their presence makes me feel alive
*Author’s Note: As Nala ages, I find myself wondering what will become of Jernee when her best friend/cousin has no more strength to fall for her shenanigans. I love to watch the two of them interact with each other. There is this silent code that I am not privy to and will never know. I am amazed that they seem to have secrets from me.
“That old piece of junk! Man, it doesn’t even have windshield wipers! What’re you gonna do with that pile of crap, Core?!”
Corey hears his big brother’s words echoing in his ears throughout his school-day and he finally tells himself that he will quell Nate’s voice once and for all. He is going to buy that old Chevy from Mr. Bankman, fix her up, and name her “Judy.” “Pretty Judy . . .” He has been saying this in his head for the last three days. “Pretty Judy.”
Judy needs plenty of love and care: new tires, new windshield wipers, a new engine, spark plugs, front and rear-end alignment, an alternator & starter, and a bit of bodywork, and paint. Corey has been working with his dad at “Cruz & Cars,” their family mechanic shop after school and on the weekends, so he knows a thing or two about building a broken down vehicle back up to a recognizable and suitable state.
He is ready.
Midnight blue — that’s the shade he has chosen to paint Judy. He is even thinking about putting whitewall tires on her too. His mind is racing with all the things he’ll do for Judy to get her ready for their senior dance which is six months away. Phaedra, the Jamaican beauty in his Chemistry and Literary Arts classes, would love him, he thought. He plans to ask her out. Nate’s voice rings loudly in his ears again. He cannot avoid it.
“Yeah, so . . . You fix her up and then what? You think Phaedra gonna like you just cuz you’ll be pulling up in some big-body ’78 Chevy truck painted midnight blue? Man, you can’t even sit two seats away from her without sweating. And, Judy?! You’re gonna put all that hard work into that truck only to name it Judy?! Ay Dios Mio. Kiddo, you’ve got a lot to learn and I’m gon’ learn ya.”
Corey sits in Chemistry class, two seats away from Phaedra. He takes brief moments to steal a glance at her. She is a Goddess, he thinks — something that took so much time to create. Every piece and fragment of her being are well-crafted, she is art in motion. He says a silent prayer. He will ask her to the senior dance. She will say yes. She will say. She will . . .
“Hey, Phaedra. Um, gotta minute?”
“Sure, what’s up, Core?”
“So, the senior dance is coming up and . . .” Corey fidgets with his shirt collar and rubs his sweaty hands together. “I am hoping you don’t already have a date. I mean . . . Would you mind accompanying me to the dance?”
His world shakes a bit as he waits for her to respond. He wipes his brow, takes in a long, deep breath, and blinks twice to make sure he is not dreaming. She opens her mouth and an angel speaks, “Sure. Why not!”
After school, Corey races to his dad’s shop and begs him for $800.00. He was short of the $2,100.00 Mr. Bankman quoted him for the Chevy. He tells his dad about Phaedra — about how the sun sits on her eyelids and lights up the world from her view. It only takes his dad three seconds to retrieve the cash from the safe. He is proud of his youngest son — he has a plan and is carrying it out.
“Mijo, escuchame. If she turns your belly and your heart beats ten times faster when you see her. She’s gonna be your first love. Ten cuidado.”
Be careful. He will be.
He buys Judy from Mr. Bankman on a Friday, five months to the date from the senior dance and builds his world around bringing something that is dead back to life. He thinks to himself, “Dad was wrong. Phaedra is not my first love. Judy is.”
I feel tightness in my bones,
breathing at night is exhausting . . .
But morning gives me another
opportunity to appreciate life.
You notice that I cut
You tell me that you miss
the way it hung past my shoulders,
free-flowing like the wind.
I nod, make mindless conversation
with you, small talk.
our lips barely touching.
I feel nothing.
You remind me to take the
steak out of the freezer for
The red potatoes, you say, will
be a great partner.
I remember the fresh asparagus
we bought from our grocer’s
a few days ago.
We plan to be home by 6 pm.
I spend five hours at work
drowning myself in everything
You call promptly at 11:30 am
to inquire about the steak
as if I’d forget to let it thaw.
We chit chat, I tell you
a meeting is beginning without me
and we end the call.
I flashback to when my heart
thumped nonstop at the thought
of you, when I raced home to
sit near your lazy arms on
our comfy couch, and when
your voice stirred me up
with overwhelming feelings.
I come back to now
and do everything within my
power to forget who you were.
It makes loving you easier.
It makes living with you tolerable.
But, I am still lonely.
Here is another recently rejected poem by a prominent literary magazine. What better place to share it than here? Thank you for reading.