He used to talk about the fifties like was another country or something. Used to sit right over there in one of the window booths, lighting one fresh Chesterfield off the dying butt of the last one, stubbing the last one out into the growing mountain of ashes he had built up on the table in front of him. He'd nod to the guy behind the counter and abracadabra another cup of coffee would magically appear right there before him. He used to talk about the fifties like it was another country or something. Used to sit there all the time.
There was a woman, he said. There was always a woman. This one used to wear her hair piled up in a high like some Hollywood starlet. Wore pearls around her neck and those tight Jayne Mansfield sweaters, the figure on this girl you wouldn't believe, and she loved him to death. Followed him everywhere. She swore she'd do anything for him and he believed her. In the end that's what sent him packing. He left her there waiting for him and he hit the ground running. Never did go back. But he was just a kid, and he figured he'd be better off down the road.
She died in a fire, at least that's what he'd heard. 1972, 73. Fell asleep drinking with the candles still lit, that's all it took. "The toughest thing," he'd say, and then he wouldn't say anything.