Freckles by Kim Teeple

The first time I saw him he was hunched over the bar and a beer bottle. He watched the people across the bar and I watched him. I noticed how sometimes he would mimic a small gesture; a slanted smile, a raised eyebrow, a hand sweeping through the air. The gestures were contagious, so I started doing it, too. I ran my hand through my hair, I tossed my head, I blinked. He noticed me and laughed. He said he was an actor and he ordered another round for both of us.

We meet at a beach. The air smells like BBQ and sun tan lotion. The lake smells like fish and green algae. He has freckles on his shoulders and a sunburn. He sits next to me on a towel and tells me stories about his life, about growing up in Kansas. I call him Toto. He says he’s more like the Cowardly Lion.

He sings with some guys, a swing band, on weekends. They play at weddings or in bars in the suburbs. He says I should come and see them play sometime. “But," he says, “I’m not that good." He puts himself down but I get the feeling he doesn’t always believe what he says. We both grew up blue collar and you’re not supposed to brag. Don’t toot your own horn my dad used to tell me.

We meet at a restaurant. We meet at coffee shops. We meet at the bar. We meet for a walk through my old neighborhood where I grew up and I point out where I smoked my first cigarette, and the house where there was a murder. I tell him how I snuck in when no one lived there anymore and saw blood on the carpet. He tells me he’s married.

I like watching him walk. He walks like a sailor, like Popeye.

I go see him in a community play. The play is by Mamet and all of the characters are angry. He throws a chair in the play and I see this whole other side of him.

I tell him I’m fond of him. I’m careful to never say love.

We walk through a city park in autumn. We walk through fallen leaves and I notice the freckles on his arm are the exact same color as the leaves. I want to hang on to this moment because in my life, things are never big like they are in the movies or books.


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