Since my friend Liebling went to study in Stuttgart, I’m seeing men dressed as him everywhere. There, standing at the crosswalk in a trilby, or else in line at the coffee shop, zipping and unzipping his polyvinyl satchel. Another pulls Liebling’s scarf tighter against his mouth before he breasts it into the cold wind. At the jam session, he steps into the space the keyboardist left behind. At the gym, a slipping towel showcases his ass sinking into the planks of the steam room. Everywhere I look are these men who mean to be him. I’ve become Tantalus, stretching to tap his shoulder only to have a stranger turn and face me. He’s been gone four months so far; four months remain. By the time he returns, I’m afraid I’ll have gone, having seen too much of him to need to see the real him anymore.

Matt Dube teaches creative writing and American lit in Missouri. His shorts have appeared in Weirderary, Minor Literature(s), Moon City Review, and elsewhere. He is the fiction editor for H_NGM_N.