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I’m 18 and I’m using my friend Mike’s expired license to purchase beer.

This is my first time. Mike isn’t here.

I’m hanging out with some friends in South Buffalo. There’s this kid I know from going to punk rock shows and he lives in a house with his brother. I think they have a mom but I’ve never met her. They’re the only ones here when I visit, which isn’t often. Rumor is they live here by themselves.

I haven’t traveled alone. A friend has driven into the city with me. He actually knows this group of kids better than I do. At some point we all decide that we’re thirsty. I mention that I have in my possession just the tool for the job. They successfully talk me into walking down the block to the convenience story, by myself, to get some refreshments to share.

I enter the store and head immediately to the coolers like I know what I’m doing. I get what I have come for and proceed to the counter. There are two gentlemen behind the counter. I set my purchase down. Of course, one of the clerks ask to see ID. I look like I’m 15. Without hesitation I offer my friend Mike’s expired driver’s license. The clerk takes a good look at it. He asks me some basics. Name. Address. Of course I’ve memorized these. He compares eye color. Mike and I both have blue eyes. Then he tears off a piece of receipt paper, passes it with a pen along the counter and asks me to sign my name. Well, Mike’s name, right? I don’t have a choice. So I sign it as I imagine Mike would sign his name having no real idea what that is supposed to look like. I pass it back and wait for him to start laughing me out of the store. But that doesn’t happen. He hands the license back and sells me the beer.

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve thought about that moment when the convenience store clerk messed with me. Then I drove by the store last Friday. I was visiting a client down the street. It took me a minute to piece it together since it had been a while. As I drove farther, things started becoming familiar. Then I saw the store and I was certain. The neighborhood has changed a bit. So have I.

Though sometimes I think I’m still trying to pretend to be somebody that I’m not.

At least I’ve got the store clerks fooled.

A little more about Erik Eustice...

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