Excerpt #100 (Wow!), Rocking-Chair Moon

Road Trip
—Carly

Take us along, will you, Benny?
We’ll just slip in around you,
slumping down low so you’ll
barely notice us, and peer anxiously about
like rookie driving instructors,
burdened with school smarts (me),
and experience (them),
and an itch to share it all with you,
but we won’t say a word
(not out loud, anyway).

No sisterly nagging,
no packed-with-envy complaint
that I have to wait another whole month
to journey off to my college,
no motherly or grandfatherly advice
thinly disguised as
remembrances of their long-ago youth
when they didn’t know half of
what they know now.

You won’t even hear an involuntary gasp
if you should speed into a tight corner,
slide onto the shoulder, kick up dust,
because we know you’ll fight your way back
to that smooth, safe pavement, we really do.

We just want to look on from the inside
of an imagined road-trip car,
A slap-dash hybrid of the old family limo
and Grandpa’s bug car, maybe,
a car with PROUD PARENT
and PROUD GRANDPARENT stickers
bumper to bumper,
and armor and airbags everywhere.

A car with the proud sister riding shotgun.

Just watching.

For now.

 

Reality Check
—Ben

Where’s that carefree, careless feeling?

I had no trouble imagining it
back when I was younger
and even more clueless
and effortlessly pictured myself
transformed into a big-time,
nothing-in-the-rearview-mirror,
college dude,

but so far I’m barely keeping my head
above water in the turbulence and froth
of this riptide of boring classes
and impersonal professors
and too much time on my hands.

My classmates are friendly with each other
but not with me,
and I have a cold-fish roommate
with a steady, accommodating girlfriend
one floor down, keeping him occupied.

My own girlfriend’s half a continent away.

Even when I go for a run,
I don’t feel unburdened and
in charge and confident.

Each footfall sounds like
the tick of a metronome,
measuring time, empty,
no accompaniment,
even with music blasting in my ears.

I don’t pound the path,
the path pounds me.

 

Email to Holly, 1:27 A.M.
—Carly

This place seemed all cold and rigid
and standoffish at first,
red bricks and gray cement
and lunch alone and Ben a million miles away,
but Mom told me to give it time,
and last Saturday
Megan called just to talk
and my roommate Sadie cracked up at

one of my dumb jokes,
Monday a girl named Emilie, who lives
down the hall, brought me an umbrella
and invited me to go walking in the downpour
with her because she says that’s what
you do at Reed when it rains,
yesterday a guy named Patrick sat down

at our lunch table and gave me the olives
from his salad and laughed a genuine laugh
when I stuck them on my fingers
like Tootsie Pops,
and this morning you called from Berkeley
to tell me you’d found an awesome thrift store
and an authentic pea coat with the name Frost

stenciled on the lining in white,
like the real thing, the frozen stuff,
and it’s a little big,
exactly the way I like my coats, you said, and
the next time we see each other,
Christmas for sure, you’ll give it to me
for the rest of the pesky Northwest winter, and

we talked about old times and new times
until you had to go and this other girl
named Nikki-with-two-k’s came in
and asked me if I wanted to work
on the art project with her.
And I said Yes.

I can almost see Mom’s I-told-you-so smile.

 

Expecting to Fly
—Ben

All the plans, all the promises,
and everything goes sour,
like last month’s cottage cheese,
fuzzy green stuff clinging to the lid.

First semester, still, but this college life
feels like a marathon, all uphill,
no end in sight, and then
the envelope arrives,
a little invitation-size one with
a friendly Dr. Seuss stamp and
Katie’s Dr. Seuss note inside:

I do not like long distance romances,
I do like someone else,
and I text her a rotten green eggs message,
and fist a hole through my dorm room wall,
and dream about riding off into the sunset
like Shane, like Thelma and Louise,

but I don’t have a horse or a convertible,
and the smiling army dude
who comes to campus today,
sniffing around for the remains of
dead relationships,

says I could jump from planes,
soar like an eagle, float to earth
with a rifle strapped to my chest,
yelling all the way if I want,
and he tells me I’ll have the privilege of
serving my country,

assures me I’ll see action,
get so tough that when I return,
full of confidence and flush with money,
college will be a snap,
and girls will be standing in line,

but I ignore all that, I just want to fly,
fly away, magic carpet or not,
and skimming the words, I sign,
everywhere the vulture-man says,
and step outside
into an icy wind and call home,

anger dissolving,
heart drumming.

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