
so he turns away from me and leaves
grabbing the front door that’s locked
and not open to the outside world
like the other one right next to it
and he’s pulling
and pulling
and pulling on it
looking back at me for help
as if he’s expecting grace
a brilliant idea
or some kind of luminous change to occur
in either of our
nasty little lives.

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John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and the forthcoming novel, The Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.

 

 

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