olly olly oxen free, never meant a thing to me

I used to steal bikes when I was young. Ride circles around kids as they stood alone, pooling tears on their dirty shirts, reeling back every time I sparked my brother’s lighter before riding away on their tricycles.
I’m not going to tell you why.

In middle school, I told every boy I was gay to learn how to fight. Smirking, sucking blood from my missing tooth, faculty on my side, untouchable. The stench of white trash flooded behind the dumpsters, drenching me in their fathers’ unearned respect. Sharing stolen matches. Indian giving cowboy killers.

Crooked teeth in wire cages split skin, the only noise that cruel vacuum gasp when fist recoils from chest. Accordions on silent strings. Whisping torrents of breath flutter ghostly, haunting hollowed bodies. Each strike rattling a dull droning buzz up my bones. A toothless, horridly tuneless fork.

No father abate me. Only a mother to hold, and scold herself for the martyr and his acolytes she made take his place. Straining back the lawnmower cord, between the rattles and the clicks I learn her favorite word. From her favorite bottle, I pour a drink. She pours another, unfolding her every wilting detail until all her drops run dry.

I meet the girl I wish to abandon with my child one day between bells and an attendance sheet marked absent. She kisses me, blushlessly, hand on my zipper, feeling me twitch, smile wide as time. She said it was on a dare. She is a bad liar. A dial lock jut into my spine, the combination known, but not by me.

Cold spring lawn shops close under the dark spitting clouds. We steal then smash mirrors in the streets. Behind a shed not far from our destination, we find a new one.  Exposed foundation and cracked checkered tile makes an odd rendition of a glass house. We settled in together, soaking through our threads and slicking our skins.

Silver staring back at me, as raindrops fell, and made bubbles when dipped beneath the surface. The water bubbled, condensed, and dripped, pooling beneath the spiderweb cracks chiseled into the porcelain pot. Our once-sopping mops stiffened by the breeze. Irregular and dark, encrusted as sculpted stone busts.

She smiled at me then, eyes alight in that golden hour somewhere between memory and falsehood. Embellishments ripple static in their wake, crossing what is known, and becoming, rather, something understood. Experience, the inadequate brother of Parable, built his bones on half-lies masquerading as half-truths.

We squatted there in that tub, tangled up in that tepid basin. Ripples mocked our beating chests. The tops of our knees quaked above the liquid mirror, frightened to touch while numb to all feeling. Open only to the exuberance carried by the frigid winds we could not see and the bottomless potential behind our eyes that we could.

I have one hundred-ninety two years of bad luck left to live. Thirty-seven and a half mirrors until I claim my jubilee. Impossible now to look back. Hindsight shattered, shards embedded deeper than probing introspection aided by the oil brewing poisonous in my liver cares to dig free.


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