Summer Vacation

I don’t recognize this elevator.
The buttons are thick with years
of finger grease. There’s a ring
of carpet left and the light
behind the floor number isn’t moving

when the door opens
and I have even less idea
where I am. I lean
against a water fountain
as my eyes adjust.
I see a hallway, and maybe
another hallway down a ways.

The elevator opens again
behind me and a black guy
about my age walks
right up to me.
He’s wearing a bright yellow
dress shirt and bellbottom slacks.

Hey, excuse me. Do you know
where the microfilm is?

I search the corridor
a few seconds. I’m sorry.
I’m a little lost, too.

Oh, he says.
Do you know where the floor-plan is?

Uh, sorry. I can help
look for it, though.

Thanks.

He walks mostly in a straight line.
We pass a light and something reflects
off his temple. We turn a corner
into another hallway, which is even
darker, then another, pointing the other way
and in a minute
we’re at the bottom
of the atrium
in the public library.

You okay? You look
like you just remembered something.

Just forgot what I came here for,
I say.

That happens to me sometimes, too.
He sticks his hand out. My name’s Jiovanni.
With a J.

Nice to meet you, Jiovanni.

I’m supposed to start going
to school here next month.
I wanted to learn some town history.
It’s good to know about where you are.

You came in from…?

West Roxbury.

I’ve never been there

Now he looks at the ceiling.
It’s home. There’s more bodegas
and less white people.

He looks at me
and I realize I need to smile.
Then he smiles.

I hope you have a better time
here than me. Everyone says Wellesley
has a great school system,
but I haven’t seen it.

If it’s anything like your library, he smiles.
I think I’ll survive.

I didn’t notice it
when we were in the dark
but he’s shaking.

Hey, are you okay?

Oh, naw, he says quickly. Thanks for the help.
He starts back into the darkness.

See you around.

Added: January 14, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015