That’s when I said: I don’t like boys, just a few who happen to be
The concert at our house is over. People are leaving and it’s like 12:30am. Have you seen my cigarettes? Have you? Little green pack. I just bought them. Planned this. Went to get them specifically so I wouldn’t need to- I’m just going to walk up the street again, tired of talking about them, asking. When you’re out of cigarettes, you just go get some. Bridget is coming too.
We march up the block to the corner convenience store, walking in perfect step.
“I haven’t been eating much lately, I just haven’t felt like it.”
“It’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m just busy.”
“Well I am sorry, Bridget. I’m sorry about a lot of things. I’m sorry you’re famous, I’m sorry you’re Poet Laureate at UMSL.”
“And Managing Editor in Chief- I’ll have you know.”
“You still need to get a sash for that.”
“I’m going to get one.”
“Good- you should.”
We smile- turn to each other easily, naturally, sharing a smile and lighting on the lighter things- like we don’t weigh enough to break the surface tension of placid Benton Park in the foreground. The grass-framed pond reflects our flushed faces, they are red from endorphins- our night had been hoping we peaked gracefully.
Bridget sees a garden and outlines a garden plan. I’m saying I would like that too, when I’m 30 and bored. 30 and bored, yeah? 30 and bored.
Retreating from sleeved pumps, lit up in the blank light, pointed down- a woman pushes a silver car. It moves forward and rolls back to where it was before; it is a literal object that is literally too heavy to be moved alone.
As we approach, we proffer a greeting, offer our assistance, Bridget and I. Hey. Hello there. That seems like too heavy. Bridget says: we have four more arms. A male gets out of the car, on the passenger side, as if he was awoken, hibernation-bleared and up now. The boy, the he, moves with a bobbing cocky motion that seems like it could speed up into wind-up. Everyone is alert. Like hearing the underbrush rustle and you were just twitching eating grass but now you stop everything and wait- to see what sees you and what it’s going to do; you know how fast you are; is there anything wrong?
He says- bitch, what the fuck are you doing.
She says- I’m trying to push the car.
He says- get in the car and steer. How are we going to fucking push this if no one fucking steers. The fuck.
She is silent. She pushes the car.
He says- push. She was already pushing.
I interject that cars are heavy. Bridget offers our collective hands for the 4th time. We sound like spectres across the veil of someone else’s life.
As the car begins to move, she calls back as if in a dream or too cold to be warm, that she appreciates us but that it’s okay. As the car lurches sideways into a couple spaces, the two bent in twin effort, I hear him correcting her motion and every sentence is: scabies, mildew on a mattress, a whip’s lash on the inside underneath of my skin. Bridget and I walk to the door. We wait. His sounds are muffled around the corner but we know what he’s saying. He’s saying: you’re small and this is the world, over and over, in a thousand horrible voices.
We wait. By the door. Some part of me, that part that changes the channel when the sick dog please help please you must feel- flip- not right now, that part of me hopes that the anger is fizzy pop soda that got bubbly for a sec but it’s fine now. No mess. If it quiets down now, we might not be involved- different people and relationships and growing up different, my mind starts- and comes up hard against how it felt. Hey now, some people are comfortable with- your gender politics are pretty rigid and- catching hard on how it felt again. Bridget and I just stare at each other, waiting by the door for sound or no sound, this moment having become some kind of lynchpin catalyst for whatever happens next.
“Let’s go inside. If- we’ll check again when we walk out. If- I will call the cops.”
I buy the cigarettes. The lost pack replaced. I don’t feel like anything. We go outside, eyeing the car as we head back to the house. We glance between ourselves and the silver car- sentences that all start with “I guess” hung between. The driver’s side opens, she’s walking quickly towards the store. He is opening his door, checkless and shouting- bitch, suck some fucking dick for a ride then. You gonna suck some fucking dick for a ride out there, huh? Bitch.
We stop and stare. Look at each other. Turn our bodies with intent.
“I’m going to go talk to her.”
“Yes.” I follow Bridget to the car.
“Excuse me, do you need a ride?”
She says- yes, she really does.
“My car is just down the street, we could walk to it.”She explains- there’s a baby in her car and could we-
Of course we could and Bridget is halfway down the block as I’m turning. I’m trying to match step with her like before but her feet are on fire.
“Hey- Bridget- Hey.”
“Why are people terrible?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why are people terrible to women?”
“I don’t know.”
We squeeze each other’s hands. Say thank you. Continue our motion. When I’m 30 and bored I’m going to bury him in the garden, lots of him, I’ll travel the world in a van and show them all pictures of why until the leaves cover his face and I feel nothing.
We’re back at the gas station. Bridget and I strategize.
“Okay- so we don’t want him to come.”
“What if she wants him to?”
“Then I guess it’s okay.”
We nod as we move from car #2 to #1. We are mixed up in our feelings. We want to help all of her in the right way. We’re looking at her through a window.
And she puts out a cigarette she just began. She finds it in herself to be grateful. Bridget and I help her move her things- diapers and groceries. I’m holding her child in a blanket- not stirring, a soft face, turning into me without wondering who I am; I’m just staring at child, spacing out into alternate timelines where I have one but I don’t and then back to this one where I wonder what’s next for all of us. She is shaking him.
She says- come on babe, I got us a ride. Wake up. Come on, I fixed it.
He says- A ride? With who?
“I’m August and that’s Bridget.”
She says- I found us a ride with August and Bridget.
He says- alright. He gets up. He slumps towards the car and gets in.
Our voices are soft. I think we make our voices softer. We’re finding out that she is Rae and that they broke down on the interstate. He’s asleep again and that makes everything easier.
What is her child’s name?
Where did they come from?
She works 3-11.
How did they get here?
She pushed the car up the ramp after it stopped on the interstate.
What will she do now?
She will find someone to take her to her car tomorrow. She will recharge the battery for four hours. No one will wait with her and this is understandable.
How long was she waiting?
She waited two hours at the station. She asked people for help, no one likes to ask people for help, but she did. When she said- I have a kid in the car, people said- so?
Does she like her neighborhood?
Here we are then. She takes Marley upstairs and returns without her. She tells us to leave it all at the bottom step- we don’t need to be walking all those stairs, they are so many. She says- ya’ll are angels, I just think we should hug.
Once we have everything all squared away, everything in its right place, she moves to wake him. A window is closing, as soon as that door opens-
“Hey- real quick, just before you- hey, earlier, he seemed- he seems aggressive and I just wanted to ask if everything is okay.” She looks like she’s going to cry and she launches into this thing where she’s not meeting eyes. She wants us to know there’s this whole other thing. He got shot a few weeks ago and hasn’t been the same. He wakes up scared. He hasn’t been quite right. He wakes up scared. He doesn’t- never towards me, she’s saying.
And I say “okay, I just-.”
And he says- where are we?
And she says- we’re home, go inside.
And he says- thank you and goes inside and they’re gone.