The Silly Old Man with the Young Thai Girl in the Texas Lone Star Saloon


Dean Barrett

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 108 in 2004.

He must be twice her age at least
With mottled, wrinkled skin
His hair is dyed a bottle-black
His face is wintry thin.

Blue veins snake down his bone hands
Like roots of ancient trees
He wears a pair of checkered shorts
Above his scrawny knees.

The girl he's with is beautiful
Her shoulder-length black hair
Surrounds and frames her dark brown face
Her shoulders soft and bare.

He drinks his Mekhong whiskey down
And orders yet again
The girl he's with just sighs and sneaks
a smile at other men.

They sit in silence, the silly old man
And the girl who stole his heart
Someone should whisper in his ear
"Too many years apart!"

Someone should whisper in his ear
"Your girl is bored to death!
Your eyelids droop, your shoulders stoop
There's whiskey on your breath!"

Someone should whisper in his ear
That if he didn't pay
He might just find his lady love
Would soon be on her way.

He wallows in her loving gaze
So puppy-dog serene
Serenity for her of course
His ATM machine.

But he might whisper in our ears
"Well, don't you think I know?
I made my choice and so will you
With fewer years to go."

I'm not sure what to make of him
There is no guiding rule
I wonder if he could be both
A wise man and a fool.

He turns his head to pay the bill
And suddenly I see
It's a mirror on the wall
The silly old man is me.