[one second i’m connected feet on the ground and racing across the road there’s a little taco shop on the other side a florist and a drug store.]
She sweeps my hair back from my face, and presses her lips to my forehead. “Be a good boy,” she tells me. Her breath stings my eyes. “And don’t you go outside.” She shakes me as she says it. “Don’t tell anyone, either.”
But I thought we were going to play tonight—I want to say the words, but they’re too big and my throat is too small. She promised. She promises a lot of things when sunrise lights the windows and trails dusty fingers into the room. When all she wants to do is sleep away the night before.
“You hear me?” Her voice is hawkish and I shrug.
A knock rattles the door. She goes.
[i don’t hear it I don’t see it it just happens one second i’m connected and the next i’m suspended looking up and wondering when the sky will turn blue]
The florescent lights flicker overhead, and rows of desks look like an industrial landscape of fake lacquered wood. An assembly line whose product is molded brains and good citizens. I bounce my pencil against the desk, spin it and bounce it off the lead. Tiny dots soon cover the desk. A constellation of graphite and boredom.
The door opens, and in steps the TA. Her red eyes shine. “I’m so sorry.” She sounds like rain on glass. “There was an accident, and— Anyways, welcome to poetry. Let’s start with Dylan Thomas.”
I didn’t want to be here before. And now, I don’t want to be anywhere else.
[i’m leaping through a million years of evolution my body hurtles through space and i swear i know i’m flying and for a moment it’s magic]
Trash trucks roar down the alley, spearing garbage cans with metal arms. You sink under the covers with me, block out the light with the long thin veil of your hair. Your cheeks plump with gravity as you smile down at me, trace your finger across my chest. Birds whistle their announcements outside. Floorboards creak above. I try to drown it out because I want to be here. With you. Your lips follow the path your fingertip took. A phone rings, and an unheard conversation plays in my head.
“Tell me what you like,” you say, pulling me back to you.
“You already know what I like.” When I smile it comes out as sadness, because the other thing distracting me is the calculus of when you’re going to leave me.
[until i come down to earth hit slam into it]
The grass wets my feet. She said to not go outside. To never go outside by myself. When she’s gone. But she’s always gone, and I’m always looking through the living room window at this world on the outside and never touching it. So I strip down to my underwear, ease the door open, then shut, and tiptoe into the shadows. Crickets fill the night air with chirps. Something hoots from the treetops. Plates clank in sinks. I slink across lawns, hide behind rough sturdy trunks. There’s a swimming hole nearby. All the kids at school talk about the old tire hanging from a tree limb, about how they harness momentum and launch into the air to fly even for a second, with the water to catch them when they fall.
it hangs, listless. The new moon sliver glints against the still surface of the water. I wait for it to breathe, but everything stays the same. For the first time since stepping out the door, a shiver shakes me. The water is black and still.
I rub my hands over my arms, feel the rough peaks of gooseflesh there. The world presses on me. Somewhere overhead, and beneath my feet bugs are doing what bugs do. People hide behind walls. Things linger in shadows.
Scaredy ghost. That’s what they call me in school because I’m so pale.
The rubber of the tire is cold and stiff beneath my hands.
You sit up. Morning light paints your skin. “You’re nothing like her.” I’ve said it a hundred times. Your lips press into a certain smile when I say it. As if you already know I’m trying to convince myself. Hoping this time I finally do.
[breathing is torture when your lungs are full of bone shards]
I shove the tire. The rope creaks against the tree limb as it swings away from me, and sails back. I wanted to push it again, instead my feet shuffled and I latch on.
I soared high above the black pond, into the night sky where the stars outshone the moon and the dark wings of an owl cut out the light. And then I hovered, suspended above the world.
a note regarding this story
about a month ago, I was running errands with my boyfriend. A perfectly banal task for a perfectly banal day. Coming to a stoplight, I glanced to the left to check for oncoming traffic. Lights from cop cars flashed, but weren’t moving. In the lane near the median, a BMW was parked, its driver outside next to a cop. There was a person beneath the car.
We surmised the following: someone had been jaywalking, was struck by and trapped beneath the car.
Sirens sounded in the distance. I figured the best thing I could do for the situation was stay out of the way and move on to leave room for the paramedics, and the professionals already on the scene. This next point is contentious in our home. My boyfriend thinks the victim perished, saw the cop pull a blanket over his head. I’m still unwilling to accept it, but the possible death, witnessed by us, stays with me.
I know nothing about the victim, except that he had a life. Comprised of vignettes and relationships. He was a person with a past full of moments. Some people leave a legacy, but everyone takes with them their unique compilation of experiences, the impact of those pieces of life, and the perceptions surrounding them.