Going out west from St. Louis downtown, out toward Lake Saint Louis, which isn't St Louis and is built round a man-made lake. Heading out that way and across the river on some old steel bridge. And when you cross that bridge you come down on the highway over a hill and there it is. A sea of white lights to the left and red lights straight in front. Dancing flickering beams from a thousand different people heading off in different directions. Not many directions, just a few exits west and east of here. Do you remember that? Do you remember when I saw you dance with that girl in that club back there? When you looked so alive? I saw the beams from the lights above you form circles in between two heads bobbing, two bodies moving. I saw the reds and the whites and the greens and the reds again. I saw you together. And there was a distance. A distance I moved between, holding glasses. Offering you my company like you needed it, like I needed another shot.

That's a fifteen dollar value right there.

I stood and looked at faces not my own across a bar not familiar and stared. Glared. Waited and waited on, each time the glass was down another was offered and I took and drank. No conversation, no passing the time, no sounds except the radio blaring out of cheap speakers set into a wall made to look older than it was.

That’s a thirty dollar value right there.

I’m Bi-Polar, my girlfriend has issues. If you find yourself suffering from allergies take two of these daily. Side effects may include nausea, drowsiness and an insatiable appetite for the mundane. What do you do? Where are you from? I ask only that I may fill in the blanks of our conversation with me, who I am. Who I want to be for you.

That’s a sixty dollar value right there.

Are you French? American. Oh, native? No, my fathers family is Irish, my mothers French. I’m half Irish, half Scottish, half Jewish, half Black… I’ve never met anyone from France.

That’s a one hundred and twenty dollar value right there.

What can you get for a buck these days? A burger. A phone call. A call collect from someone free enough to be an individual, someone free enough to call home and sob and weep and beg another drive-in movie total experience sales people happy restaurant smile mall rat crying into their beer sighing moaning clinging forgetting hung-over strung-out wishful and tired.

That’s a two hundred and forty dollar value right there.

From the suburbs to the city, to your job. To the mall, to the dry cleaners, to your home. Enclosed in SUV windows and metal you listen to the radio as it sings you a lullaby across the highway. A sweet goodnight song of togetherness and unity. The stars and stripes in the lower left hand corner of your rear window are there to remind you and all those tail-gaiting behind of what this island of yours stands for. Of one mind, of one body, of one heart. Close your passenger windows past east of downtown. You drive by those on the wrong side of the gas queue, you drive by another with his hood up over his head and his hands in his pockets. Hiding. You think of what, you think of why. Lock your doors, he’s hiding much more than you feared. He’s hiding from you.

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