We had flocked to beginning breakdancing and
then flopped on the couch: sweat-spoiled,
sore from squats, spins and headstands that didn’t happen,
wincing as we walked with lactic-acid legs
and the reality that we knew negative nothing.
My feet fumbled the steps on a path I could not see,
and it’s not that I don’t think I was meant to be a breakdancer,
I know it. My limbs know it. My fear knows it.
Those four weeks–stretching longer and shorter than eternity can explain–
ended as mom and I slumped in the family minivan
on the drive home, hair slipping from our ponytails,
our laughter floating out the car windows.
Her hair wasn’t scuzzy, but it didn’t lie the way she liked it, curling into question marks that no one stopped to answer. She asked me directions to the aquarium, and I stayed to show her the stingrays and my favorite tanks, where we sat–still strangers–and watched a puffer fish pout the same as a kid who dropped his goldfish crackers into a puddle (they didn’t swim). Later at the mall, where everyone carried lattes and boxes and baggage, we agreed: the aquarium was better.
I thought we’d stay strangers, but I always walked the same route and saw her one day crouched to pick up a penny, and when she stood, the end of her headphones dangled, loose. I walked up, and sheepish, she shoved the earbuds into her purse and said that sometimes she just plugged the cord into her pocket. It was easier to pretend she was too busy than to admit no one would stop to speak (listen?) anyway.
The third time we met, she smiled. Sentences snagged as they came out her throat, like the way her broken nails–bitten short–caught on her coat. She wasn’t used to speaking much. I sat and listened. “I’m not a looking glass, you know,” she told me. “Their stares slide off too fast. But it doesn’t mean I can’t break when silence hits harder than stones.” Her voice faltered. “Some days I wish the world would look at me longer, so I could tell them it’s okay to feel this way, but only sometimes.”
Dear Isaac Newton,
I’ll admit it, your theories did land me a date
After butterflies beat into stuttering speech,
I begged him for help
It was honest, I promise.
I was never a sucker for lab-partner-love until gravity
Grabbed—now I’m hook-sinker gone.
This boy loves the numbers, equations, and math
(That sent my mind careening), so he took the next class.
Now you’re stealing his schedule—weekend and weekday—
Doing labs, taking notes; his time’s all engaged.
Perhaps lonely yourself, you are leeching his life,
And to just put it plain, you’re not playing fair.
But sir, can I just have my beau back from you?
Your inertia’s inept, for I think you forgot
That we both can feud with forces here:
You pushed us together—so I’ll shove you away.
While you might say I’m selfish, I see your facade:
You’re a greedy old ghost. It’s time you were gone.