Rappahannock Review | Joyce Hayden
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Joyce Hayden

Night With a Handful of Streetlight

This is all I want forever, to sit in the backseat, cheek against glass, watching life through a window, dark. To keep moving, to just ride incessantly down the long, wet, sparkly, black diamond highway with Mary’s father at the wheel of a car full of fourteen-year-old girls and a world that goes by in quick continuous glimpses: Callet Genesee Theatre, Sullivan’s Cleaners, Mercy Center for Children. To feel as I do now, merely the echoes of those around me, here in the close quarters of a black Buick on a drizzly February school night, 1972. Heart snow-bent to the ground.

I don’t want to see the body, eyes closed, the face the mortician will have covered with startling orange makeup. Don’t want to imagine the hole in the skull the bullet blew out when the gun discharged. Don’t want to stare at the memorabilia his friends position behind the coffin: hockey stick, basketball uniform, guitar. Don’t want to notice the blonde behind the curtain, his girlfriend we’ll be told, the one we never heard of. Don’t want to imagine my own brother whose body left this world in a white coffin I never saw. Don’t want Mary’s father to have to walk me to my front door afterwards because I can’t stop crying; I’ve lied to get here as it is.

Just let the blindness of night, with its pale specks of yellow, flash in the puddles as we head down Erie Blvd that could take us to Manlius and Cicero, to the lakes at Liverpool and the hills of Cazenovia, where there lies a pond filled with lilies that hover just under the surface this time of year. If we ever have to stop, let it be in May when pink and white blossoms shoot above the green pads and the thick scent of incense floats on the water, and we’ll be transported to San Francisco or India, then Mary’s father will forever drive us on and on as my cheek grows numb, and the window drips saliva, tears, vapors of gasoline, every Act of Contrition recited at Holy Family Mortuary where we will never have stopped, never even spotted out this fogged up window on this warm stormy night, middle of winter, in the deep alleys of Syracuse, NY, city known for rain, city known for salt, city known for unrelenting darkness.

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