When I was a stock boy at the drug store,
Jim was twenty-five and I was twenty-three.
When I said pharmaceutical, he laughed at me.
“That’s a pretty big word you’ve got there.”
I resented his seventeen-dollars-an-hour,
newest Pontiac Trans Am, apartment, friends
and profession. Yet I wanted, I endeavored,
to love him anyway.

On a morning when the store was still,
florescent lights not yet flickering over
cigarettes, soda pop, lipstick and condoms,
and while I was stacking aspirin on an endcap,
I learned of Jim’s intimate dosage and death.
I felt no envy anymore, but it was too late
to love him anyway.

Suddenly he wasn’t behind the tall, white counter
counting pills for Mrs. Pressler. He would no longer
hear “Howdy boys” from Tobacco Joe, help the old
couple check blood pressures or review the attributes
of cough syrups. Cash was missing, excuses made.
There were trips to his doctor in the middle of the day.
The last I heard, he was in a half-way house. Was it
cocaine or just anything? It was then I wanted
to love him anyway.

David Sapp, writer, artist, and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grants for poetry and the visual arts. His poems appear widely in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.