Born oily in blood, piston violent, we take off like small planes whose only mission is to one day fall and create ash or a minor crater in this earth. So, I understand the urge to do it up, up up and away, until you get so far gone and high the only place to come back down is on some open stretch of highway. And how, lane opposite, little oncoming cars of us filled with shock and stun don’t really have a say. I get it. I’m sure I understand.
It’s the whole world is a gas-station pump on fire. It’s the planet is a pain pill hidden safely in darkness of a ballerina box, until. Until.
I’m not saying anticipation. I’m not saying inevitable. I’m saying if you were the world’s most delicious dessert, sex-in-the-pan incarnate, and struck by a bolt of freedom-lightning, say, or bitten unawares by a radioactive freedom-spider and bestowed with the power to eat yourself slowly, oblivious to everything but your own deliciousness, well, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t anyone?
When I came home, late had become early. Snow lighting up everything on the path like moonrocks. Opening the front door, I saw the television still on and guessed you’d crashed on my couch again with some superhero movie going. But the TV was on the live feed of Earth from the ISS and you were sitting up with your head slumped down, holding out your hand.
Which made me smile. I thought it was the old joke. I mean, really, you had it nailed. You were doing a near-perfect impression of the time when we were little, when mom had just yanked you like a guttering kite back to Eckerd’s, stood you in front of the manager, and said, “Give it.” She stared at you until, finally, your head slumped down in shame, and you held out your hand. And there, in your palm, sat the little diecast fighter jet you’d shoplifted earlier, then pretended (Theatrically!) to discover in the back seat of our parked car. Oh man. Oh, my brother.
Your first brush with the law. My first moment of holier-than-thou.
After that, all I had to do was point at any kind of plane and you would hang your head and extend your opened hand and we’d laugh, until. Until. One day I pointed to the sky, and you just looked at me before turning away.
So. Hanging up my coat after seeing you like that on my couch, I smiled. Even after I understood I had it wrong. I felt it, the smile, smeared on my face like a greasy stain. The curtains had come up. Both of us, stilled, all the way through, like at a good beginning of anything.
Eric Roy has poetry recently published or forthcoming at Third Coast, Salamander, Bennington Review, The Tusculum Review, and Sugar House Review. His first chapbook, All Small Planes, is forthcoming from Lily Poetry in 2021. His poem "It's Okay To Have Long Hair Long After Middle Age" won the KGB Monday Night Poetry Series annual open reading competition, which you can read here: http://www.souvenirlit.
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