This story is a signpost. Its details are fuzzy, and will probably change significantly.
Its purpose is to help me get a foothold in parts of the story I don't understand yet.

Track

As long as you cross the finish line
four times, Mr. Coughlin lets you go
inside to shower. Gym class is the longest
failure of my week.

Sometimes girls gather
under the bleachers, yell
to the fast boys. I push
through the corners imagining
someone yelling for me.

Right now
Alice Gavelston’s orange jersey is waiting
under the fence. She’s never smiled at me
like this.

We steal through the hedge and break
across Smith Street, into the woods
at the end of Brook Path. She reaches
under her shirt
then her sock, and returns
with a hand-rolled cigarette.
She lights it
and winks

and I’m smoking
a joint
with Alice Gavelston
during gym class
in the woods.

Aren’t you supposed to be hunched
over a Geometry final right now?

She smirks.
I think I’d rather be a cheerleader.

I don’t have anything funny
to add, so we stand under the leaves.
She leans down and blows her smoke
into the dirt.

I just can’t shake the feeling
this is wrong.

Then why are we doing it?

Not this. She looks quickly through the trees
to the parking lot.
I wake up feeling like I ran from a cage
into a trap. Or a trap into a cage.

She spins her hand.
Take your pick.

Where were you caged? Do your parents
chain you up when my sister’s not around?

She chuckles. No, my folks are cool. I just…
Alice takes a long breath.
I have this recurring dream
that I’m trying on dresses.

Sometimes they’re huge
and horrible, like an old tablecloth.
Other ones are really
beautiful, and I look into
the street from the store, trying
to catch someone’s eye.
But every one chokes me
somewhere; my arms,
my ankles, or my neck,
of course.

Do you ever try to leave?

There’s this woman
handing them to me. It’s like,
as soon as she hands
me one, I have to put it on.
I don’t know why; I just have to.

I nod. I’ve been there.
How do you sleep?

Well, I wake up a lot.

I wouldn’t want to go back to sleep
after that.

Sometimes I don’t.

Do you ever go to the Reservoir?

Alice turns and faces me. Why?

Oh, I, ah, go there a lot.
I thought maybe it might calm
you down.

We both notice it.
The faint cracking of leaves.

I turn my head slowly,
like I’m returning from another woods
and next to us
is a METCO kid. He’s dark,
with a deep, shiny scar
on his temple.

He looks at me a long time.

Are you… that dude
that talked to me
in the library basement?

I… I don’t know.

What’s your name? Alice offers
and hands him the roach.

Jio, he says.
He looks at the roach a long time,
and then takes it.
With a J.

Added: January 18, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015