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Even the Gas Station Attendant Here Is Nice to Me

Leigh Stein

I lost my job at the factory, but before you get mad
I want you to know that last night I woke up in the snow
without shoes, and I didn’t call up to your window;
I let you sleep because I remembered our agreement.

This is what happened: he caught me in the freezer
with his copy of Ulysses and asked me what I thought
I was doing. What could I be doing, I said, what
are my options. I still had on my latex gloves

and I know you won’t want to hear this part, but
I opened a carton of macaroons with my teeth.
You have always wanted to do that, he said. Yes,
I said. He said, I can’t let you do that. So I ate one.

He turned off the lights. I took a yellow cake
off a shelf and lit twenty candles to warm our hands.
How is this night different from all other nights?
There was a time when I didn’t have to sleepwalk

everywhere. You remember. I was here. But
then I got used to waking up every morning
in a different city, without you, without the same
sun, the same lack of a view, all that scaffolding,

none of the sea, every piece of mail a sympathy card.
I can never go back there. I stole his book. When you
go to work every morning, I walk to Jerusalem.
I am answering your letter. You are ruining my life.

Leigh Stein

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