Was is what we say when those we love are gone—such as, Albert Wolfe was a good man. He was born in the 1920s and rode the rails from east to west to east again through twenty-two states by the time he was sixteen, where he met hobos & hookers & his share of patrolmen while sleeping in boxcars & sleeping in brothels & sleeping in municipal parks beneath yesterday’s paper as the ink soaked the past into his blood.
He was the type to live off the measureless land of America with no penny in his pockets but purpose in his poor heart—he moved with motivation to see what the new sun brought each blusterous morning in every new town that would become every old town by nightfall.
And I loved him, my grandfather. Because he was a good man that kept his mind in motion with sights & smells & sounds that I can write about but never know. Not the way that he knew, or Evelyn knew—she his wife, and my mother’s mother, whom he met at twenty-one and married quickly, yet loved slowly. They ambled together for over fifty years.
Love he was always telling me—it’s something you just have to have. It makes you more alive than anything on this earth.
And I watched him all my young years as he smoked packs of unfiltered cigarettes he kept in his left t-shirt pocket, as he took me to Roy’s on the first Saturday of each month for a buzz cut, as he told me the stories of his wandering days and the wondering moments that brought him to wake each morning that would compel him to move on to the next town, to see what it was all about—he was chasing love.
And he found it in Evelyn—she was his beauty, with darkest hair of silk, gorgeous velvety eyes. She grounded him, she tamed the husky traveler as no town was able to do. She would make him coffee in the morning before leaving for Jeannette Glass, and kiss his forehead in the evening before putting pork chops on the table, and cover him with a multi-colored afghan when he fell asleep on the sofa during Johnny Carson—because she loved that man as much as he loved his journey to find her.
It turned out that your grandmother was the trip. That thought lingered with me years after he said it, lingered when I heard about the rain-soaked turnpike west of Atlantic City, lingered when I heard of the overturned semi carrying Australian beef—it haunted me when I learned of their minivan crashing into it at sixty miles per hour.
But it comforted me when I learned the sunset dipped with Albert holding her hand, so that they could travel together to spaces the empyreal dark cannot touch for as long as the stars burn in the skies over the measureless land of America, and everywhere.
~ C. Aloysius Mariotti
C. Aloysius Mariotti was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Arizona. He studied creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he listened to a lot of Rush, Radiohead, and PJ Harvey. His work has been featured in Black Bough Poetry, Marias at Sampaguitas, Boston Accent Lit, and Dark Marrow, among others. His first chapbook, SCREAM into my MOUTH as a WATERFALL (Rhythm & Bones Press) is out March 2020. He resides in Massachusetts with his wife Kristen and Westie Bella Francine.
The photo above is a picture of the author at his grandparents' campground circa 1977.