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He is leaning against a post outside the grocery store, a toothpick in his mouth, looking casually predatory, like a villain from a cartoon. He’s wearing all denim and a weird black and green striped hat. Not an Eagles hat. Not Celtics. What is that logo? Is he wearing a name tag? I get out of the car and steal another glance. He seems like he’s staked out, waiting for me, but I push the idea out of my mind. I’ve been watching too many paranoid thrillers during this pandemic.

I hold my mask in my hand as I move toward the store. I keep my attention away from the guy but I can feel him staring, can feel something like a dare emanating from the general area. I flash on high school, freshman year, trying to sneak past the football players lined up outside the cafeteria.

“If it isn’t Mister Landslide,” the guy says.

“I have it right here,” I say, sliding the mask on.

He looks at me. What the hell is that hat from? His whole face is blank, a cocky grin and nasty green eyes and in between a kind of blur, like when a mustache guy shaves his mustache and for the rest of his life everybody else can only see the empty space between his mouth and nose.

“You took my love, took it down,” he sings, and for a second I swear that Stevie Nicks herself has arrived at the propane section. His name tag says:

Hello my name is


“Shucks I’m sorry partner, didn’t mean for you to see that,” he says, but then he winks as if there is some kind of hidden camera watching us. He puts his hand over the name tag and swipes. “There,” he says.

Hello my name is


“Spotify,” I say. “You’re from…Spotify?”

From Spotify?” he says. He adjusts the hat.

“Spotify?” I say.

He gestures for me to get closer. In the parking lot I see my son’s principal waddling toward the entrance. Mask. I move in closer and the guy sidles sideways so his face is obscured by his long brown hair. “One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends,” he sings. He is barely opening his mouth but I can hear it, all the desperation and urgency I’ve invested in that song over the years, teenage Dave in his room reading the liner notes thinking Springsteen was speaking just to him.

“I mean, it’s a little bit much, isn’t it?” he says, and his voice is his voice again.

“I was sixteen,” I say. “I was feeling all my feelings.”

“Look a piece older to me?” he says.

My glasses are starting to fog up. Inside the store people go about their business. “It’s been a pretty confusing time, man,” I say.

He swipes at the nametag:

Hello my name is


“Some of those songs are really good,” I whisper. Two kids park their bikes and walk past us. I move so they can’t see the nametag. They are my son’s age and would surely have no reference for Mötley Crüe but I feel ridiculous just seeing those umlauts, knowing I watched the Netflix movie twice in one day.

“You’re freaking people out,” I say.

“I’m not the one who listened to Live Wire four hundred thirty seven times last year,” he says. He adjusts the toothpick in his mouth, tips his baseball hat like a cowboy in a movie.

“That song is more punk than it is hair metal,” I say. “It’s like, a…”  

He swipes at the nametag.  

Hello my name is


“I needed comfort music,” I say.

“Um hmmmm,” he says.

“Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the roa-aaad,” I sing, a little disappointed to hear my own creaky voice coming out of my mouth.  

“No wonder you’re on us all day. A voice like that.” He sounds truly disgusted. My glasses are fogged and I take off the mask.



“A lovestruck Romeo sings the streets a serenade,” he sings, Mark Knopfler’s uncanny voice coming out of his mouth.

“There’s some really clever writing in that song,” I say.

He just shakes his head. “The shit they can convince themselves of,” he says, looking off toward the parking lot. I search for white vans, antennas, anything indicating that I’m being recorded, filmed, punked, jackassed.







“Okay,” I say. “I’m not into this…whatever this is. It was a fucked up year man.”

“Fiona Apple put out an album,” he says. “John Prine died and you’re all, I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train…”

“I have to get…” I look at the scrap of paper in my pocket. “Orange juice and cat litter.” I try to say it final, important, a clear end to this interaction.

I take a step and he tips the baseball hat again. “You think you can escape me in there?” he says. He swipes at the nametag:

Hello my name is


“I just went through that ‘Edge of Seventeen’ phase for like a week,” I say.

“See you in a minute, friend,” he says. “Just like the white winged dove.”