Letter to my childhood neighbor

Dear H,

I heard classic rock in the car on the way home the other night.  The volume wasn’t up very high.  I squinted to hear.  I made out only tendrils of sound before they coalesced and I recognized the song.  Free Bird.  Not necessarily a song I equate with you.  But it was the squinting, trying to make out the song, that brought you to mind. 

You putter in your garage.  Sometimes you have the oldies station on, but usually classic rock. I look over from my yard to yours.  Soft fluorescent light spills from the open garage door onto the hood of your car.  Music tinkles into the evening, parts of songs.  I am 8 or 9.  You will still be in your garage when I am a teenager, your presence steady in my memory of growing up. 

You have a tattoo on your forearm.  At one point, it read Corky, your nickname, although I could never make out the letters.  They had long ago blurred into a blob of blue, a cipher of ink. 

Your shirts are white tees: with sleeves, never tank tops.  The fabric thins with age. You wear slip-ons – more slipper than shoe – even when you cut the grass.  This entertains me and your youngest daughter, a year younger than me.  Your older kids are out of the house.  My parents are younger than you.  We make good neighbors. 

You drink beer.  Always Budweiser.  Usually cases.  Mostly cans.  I rarely see you without one.  Part of your identity, like your shoes, an accessory you always have.  Later I will learn how complicated this is. 

Now, I stand barefoot in my driveway. The moon rises in the summer twilight.  Fireflies flicker through the trees.  Strains of Free Bird take flight. 

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