Doing Donuts in an ’87 Mustang 5.0, After My Homie Chris Gets Broken Up With
I want to argue for the stars but I find them missing
through this window splattered with mud. Tonight,
I sit shotty and do not ask Chris if he’s okay. This is
the kind of loyalty I know—how the Mustang
makes eights across a soccer field. I run my hand
over pennies Pepsi-ed to the center console. That photo
of his ex still blocks the speedometer and the next
few years of his life have already begun to carve
a cave. I pluck pennies into my palm. It doesn’t
take long enough for this story to burn through a field.
The safety belt shocks my collar. Chris turns and aims
for a gate without easing off the gas. I yell Fuck it
to whatever I can’t hear him say. And isn’t that why
I’m here?—to watch chain-links swell in his headlights,
to say You’re crazy instead of I’m scared. I disappear
the pennies with my fist.
I don’t know if I made these knuckles for nothing. They came from home. From a head bounced off the hood of a Chevy Cobalt. We couldn’t turn away. Knuckles from big brothers asking why you flinched. You scared or what? Grunted knuckles. Junior’s rattled heart. Knuckles fashioned from boxing gyms. Air thick with sweat. Our wrapped hands and a jump rope. The owner’s son, Mikey, and his quick hands. His Golden Gloves getting us to run miles, to dance along the ropes. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Like that. Knuckles for when we danced with girls whose boyfriends showed up at the house party, ready for the gasp of those gathered. An echo of bodies bound for out. When I left, I didn’t say goodbye to any of this.
When I left, the homies told me they loved me. And I loved them, even though when we said it, we chased our I love yous with laughter the way you cage the air to catch a butterfly. You can’t be too sure who’s listening. This is the kind of cocoon each of us floated from. We like to be more beesting than butterfly, anyway. This story was never going to be about the homie who
got out the hood with his right hook. There was no college scholarship, golden and folded in my back pocket. I don’t like the word adversity as much as I think I should. It takes up too many angles,
reminds me of standardized testing, comprehension questions. How much do you think about where I come from? If you imagine where I come from. Please move beyond the bottom
of a foot leaning against brick. Please proceed down the block. Absence is not wind
through a window but the bothered walls of a flame. What do you see in that light? One day, I too will return to the block, my home, the plastic chair my father left under an apple tree he planted the day I was born. That’s the story I’ve been moving toward. And I will say, I’m back, even if I am not
because right now, I’m on a couch
at the professor’s house. And there are two
of me. One sits, legs crossed, a glass of wine
in his hand. I don’t know what kind.
He offered and I said, Sure, that’d be
delightful. Right now, there’s a podcast
I think he’d be interested in. I’ve designed
my life around being the person who says
Suffice to say… The professor makes a joke.
My laughter surrounds me. You can take
the boy out the hood but… the other me
floats between professor and the glass,
not wondering what this man thinks of my
use of the word dichotomy. Did I say it
Correctly? I’m well. I’m good at being
clean up after my dog. I follow the paved path on runs. Sweat inside expensive sneakers. I’m a great neighbor, even on morning strolls where I forget my ID and thus worry about
police whose job is to make sure everyone is who they say they are. And if I can’t confirm myself, what do I become? My University of hoodie. Just the hoodie? My jaw, my body’s
angles? What am I bound to? Where you from, homie? I’ve always had the ability to vanish. It can happen like that. How much do words like dichotomy weigh in a mouth like mine? And
if I go, my wife won’t know what happened until the news flashes a photo where I’m bald and not smiling. I can fit their description. Sure, delightful. But not this morning, this
morning, without ID, I’m alive to witness
branches hop with birds. Even when
there aren’t any birds. Some call it wind.
Some call this place a cage. If you ask me.
I watch the sky. I’m good, my G. I can’t stop
thinking of that time I saw an acrobat show at the County Fair where a woman walked onstage spinning plates on sticks. She smiled as each plate wobbled without falling and when she finished, she bowed. I stood up to applaud at how she held it all together.
This is a plate spinning, a fan wedged
into the window of my childhood
bedroom. The foil my mother taped
over the glass. Those tiny, blurred mirrors
it held. My multiple selves. In one iteration
who spends the afternoon chasing butterflies in his backyard. In this one, I delight: the net I sweep the air with. My glass jar. Boys from down the block do not come over with questions. And they do not laugh like their fathers.
This is not the one where I grow up down for whatever, with the kind of tough that grinds bones for gold dust. I don’t say fuck it if I don’t mean it, like when the Regal came up the block with its headlights cut. No. I run. No one makes fun of me for loving myself. I grow up and leave without my wings being worth just the heft of their feathers.
Sometimes, I tire of tightening my jaw
before bathroom mirrors, and there are days
when all I do is search
YouTube for talk show clips where the veteran is brought home to surprise their family, their waddling children, everyone reaching for each other without knuckles. I can’t stop going back to the part where the soldier appears, crisp from backstage as if for the first time. Most days I want to be seen
as something uncategorized. I don’t know why I’m even telling you. Suffice to say. Where you from, foo? This lightning bug of a smile goes with me everywhere. Spinning.
One plate among many. I’m just glad
got invited to dinner. I wanted to blend in-
to something acceptable, smoothed
at the edges. If you could just give me
he dimensions of this place, that’d be
delightful. No? The professor says, instead:
Good night. And I want to say Stay up or
Peace out. And I want the other me to
the gate so I can be angelic in Nike
Cortezes. A fluttered departure. No one
there to ID me.