It’s late morning on a typically awful workday—
Have you ever spent a year
Denying the medical claims
Of people who are old, sick, and broke?
I am standing at a vending machine
The size of a barn door
Discreetly lit, fully stocked, faintly insolent.
“Nothing with a shelf life of twelve years
Can possibly be good for you.”
A young woman passes behind me
Reflected in the machine’s plexiglass face.
Our eyes meet for a half second
And we do the instant evaluation
Everybody does, whether they admit it or not.
“That’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
It’s as clear to her
As hers is to me:
“He’s too old,
There is pain,
There is resignation.
And the machine sneers at me:
“What’s it going to be schmuck—
Peanut butter cup or chocolate bar?”
I lean my head so long
Against the plexiglass
It leaves a sweat stain
And finally say:
“Peanut Butter Cup.
–Art by Kaia Pieters