Poetry

MEET ME ON THE BRIDGE

Meet me on the bridge
Where we first met
When you gazed at me
With eyes clear
Full of intrigue
Innocence
Hope
Yes, meet me there
High tide, low tide
Doesn’t matter
But when the wind blows soft
Salt air cool
Tall grass waves
Whispering in our ears
As the sun rays lower
Moon rises
Atlantic horizon disappears
So a new day greets us
Yes, meet me there
Like that
Where it all began
And starts again
I will wear the black dress
The one you liked so well
And when I see you
I will run
Over the wood planks
Feet bare
Arms open wide –
Scoop me up
Hold me tight
Swing us ‘round
Kiss me long
Murmur in my ear
‘The fight is over’
‘I am yours’
Please
Come home
Meet me on the bridge

THEY SAID IT WOULD GO FAST

They said it would go fast
But I didn’t believe them
There were diapers to be changed
Scraped knees tended
Tears wiped
Temper tantrums tamed
One child on a hip
Another in a stroller
The puppy barking
And you, running down the road
What fun we had
Though we hardly knew it
Yes, they said it would go fast
But I didn’t believe them

Then, one day, we walked to the bus stop
Hand in hand
It approached
You dropped my grasp
Disappeared from sight
And wham!
I went weak
There goes my baby!
Yes, they said it would go fast
But I didn’t believe them

In a blink of an eye
You walked ahead
Made friends
Blasted music
Studied hard
Closed your door
Became an adult
Needed me less
Yes, they said it would go fast
But I didn’t believe them

Now, you’re about to fly
And you will soar!
I say to you
Go
Discover your passions
Be yourself
Kind to others
Do your best
Make a difference
Glance back
Know you are loved
But keep moving forward

UNLOCKING SARAH

Short story

A COLD WINTER DAY
The snow had been falling all day in Central New York. By late afternoon, the banks piled high and the sky was still dark, swirling with flakes. Sent on an errand to Angie’s, a convenience store on the edge of my Sedgwick Farm neighborhood, I walked fast despite the weather and age of nine, my mind set on buying candy with my allowance. The milk I’d bring home was secondary.

Making my way up Farmer Street, I approached the store. An old “K” car was parked beside it, just before the corner. A man, wearing a robin’s egg colored business suit, baby blue in color like his car, sat in the driver’s seat. My instinct told me to cross to the other side. I did, trudging on the right of the road.

“Hey!” he called out.

I looked back. He had cranked down the window and was sticking his head out, blocking the snow with his hand, squinting his eyes.

“Can you tell me how to get to Schiller Park?” he asked.

Odd question. It’s so close.

Pointing in its direction, though, I indicated, “Just up there, two blocks.”

I started traipsing ahead again but he interrupted my progress.

“Can you show me on a map?”

A map?

I froze while large flakes landed cold and wet on my face. A chill ran up my spine. Something was wrong with his request but I’d been taught to do as I’m told. And he looked like an authoritative figure, dressed up so nice.
He rustled a square chart – flapping and snapping it like a flag in the wind. ”C’mon, just show me.”

Don’t go near him.

“Won’t take long,” he promised.

Before I knew it, I was moving toward his car, stepping within eight feet of it. With the tip of his index finger, he pointed to a location on the map.

“Come closer.”

I did, so near in fact, I could hear and feel his car engine purr and notice his oily, brown hair. I noted details of his car – the cracked leather seats, dull dashboard knobs, and larger than life steering wheel, covered in fur, like rabbit, with shades of brown and white.

“Nice snow pants,” he said.

I looked down at my blue L.L. Bean bibs, the ones I skied in every weekend at Labrador Mountain. Then, an odd laugh rose deep within his throat. He tossed the atlas on the passenger seat, gazed down between his legs and smirked a sleazy, greasy grin. I followed his gawk. My stomach dropped. From his waist down, he was naked. His penis, standing straight up, exposed. His hands played with it, moving all about. He looked up and turned to me. His eyes, blue and icy cold, met mine, and he snarled his pointy nose, seeming pleased with himself.

I stood frozen. My eyes darted down again at his hairy organ.

“You – are – disgusting,” I blurted, my heart racing.

Turning, I bolted from the car.

His door flew open.

He’s going to grab me!

I bolted, toward Angie’s, my knees weak. Behind me, I could feel his urgency upon me. I waited for his grimy hand to snatch my jacket, choke me back, and throw me into his seat.

Scream when he catches you!

“I’ll get you!” he cried.

A natural born runner, I moved fast, somehow reaching the corner ahead of him. I looked back over my shoulder and through the blowing snow and wind saw him retreat toward his car, but gesturing a clenched fist my way.

Creep!

I turned the corner and stopped in front of Angie’s, above which the store sign clanked against the clapboard in the sharp wind. The sidewalks were deserted – the snow drifting all over. I felt safer but stung.

Wait, no.

I’d been stung by a bee before. This was different. Something foul. Something wicked.

Something wrong!

Evil?

I turned into Angie’s with the door slamming behind me, snow and howling wind following. I stomped my boots. Angie, middle aged, was standing to my left, behind the counter.

“Hi, honey,” she said.

Her dirty blond hair fell at the shoulders onto her cable knit sweater. She took off her reading glasses to study me. Her brows came together. I managed a smile but felt my face flush, my stomach tighten. I didn’t turn to the display of candy filling the wall next her register though I knew by heart what was there: Hershey’s Twizzlers, Reese Peanut Butter Cups, and oversized Charleston Chews, my favorite. I walked by the ice cream case, too, with the plastic cover, which I loved to slide back, to peer in wide-eyed. Instead, I circled the two small aisles and browsed the crammed shelves, reading can labels as if I were interested.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Prince Thick Spaghetti
Dole Sliced Pineapples

Around and around I went.

Should I tell Angie?

I could. She would help me. She’d wring that guy’s balls. Call the police. Give me a hug. After all, she cared about all of us neighborhood kids.

Yet, I considered my escape.

If I left the store, there were two options home. One, the usual way, to the right and around the corner, back the way I’d arrived. But I’d have no choice but to pass the weirdo if he were still there. Or two, to the left: the long way, down Dewitt Street and wind through Burlingame Circle, to our backyard.

The answer seemed simple.

Without buying candy, looking at Angie, or saying goodbye, I exited the store, feeling her surprise at my odd behavior and quick departure. Out front, I turned left, not looking around the corner, where the man had been sitting in his car, with his greasy smile and dirty balls. Slogging the sidewalk, now thick with snow, I stared at my boots. Funny, I’d been so excited about them. Mom and I had picked them out. I loved the cream-colored fur around the top. But images of the man’s hand shifting up and down kept popping in my mind, stealing the thought of my new purchase.

I walked on a few blocks and turned onto Burlingame Road. I headed up around the small circle and came upon my teenage brother, John, snow blowing a neighbor’s driveway, just behind our backyard. The engine sounded loud and both the wind and money making machine created a white out. The air was cold. My face and mind felt numb as I followed the clean track he’d just made. Walking toward him, his back to me, I thought about how I would tell him what had happened.

Startling him, he pulled the throttle back to neutral as the engine continued to rev. He leaned down. His face was handsome, even dotted with pimples. His feathered, layered hair stuck out at his ears, beneath his wool ski hat, covered in snow. The late afternoon was growing darker and he looked anxious to finish his job.

Feeling embarrassed, I said in a quiet voice, “A guy asked me for directions.”

The wind and snow blew harder. The machine revved again. John looked puzzled, not comprehending what I said. I repeated myself, louder this time, over the sounds of the snow blower.

“Some guy asked me to look at a map! He was playing with something in his lap. Something….furry.”

Oh, my God! What is he going to think?

He, like Angie, would wring that guy’s balls. Call the police. Give me a hug. But as I looked in his eyes, I knew he hadn’t heard and I didn’t say more.

“Never mind. I’ll see you at home,” I said and turned to go.

There, at the back door, my grandmother, ‘Nan,’ met me. She was staying with us while our parents traveled. Nan stood in the narrow back hall, smiling, her eyes and smile lighting up upon seeing me. She wore a fitted turtleneck, just like Angie’s, dark orange in color, over gray wool pants, wide at the bottom, and comfortable shoes. I took off my wet boots and placed them in front of the radiator, which rattled and cranked. Though I was glad to be home, I felt different than when I’d left.

Should I tell Nan?

The thought of divulging something so ugly to my grandmother, though, wasn’t pleasant. I shivered.

“Awww, take your coat off, Sarah. I’ll give you a hug,” my grandmother told me. “You’re cold.”

Yes, colder than you realize.

I fell into her hug. She had a great figure for a woman her age. And I hoped to have breasts her size someday, just not to have one cut off like she’d had, after cancer invaded it.

As she held me, I felt the round pocket watch hanging from her neck. It had been my grandfather’s. It reminded me of him and the sweet smell of his burning cigar. I drew closer.

I’m going to tell Nan!

She’ll send one of my brothers’ to wring that guy’s balls. Call the police. Keep hugging me.

She drew a part, though, and asked: “Where’s the milk?”

The Milk!

I’d forgotten all about it.

Tell her!

But I mumbled something about dropping the money and the blowing snow carrying it away. Nan laughed and patted my head. “Don’t worry. Dinner’s ready.”

I smelled it, the salmon loaf she had promised, my favorite dish she prepared. So I dropped her hold and moved toward the kitchen. Nan always kept her promises, and it was then I first kept a secret.

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