The optics on it were bad: why the 50-year-old insisted on cutting the grass with his shirt off when the girls next door were now breeding age. It would look like he was trying to get their attention when he wasn’t. He was proud of his looks, what little he could muster. They were all women next door save the boyfriends who parked in the turnaround. It was like a queuing area for suitors. You moved up the ranks when they let you park in the main drive with the others. Pack animals all. The lady next door, the mom, was talking about opening a strip club post lockdown. Too edgy for the suburbs, she’d look for a spot in some low rent district instead. All you needed was cheap drinks and the assurance of steady customers (dudes). Her daughters were old enough now they could even work there, a thought that quickly led to darker ones, of internet porn and prostitution, virtual chat rooms, private video. And how he really felt about all that, people pressed so hard to make a buck. And if he was any different, whoring himself out to big corporations writing ad copy. And why couldn’t they just move to Holland where none of this would be so hard.
In some ways the body was just an instrument, one you could play on a street corner for tips. And he had more body left than mind, more body left than soul. The latter was now strangled in vines, though he was working hard to uncoil himself. The drinking did that to you inside and out. He was proud of the weight he lost since he’d gone sober and that was one thing he could hold up, a badge saying I got this. Other parts of him were damaged beyond repair. The undersides of his eyes like lines on a map folded wrong. Organs dried out and withered. In the sun we were all the same, naked under god. Closer to earth, less removed. And if drunks come in colors with violet the worst he was a pale yellow bordering on green.
He kept his shirt on and mowed. He leaned into it and pictured his old uncle doing the same, his dad, the guys he watched mowing when he was just a boy. The grass kept coming back, someone had to cut it. He angled the blade and when it was done the hillside looked smooth and clean. He’d do well to trim the hair on his back the same. He had a ways to go still but was making good progress. He was in no position to judge.