The faded reflection of your own face in your laptop screen as you sit in the passenger seat typing outside of your daughter’s elementary school. As you approach the words that you need, as you change the tense, change the tension by framing yourself here like this in third person. Here you are, looking very much like a different person than you imagined that you would be by this age. That in itself is not surprising, I suppose. (And how these little clichés eat at this inner narrative…) What is surprising in its odd finality is how little you like the reflection that you see. This is only surprising in the fact of how little this feeling has changed from when you would look at yourself in your younger days.
You reach over to turn off the stereo, to stop the song because it is too beautiful for you to handle right now. You squint into the fading winter sunlight. You listen to the shushing sound of traffic remixed into the familiar tones of the children running full-tilt out of the schoolhouse doors. We all sound like this as we are expelled: Terrified is so close to exhilarated. The wind surrounds all of this sound, all of this chaos. The wind carries us, steals the breath from our lips as we open them to greet our children. As we try, try to speak.
You come to me as park bench, as picnic table. The browning green space between them. As a swingset in the middle of the night after two tabs of acid – all of this childish motion traced and repeated through your vision. You come to me as a hard pack of Camel cigarettes, as haphazard stacks of books and stumblingly naked bodies among them. You come to me as some combination of grunge and goth. You come to me shaved bald one day, come to me with bubble gum pink spikes another, with girlish hair clips pulling back your brown bangs. You come to me all out of order like this. You come angry and afraid of being left alone. You come to me asking me if I am going to ever ask you the question you aren’t at all sure if you want me to ask. You come to me as a truth, as a much fiercer version of it than I was ever used to seeing. You come to me as 1993. You come back. You come to me decades later, still just as afraid and still burning brave, still so much brighter than every single one of them. You come to me now as a friend – the only one who has known me through all of this, across all of these years.
C.C. Russell has published his poetry and prose in such journals as The Meadow, The Colorado Review, and Whiskey Island. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net and is included in two volumes of the Best Microfiction series. He lives in Wyoming with a couple of humans and several cats. You can find more of his work at ccrussell.net