Fred’s American Grill, The Purple Cow, Jennifer and Me by Scott Silsbe

I think this is how it was. I was seventeen
and working in the small, shitty restaurant
of a grocery store in a small, shitty suburb
of Detroit for the most minimum of wages.
I started in the summer, after I couldn’t take
any more of my folks bugging me to get a job.
I got hired on for the ice cream parlor—a job
I had some experience with—but got bumped
over to the grill after only a couple of weeks.
For some reason, the ice cream parlor was
called The Purple Cow and I had to wear
a purple hat, a purple apron, and a shirt
with thick purple stripes going across it.

I worked with a Jen, a Jenny, and a Jennifer.
I went to school with the Jenny. I had a crush
on the Jennifer. I opted to stay on, part-time,
once school started back up. So did Jennifer.
She and I only worked together occasionally
that fall as the homecoming floats were built
and destroyed, as the days grew shorter and
shorter, and the temperatures grew colder.

It was right around the first snowfall, just
about the time when the store was starting
to decorate for the holidays, that Jennifer
and I worked together one night, punched
out at the same clock around the same time,
and walked out of the store together, out to
our cars in the employee lot. It was already
dark out. I was about to say goodnight, but
before I could, Jennifer said, “Hey, do you
want to come over to my car for a minute?”
I said I did—I think I said, “Sure, alright.”
That was the first time we fooled around.
She tasted like cigarettes and mint gum.

Jennifer and I had us a workplace romance.
Being so young, I didn’t quite know what
I was doing. But I knew I liked making out
with her in the back rooms of the grocery
and in her car if our shifts ended together.
She liked to use a lot of tongue and let me
go up her shirt if we were out in her car—
steaming up the car windows, piles of snow
heaped up into small, gray mountains in the
parking spots around us in the employee lot.

I think I must have known it wouldn’t last.
So many years later, I can remember many
small details, but I don’t recall how it ended.
I think she took me to one of her dances—
prom, maybe? Lincoln Park High School.
Mostly I remember the way she would look
at me, both of us in those ugly purple outfits.
That sly smile of hers that meant something,
something I couldn’t quite comprehend, but
that excited me all the same. Some nights
she would rile me up so much, I would
drive my car through the unplowed snow
behind the grocery store, see just how fast
I could go, before slamming on the breaks,
the breaks locking, sliding through all of that
dangerous fluffy white moisture, careening
towards brick walls for a thrill as great or
perhaps greater than making out with Jennifer
in the broom closet of Fred’s American Grill.

scott-silsbe

Scott Silsbe was born in Detroit. He now lives in Pittsburgh. His poems have appeared many places including Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, and the Cultural Weekly. He is the author of two poetry collections: Unattended Fire (Six Gallery Press, 2012) and The River Underneath the City (Low Ghost Press, 2013).

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