Susanne Nilsson CC
Wish I Never
We’re at the fair, wandering past tossing games, where the carnies grab at you, wandering past the grungy mechanics, crumpled tickets in their palms, wandering past the funnel cakes, their scent sweet and fried. We don’t buy anything. Instead, we slump on the curb, pouting—we don’t have two pennies to rub in our ripped jean pockets. We only have our eyes to watch cute boys pass by.
The bright, rhythmic lights dim, so do the horns, the music, and the shouting and the fun is over and I’m ready to go, but your sister doesn’t come to pick us up, because you didn’t actually ask her, and my mom doesn’t have a phone to call, because she didn’t actually pay the bill. And it’s just like you to not have a real plan, to not think about the dangers that lurk on puddled city streets in eerie hours, or about the strangers hiding outside streetlights, but I’m looking now, eyes stretching wide, heart thumping in my ears, because I know wandering carnies don’t have consequences when you can’t see their faces, and I know drunks wander these streets, but you haven’t met men like my pops, teetering rank breath and so, you don’t know.
I say, look there’s a loading dock in an alley where we can sleep; and I say, let’s make a cardboard box into a make-shift shelter and we can hide. You laugh and say hide from what. But I’m shivering in my tank top, jumping at every sound, wishing I never listened to you, because one of these days, it’s going to get me into trouble.
Lauren Voeltz reads, writes, and drinks coffee; all of these (maybe) too much. Her 2022 work is at Suddenly and Without Warning, Ekphrastic Review, gastropoda and elsewhere. Follow her @mattnwife
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