The Static Noise of Adolescence, Edit 1

If I had to doze, I dozed after the line broke between earth and sky, as a faint bruise spread slowly and we drove deeper into the purple-hearted dawn. By the time the sun began to rise, Dad and I were driving on a two-lane highway through Pennsylvania farmland, towards upstate New York’s mountains in the distance. Our family owned a wholesale bakery that over the years had grown and took Dad’s routes deeper into the north, away from the cities. He was a seasoned driver and deliveryman and the years on the job had made him accustomed to hours of solitude in the van. He enjoyed his own company, radio shows that pulled pranks on listeners, and how the day melted away while on the road for hours.

I relished summer vacations when I would tag along not really ever with the interest of being helpful, but for the joy of partaking in a long and winding road trip with him. There was a sense of endlessness to the night when I was a kid; the stretch between bedtime and 2 am – when Dad would come to wake me up – seemed everlasting. He’d walk in quietly and whisper my name, rubbing my back.

“It’s very late,” he’d say in Albanian. “Are you sure you want to come?” Like a ritual, he’d ask every time. Only once I was too tired to drag myself out of bed to get dressed. By the time day broke, I had never regretted anything more, finding myself stuck inside the house on a hot summer day.

Every time after, I would always force myself up, and as we drove through our quiet neighborhood I would think of all the poor families sleeping away the potential for adventure. To me, the night-time supplied exhilaration and whimsy. I didn’t realize then that to Dad this was a Sisyphean routine he repeated each week.

When the color cracked at the horizon and you could distinguish between earth and sky, he would turn on the radio. It would hum softly in the background as we tried to keep up with local stations, each growing fuzzy with static as we edged closer to conflicting state lines and rivaling stations. For a moment, crossing over the imaginary divide, the radio would be completely overtaken by white noise, as if we were suspended in limbo, or a no man’s land. Then, just as suddenly, it would come back to life with the distant, crackling voices, and we’d be back on the map.

Giant sprinkler systems and pesticide sprays stretched out to all corners of the fields like monstrous, shiny daddy-long-legs or modern Don Quixote giants. The higher the sun rose with the morning mist fading from the dewy farms around us, the less mysterious the world became and the allure of night would be broken. Cars would begin jamming the roads, and sometimes horses and buggies with Amish folk created long lines of impatience in the single lane behind them.

My dad, normally an impatient man himself, found humor in their quaintly oblivious existence. If it had been any modern day driver holding up the lane, he would have muttered under his breath in his unique blend of Albanian and Greek, with me understanding only half of the insults slung. There’s the distinct memory of the way he’d emphasise the ‘f’ in “fuck you,” in his English, the ‘u’ sounding more like a sigh of “ah.” “Fahk you,” he’d mumble to erratic drivers. But instead, he’d be charmed with the old school buggies and the sound of horses clopping in rhythm against the worn out pavement. His laughter rippled out and rose above the radio like air floating over our heads, and I’d be lifted.

I don’t remember what discussions we had, only his stories of having done this job for over a decade. From the beginning of our American days, when he was delivering for another business, to that current state of bustling affairs, my parents working around the clock for their own store. And from there he’d almost always take me backwards in time, reaching far into the past into the days before I was born, and those stories were always my favorite. Stories of dictatorship and endless scarcity in almost every facet of life in Albania; of his young hooligan days with his friends and how he met my mom.

The time was marked by how often we circled back to the same story, to the same that is unbelievable remarks, and by how high or low in the sky the sun was dipping.

The van smelled very faintly of coffee and cigarettes, discreetly mingling with the scent of baked goods, and fresh fruits stuffed between layers of rich cream. They slowly wafted away through Dad’s open window, but some lingered just enough to be trapped between the folds of my mind as another fond memory.

I’d stay up all night, as if waiting to be initiated into some secret club that only adults could participate. My eyelids would begin to weigh down once the world turned into the brightly lit, predictable space that I knew well. And soon, just like that, I’d be asleep. With the van rumbling around me and the farm air rolling in through the cracked windows, bringing with it a sudden chill to the small space, I’d doze in the front seat as morning faded into midday and midday into late afternoon; our road eventually curving back towards home, towards familiarity.

love is like

love is like:

                             a needle and thread separated on the end table;

                             uselessly idle when apart.

the brief equilibrium between seasons,

as a foot bridge amidst chapters.

                               it is:

the wind that spreads thirsty flames,

engulfing vast forests left smoldering in its wake.

Testing

whiskey words breathe out;

disseminate yearnings,

lucid hopes that veil the eyes

and cloud all reason

until we’re drunk

with ambitions to riot

the status quo

until we tear at the seam;

a quick split here–

we unravel

we bleed out.

my hair wraps around

our heads

and shields us from judgement;

from derailment.

i whisper fuck like a curse

i whisper i love you like a prayer,

unanswered,

but i keep you within me, always.

Mama

There was once a time,

when I’d squeeze in between you and the sofa cushions,

cocooned in a late night silent session of quality time.

Hopelessly I’d doze beside your solid figure,

the glow of the TV enshrouding us in blue light.

Your young hands, dry and chapped,

(from baking and washing;)

cleaning and raising)

would run slowly through my tangled hair.

Sanie’s State

We stand around her bed, like weeds

rooted and swaying in place to the motion of her breaths.

“You have her hands,” is what I say

after close examination. Because she does,

and somehow it becomes the most important detail.

It’s a pointless sentiment, already dissipated

and forgotten. But my words are worth more

when I’m alone, anyway. So I wait

for evenings to sound out the syllables in her name,

one in each accent, so I never forget. And I’m selfish,

but that’s nothing new, as I work hard to draw

her consciousness closer to the surface of her skin,

though sometimes, even on the best of days,

the nighttime brings nothing.

The Functions of Grammar

He holds me tightly in his hand like a suspended comma,

a low-humming pause loose in midair that he doesn’t want escaping

into the folds of his sheets, creased and twisted into knots

that measure the distance between self awareness and self sacrifice,

before the alarm goes off and I’m scared to remember what we said yesterday.

I won’t move until he asks me to go; he never does and our bodies become

laser cut outs; incisions with fingertips softly pricking towards the core,

carving away the light around our bodies until we lie still

beside blackened pulsating shapes and remember: we are ourselves.

It’s after he’s learned the circumference of every hollow circle within me,

I decide I want to become the parentheses

that holds together the loose ends of everything that’s coming–for him.

So I open my arms wide and murmur “I love you, baby”

while I cradle our expectations in the spaces beneath my eyelids

and light up that image of us sitting outside wondering: where is this going?