Dear Nate

You were even younger than me when it happened, so I’m sure you wouldn’t remember, but my brother wrecked in almost exactly the same place when he was still in high school. Rolled his truck, over and over again. By the time it stopped moving, it looked like a piñata. He walked away without a scratch. Now, a decade later, we both know how that curve in the road broke a different family’s hearts.

You were pretty much the only one in school I didn’t know, and people loved you so much, I’m sure I was the only one you didn’t know. But I still felt it when you left. Now, when people go outside, even breathing seems louder than it did when you were here. Because we’re all in a hush. Because people are slower with their words now, and their tempers. And their cars.

I hear they’ll be putting on a 5k to help your family. I’m not good at much, but that’s something I can do for you. I know that kind of pain is something you’re familiar with; even though we didn’t do it at the same time, everybody’s talking about how you ran track. So I know you know the struggle of fitting school into sports and putting up with Holzhauer and fundraisers and only eating carbs. I know you know the pit that forms in your stomach every time you lace up your spikes. Every day, I struggle with the people you struggled with. That’s as close as I can come to knowing you. That’s as close as I come to feeling you. When I grind my spikes into the rubber and set, just like I know you did.

I feel you when I pass those two tree trunks on my way home, like you must have done a thousand times, when they were still whole. When I groan at the speed limit on 301, like you probably did that day. But now I stick to it. Not for my sake, but for yours.

It’s sunny and 75 degrees out now, so unlike the blizzard that it seems like a lifetime ago. But that’s just Ohio. It’s impossible not to think of you when the roads are shiny and the plows outnumber the cars, but we all have to remind ourselves on a day like today that it’s only been a few weeks. But we’re reminded.

You’re on walls and windows, you’re on doors and bumpers. You’re on everyone’s bio; on every cafe’s tip jar. And you’re in everybody’s head. God, let you be home. Above us, keeping us safe. It would feel cozier if you were. Though I guess in a way, you’re here no matter what. You’re carved around the trunks of those two trees that bid all of us to slow down and buckle up. You gaze up from the tripod marks left in the pavement outside the school by news crews, telling us to be gracious with each other. Because you never know when the drive home is going to be farther than you thought.

 

Peace and Love*

She’s waiting for something. A nervous breakdown, a panic attack, a tirade full of big words and tears and emotions. But he just sits there, looking about as riled up as a dead guy. That gets on her nerves because this is really important. Why is it important? Well, because she thinks it seems like it should be; it has all the markers seen on TV: she’s upset, she’s yelling, they’re in public, she has all her friends on her side…. Why doesn’t he see how important this is? It strikes her that he simply doesn’t care about the conversation, which means that he doesn’t care about her views on the subject and he doesn’t respect her friends’ opinions and by not humoring her-UNDERMINING THEIR ENTIRE FRIENDSHIP-selfish and completely missing the point and-HOW CAN HE BE THIS IGNORANT-the whole time can’t handle it!!!

*she slowly returns to sanity as steam exits her ears*

Her friends lose interest, and she’s desperate to keep the closure going; she hasn’t felt this alive since six months ago, when she first read that great book that she never shuts up about. He’s still sitting there, little flecks of her spittle dripping down his face. But she’s sure he deserved that. With her verbal arsenal empty, she glowers at him from across the table. He stares back with those biting eyes, and she renames their shade Accusatory Green. She debates whether she should say “Stop staring at me,” but those words come uncomfortably close to “Don’t look at me,” and that could denote weakness; she decides not to say it.

He reaches across the table for his pen, and she has to restrain herself from grabbing it first. If she missed she would just look like a fool. He starts doing that super annoying pen-flip thing that he always does when he’s bored. It’s a sleight slight: he’s saying he’s bored with her!

*she loses it*

It now feels like a sauna, which is apropos, considering the fine mist she’s giving off. The fire alarm triggers. They’re all doused with water and ushered into the hall. As the door to their classroom opens, the mist collapses in on itself and whooshes out. Everybody in the hall sees where it came from, so she makes no attempt to hide her frayed hair or running makeup or crazy eyes. She views those things as battle scars, proof that she stood up for something as important as transgender bathrooms. Wait, that wasn’t it. That was from the day before. She struggles against the mental fatigue she now feels. She knows it was something political. But the answer eludes her until she barely remembers that it was something worth discussion.

The teachers, realizing that the alarms were just that girl from room 113 having one of her “moments”, herd their students back into their respective classrooms. But just then the bell rings. Forgetting she was ever mad (as tripolar, paranoid, psychopathic, occasionally homicidal individuals do), she turns and gives him a quick hug before she exits, leaving him to shake his head and wonder what he’s doing with his life.

Last Night’s Dream (Perfect Timing, Brain!)

The dread order was given, and I was to leave.

So I made to depart- to through webs of fate move

Which, wrapping and pulling, quick tried to reverse me

Tried turn me around, and, to the face of my love

Have my aching heart emptied, ere it was too late

***

The mind fought the heart, dueling over the soul

-I turned, facing her and her ironwilled gaze-

And by then o’er my body my heart had control

Bidding me to her walk, and to hold by the waist

As we gazed into each other’s razor-sharp eyes

***

…To what lay beneath: our weary and roiling souls:

Very tired, but hopeful, though by no means sure

Together we’d always stood; apart, we weren’t whole

Alone, we would be like on two Makins immured

On our own dead atolls of regret and ruin

***

That fate, above all the others which drew so near

Compelled without thought me to swallow my terror

And wrestle with useless and unruly fear

I stooped lower; she, still in my arms, heard me whisper,

“I love you, and I have to do this at least once.”

***

From her small lips came a smaller gasp, defied

As I kissed her; a token that I loved her most

Her blazing green eyes did hold mine in surprise,

Then their bright sparks went out as she let them close

And then leaned into both my soft kiss and scarred arms

***

My mind took me quickly to a new time and place

Or rather an old one, as key turned in time’s lock

And I remembered her perfume, the look on her face

The rolling, gold hills; the dark, water-stained dock

And the warm, sure, real weight of her in my embrace

***

We stared across seething and sparkling waves

Wishing forever to stay in that secret place

But to our cruel fate we were only but slaves

And reaving time’s fearful pull did take her away

And I was left cold, pointless, and full of regret

***

I found her again, late in life; on narrow chance

Just in time to needs answer to strangers’ blood calls

Those webs pulled again via dual happenstance

And dark war sounded to my family, friends, and all

We answered, my brothers and I, and our father

***

And marched to our young deaths as was sounded the call

Then my eyes opened quickly; bright and alive

As did my lips to let out the groan of appall

Only a dream; that ruefully or joyfully?

Life was still mine, but love never was

Week I, Group II

P.S. I know the rhythm’s off; gosh, what do you want from me?!