Longfellow Pond II

July’s never been so cold
to me. Spit evaporates
on the 2:00 pavement and I am in love
with a girl who hasn’t returned
my phone calls in three weeks.

I can’t find my brother
or sister, which is probably better
because she hasn’t talked to me
in three weeks, either.

The dehumidifier in the basement
is broken. Dad says he’ll fix it
when he gets back next month.
The wall in the kitchen is starting to peel.

I’m scared to leave the house
because Alice might call. For all I know
she has called, and my sister picked
up, and who knows
what they talk about.
I never thought a clock
could be more cruel
than it was in high school.

It’s 10:58 a.m..
I realize it won’t matter
if I miss Alice calling
if I go to her house.
My brother and sister
are talking on the roof.
Good for them.

The crickets, the bees,
the maple leaves all push
me up the hill, toward her.
The ground is soft
today, and the water is motionless
in the cement. I’m going tell Alice
I don’t know why… I don’t why she…
I’m going to ask her
why… what I…
I don’t know.

The hill gives way to the tiny pond
no one can name; the path next to it opens
to the golf course. I follow the creek
until I’m across the road
from Alice’s house.

If I squint my heart
I can feel the school bus.
I can feel three weeks ago, the sand
cleaning my elbow.
I push past the schoolbus.
I push past her mom’s red Nova
in the driveway.
I push to Alice’s front door
and ring the bell.

For a long while
nothing happens. I think
about ringing again
when I hear shuffling
deep inside. A curtain shifts
in a far-off window.
Nothing.

I ring again.

This time
footsteps.
I start preparing
again: Yes,
I’d love to—
I mean, Why
did you—I mean,
Hi. I’ve been—

when the door
opens
half a foot
and a wrinkly
salty-haired
man looks back
at me like I’m trying
to break in.

Can I help you, young man?

I… I’…m here
to see Alice.

Who’s that now?

Alice, sir. Are you
her grandfather?

There’s no one here
by that name.

Sorry, sir. Alice
Gavelston. She’s been here
since… 1969, at least.
I’ve—my sister’s been coming
over her whole life..

The salty-haired man pushes
the door slightly.

No one here
by that name, young man.
This is the Lavin household.
We’ve been here 30 years.
I’m sorry. I’m not sure how,
but you must have the wrong door.

And then it’s closed.

I stand a few feet back
in the driveway
and stare at him watching
me through the living room curtain.

Finally, he moves away
and I look over the rest
of the house. I pinch my arm.
This can’t be happening
much longer. Alice is going to leap
from the creek bed and kiss
me and apologize and wipe
all my sad and angry and confused
tears off my cheek and the joke
will be over.

Then I hear it: the faint whine
of a siren. Jesus, this old man
living in Alice’s house, with Alice’s mom’s car
has called the goddamned police.
There’s nowhere to go
but home.

Which,

when I get there,

has almost burned
to the ground.

Added: February 6, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015