Hank Nicci worked as the gas pump man
at Greville’s Sunoco all that summer.
He had a heart like a Valentine,
but softball-sized, tattooed on a shoulder.
It said Mom. What else would it say in those times?
His bleach-blond girlfriend looked like a star
right out of the movies, at least in my eyes.
She drove a smoking-hot custom car:

’48 Merc with some big new V-8,
and lowered so far that sparks would spray
from her bumpers whenever she drove on the lot.
Just to watch her show up made my own sparks fly.
The girl. Her street rod. Of course I got smitten.
She stole my heart, which she never imagined.
Of course she didn’t. Her Mercury glistened
like a red candy apple. Complete perfection.

I knew if I mentioned her, Mom would inform me
my dream-love looked cheap. Her name? Roy-Anne.
How she and Hank fought! I once heard her storming,
“You can kiss my ass!” as she peeled out. Gone.
If this meant cheap, it was what I longed for.
Bad language. Cool car. My whole soul was yearning.
I swear I’d have kissed her for weeks, wherever.
But Hank wouldn’t lay off his non-stop flirting.

If she were my sweetheart, I’d be much more careful:
whatever she wanted, she’d have her way.
I needed my thumb to get down to Greville’s
after mucking out stalls or pitching hay
or herding turkeys at my uncle’s place.
I could work, but couldn’t yet drive. I got lectures
from my mom about wasting the ends of my days
at some dirty old gas station. I never told her

what I’m telling you here, though of course if you’ve read
my story so far, you know it all.
Mom kept on about bright years ahead.
At college, she claimed, I’d “discover new goals,”
but I’d never found any in school, so why would I?
The real goal for me was to turn into Hank:
big arms, a tattoo, and giggly housewives
who blushed and spluttered as I filled up their tanks.

Roy-Anne screamed and swore– but she stayed with Hank.
If I couldn’t find someone exactly like her,
I’d die, or that’s what I heard myself think.
It turns out I’ve lived a long time after
without a Roy-Anne, but when I was fifteen,
Man, I ached for her. I’d have treated her well,
and I bet she’d have let me– at least now and then–
switch spots on the seat and take the Merc’s wheel.