Old Man in a Job Interview

We shake hands and sit.
The desk squats between
us. My back is straight
despite two herniated
disks, the lower spine
on fire. I hide the pain
in what I hope is
an affable smile.
He offers details
of the job, a low-
paying thing
I need badly
and I nod
when I think it’s
appropriate, when I
think he expects me to,
though my knee throbs
like a drum, still not right
from the scope a month
before. Sweat dampens
the collar, the waistband.
My ears ring louder than
usual. I’m drifting.
Something I do more
with each passing year
(I’m in my mid-sixties).
I yell at my brain to stop,
to focus! That’s better.
He’s not a bad guy,
I could work for him.
I shift my body slightly,
cross my legs
at the next question,
trying to avert attention
from the mounting
discomfort. Then
the arthritis flares
in hands and hips.
But I ignore it,
casually answering
a question, something
about past experience.
It’s going well, I can
tell. But then the other
thing happens, the thing
with words getting
mixed up, slowed down,
misplaced. I recover
quickly, correcting
instantly but it’s too
little too late: he’d
noticed the sentence
veering off into gibberish.
I make a lighthearted
comment about being
tongue-tied but his
brow furrows. He
pretends everything’s
okay but I’m not fooled.
My right hand shakes,
I slip it into a pocket.
He stands and says,
Thanks for coming in.
I sigh and force a smile.
No more faking it,
I rise slowly, in stages,
finally upright. He says,
Are you all right?

Paul Lojeski's poetry has appeared in journals and online. He’s also the author of the satiric novel, The Reverend Jimmy Pup. He lives with his wife and daughter in Port Jefferson, NY. Read other articles by Paul.