When was the last time you counted out change,
the last time you felt a cash register drawer spring open
against your belly, cracked a roll of quarters, licked
your thumb to separate wrinkled bills? I worked
at an ice cream parlor after school. A widower came
every Wednesday, ordered butter pecan in a dish.
He asked about my classes, told me stories about
his dead wife. When he mentioned his diagnosis,
I was too young to know the difference between
I mumbled Sorry
the coins across the speckled Formica. I remember
the first time I paid for something on my own.
My friend Shana and I went to the diner of the motor inn
where our families were staying near Hershey Park.
She was 7. I was 5. We had pancakes and chocolate milk.
When the bill came, we emptied our pockets, counted
the exact amount. Shana said, We need to leave a tip.
So we left a penny, which seemed like enough. This must
have been right around when Shana's stepdad started creeping
into her bedroom at night in exchange for a stuffed pony,
then a stereo, and later, a cherry red Camaro with flames
on the hood. That morning at breakfast, Shana felt guilty
about not ordering orange juice. My mom says
I need vitamin C or I'll get scurvy.
After we paid she said,
Let's go back to the room and wash our hands.
My mom says money's dirty.