Last words & epigraphs
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A Man of Regret
Nice pinstripes, I said to the man at the holiday party who was wearing a suit. It was late in the evening. Things were emptying out. He invited me to the porch for a smoke and I accepted, though our breath came in pale puffs and my thin sleeves were hardly enough to protect me. He sat down on the steps. It was heavy sitting. It wasn’t his house. His nose was very pink. He talked real estate, a subject I know nothing about. He confessed everything under his wet towel of retrospect. He should have bought in his twenties when the market was ripe for a rise. You seem like a man of regret, I told him. Oh I am, he said, staring away at something, the other neighborhood steps, the winter cars, the night, his own crystal breathing. He shook his head. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made, he said. Buy now. Buy quickly. I understood. I have often wanted to buy. Just last week I saw a set of gold-stemmed martini glasses in a shop window and simply walked on past. And later that day a hot pair of cowboy boots. Waste. I’ve been thinking of cocktail parties and cattle drives ever since. He slumped over on the steps and after moments of his unmoving, I hauled him up. It’s not too late, I encouraged him, rattling his shoulder. You could still buy. No, he said sadly. Things wouldn’t be the way they might have been. Above our heads icicles sharpened the lining of the house. I quit my rattling. He was probably right. Ten years ago I might have worn those boots with a miniskirt but it didn’t occur to me at the time. And now my legs are thicker and I have since lost that sort of edge. Strands of lights everywhere were being switched off. My toes were growing numb and my ankles ached from standing around. He looked terrible. I blamed it all on him. Nice shoes, I barked. They’re Italian, he said. They’re untied, I told him. He used the side of the house to push himself forward. He looked at his feet. Oh yes, he said breathing heavily. So they are.