I’m coaching at a high school wrestling tournament, eating peanuts before my team is up. This is at a 4-H arena, Tennessee. When this guy comes in and sits beside me, I think it can’t be him.
As a kid, I made rubbings of Confederate gravestones with Uncle Burly, who had a lot of hair on his arms and no kids of his own. He drove a honeywagon. He used a bendy hose to suck shit out of holes in the ground. I heard he was grateful for the job. Uncle Burly used to declare tickle wars and chase us around the yard. We were pissed because tickle war cut into our swimming time. If it were up to me, Uncle Burly’s gravestone would read: It never went beyond tickling.
The guy next to me looks just like him, same Carhart jumpsuit, same brushy mustache. I’ve always thought old mats smell like your fingers after filling water balloons. It wouldn’t make sense to apologize to a stranger, so I ask if he wants some nuts. He says sure, and his fist goes deep in my bag, grazing my finger-bottoms through the plastic. It’s not him, but I feel better.