February 13, 2011

Matthew J. Spireng

WATER-BASED LUBRICANT

It was only after I’d left the chain pharmacy
and was walking across the parking lot
that I sensed something was wrong. County
highway department workmen in an orange dump truck

looked at me strangely, and I realized, as
a cool wind of an early October day
whipped past me, that it felt airier than usual
where the zipper of my jeans should be closed.

I waited until I sat in the car and checked and,
sure enough, my fly had been open. My fly
had been open the whole time I had wandered
up and down the aisles of the pharmacy

unsuccessfully searching for water-based lubricant
the instructions for use of the rectal thermometer
I’d bought to check my sick dog’s temperature said
I should apply before each use. It had been open

at her eye level when I stopped to ask the young woman
kneeling on the floor stacking shelves where to find
water-based lubricant, and it had been open when,
minutes later, still unsuccessful, I had mumbled

as I passed a woman customer standing waiting
to speak to the pharmacist something about how it seemed
I could spend my life there looking for what I
needed, and it had been open when, finally breaking off

my search, I approached the woman clerk in the pharmacy
to ask where I could find water-based lubricant, and it had been
open when the woman pharmacist came out
from behind the counter to help, wandering with me

from aisle to aisle until finally she decided the only place
water-based lubricant might be is near the condoms, which was
where it was. And it had been open when the woman cashier
checked me out, perhaps in more ways than I realized,

which might be why she stammered when she asked if I’d found
everything I was looking for, a stammer I thought was
a speech impediment, but which might have been my fault,
exposed as I was, buying water-based lubricant for the dog.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
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