Refusal of the Return

  “You are still here?”
  “I am,” I says, and I steps in. Cold and wet out. Hot and damp inside. The windows run with condensation. I sits me down where I can be watched. I take up the greasy jug. I pours out a flimsy cupful. And I drinks it off.
   The boss, who’s lost more hair than me over the years, asks some other question. I shrug. That usually works. Wipe down the moustache of which I am proud.
   Some familiar man stands at the doors, amazed.
   And amazed again. I am supposed to recognize him. And of course I do.
  “Robber!” the man says. His hands flap.
  “Hi there,” I says.
  “So lucky to meet again!” he says.
   We shake hands. This is like grabbing jelly. I tries to exit too soon. The man points at Bob’s head. Bob’s luxuriant black locks curl around his ears and stick out past his collar, but over the years fewer and fewer of them have deigned to start their journey from his crown.
  “You are ever the perfect teacher!”
  “Because of my hair?”
  “Yes! You should come to my school!”
  “And to my house,” the man says.
   I’ll remember eventually.
  “Sure. Maybe.” I say.
   That’s when I see her.
   I make like I’m reading the menu.
  “Beauty girl,” says the grinning man.
   Bao Shi-fucking-Yo, that’s his name. The first man I met when I was first here, and back then I’d clung to him like a lifeline.
   She’s walked straight on past.
   I wonder sometimes what I smell like when I walk by. Her passing presents woody medicines and earth.