Running / In Circles
Hurry. Now. Run.
We giggled as we ran. The air smelled sweet. A mix of fresh florals, meats on a grill, and honeysuckle. Then, the sirens. Their pace quickened. I couldn’t keep up. Legs in pairs ran past. I counted – four, six, eight. Some in faded denim. Knobby kneecaps poked through frayed threads. Back pockets embroidered with brand names. Spandex, too. Shiny fibers squeezed as muscles pulse. Some bare. Like mine. I lost count. I thought of my shower razor. A cheap, drug-store brand. Fused of curved letters in hot pink fonts. It snapped. Tossed three days prior. Tiny canisters of rose, cherry, and salmon hues she gifted me on my last birthday, too.
Her eyes narrow and her lips – inked in deep maroon the flavor of sour berries - purse.
“Can’t you do anything right? Your unshaven legs. Unruly hair.”
I’m on a merry-go-round. The horses are tired. Chipped paint and blank eyes.
Spinning. I lose focus and slip. My head hurts and my knees buckle. The carousel fades. My bare legs – spools of spiny muscle and rough skin – regroup. Fingers tie laces. Tight. I run.
She grabs my right shoulder. I’m in the chair, a high back metal with no seat cushion. Tucked in a corner of her wall-papered kitchen. Tacky blends of metallic gold and glossy black geometric squares. I’m dizzy. The radio plays favorites. Hers. My eyes close, free grief in salty drops – one, two, three - then focus on the window. “No time to play,” she says. “Need to tame this mess”.
Run. Now. Hurry.
The heat of the blow dryer’s highest setting burns my scalp. My arm rises. Falls. My fingers stretch. Curl. Quickly. I slide two of her pills into my front pocket.
I flee. The cheap screened-door flaps. My legs conquer the porch stairs in one leap. I’m on a dirt path. It’s circular and wraps around a pool. I scan for the others. Children play in the water. Only there’s a fence. A metal chain and paddle lock wrapped tightly around the swinging gate door. I cannot enter. Her orders.
A puddle comes into view – beside a narrow patch of grass, on the far back right side of the pool. I slide down, join a snake and a toad, and say “Hello”. Others join. I drink the sweat of those to my right and left. I sweat, too. Tears falls. Dampen my hair.
She’ll be angry. Again.
* * * * *
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Toho Journal, The New Verse News, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.