He smells of stale PE,
she vibrates with story,
and the news is talking of war and gasoline.
She slides into the car,
telling me already that she has decided to be weird
and Sol has decided to be a they
and can I please turn off the news.
In the mirror I see a fight brewing in him,
so I ask--
How was your day?
another day of hurts,
but also of Jackie Robinson and trampoline classes and grasshoppers,
and of wondering what it means to have depression.
Brake lights on 17th Street:
but her stories are uninterrupted--
stories about consent and rope climbs and lockdown drills and Ms. Brenda’s death.
He notices the mural we see every day,
and he asks again about Breonna Taylor,
and her voice rises to remind us of the terror during our own break-in,
and even then,
my heart is quieter than thirty minutes before,
when I wrangled a day of chaos
and aggravated my shin splints with a parking lot sprint,
just to make it here with them,
barely on time and breathless.
The traffic moves on Wisconsin Avenue:
She turns on Bowie,
and he hums,
and she pulls down her visor to watch herself sing lyrics she doesn’t understand,
and he rolls old Easter candy around his floormat,
and for a moment
there is only the thrum of us, mother and children, in these cracked leather seats.
Right onto the 6th Street Bridge:
He asks if we have time for tacos,
and she asks about social media,
and he says he feels lonely,
and she asks about crushes,
and I notice a crack in the windshield and the oil light on,
and I glance at the always-slow clock, but she answers for me,
with an eye roll:
Yes, Mama, we are late. Again.
We yield at the roundabout:
He asks when we can drive to Florida again,
and she remembers how we cheered when the palm trees started,
and he is talking about crocodiles and manatees and megalodon teeth,
and in the mirror I see his dimples when he says he loves exploring with me,
and she is watching me watch the road,
wondering how I know when it is our time to yield, and when it is our time to go.
You’ll learn these things when I teach you to drive,
and she starts the math on her fingers--
four more years,
even though she still lives in her imagination
and squeezes her brother’s hand in her sleep.
Four more years until she gets to decide when to yield, and when to go.
I move us into the circle of traffic:
Together, for now,
while the odometer keeps ticking up
with more miles.
"Mileage" is a featured story in the 2023 Roc The Mic virtual production, along with the work of nine other storytellers.
About Roc The Mic Productions:
Since 2015, Roc The Mic Productions and Listen To Your Mother Rochester have raised over $30,000 for local families in need of mental and physical health services through the Society For the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC). Because there is no ticket fee this year, we encourage our visitors and readers to give what they can to the SPCC. Links about the organization and donating to SPCC are on the Cast site. Roc The Mic Productions is a 100% volunteer-run non-profit that helps other small non-profits build awareness and raise funds through live storytelling events. To contact Roc The Mic, email email@example.com or visit www.rocthemic.org.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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