Macaroni Salad

The old man sitting across from me pours water from his drinking cup into his macaroni salad and stirs it into a thin soup. “They killed him,” Oscar says beside me. He wipes salad dressing from his lip. “My girlfriend went to the funeral. He had only one year left.” The old man leans over his tray and brings a spoonful of macaroni and broth to his mouth, holding the spoon not like a pencil as I was taught to do long ago, but gripping it tightly instead like the handlebar of an unsteady bicycle. Do inmates have funerals? I wondered. Are they buried in their best khakis? Oscar continues talking about his dead friend, whom everyone called Sinner, and how he was unsaved and had surely been banished to hell. But I’ve grown tired suddenly and no longer have the energy to maintain a posture of polite interest, or to comment on the irony of a man named Sinner going to hell. I resume eating, vaguely bothered that I can’t decide whether I’m hungry or full. And across from me, the old man clings to his spoon, trying to stay on.

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