Best Worst Year: Episode 85 (Or, Nada Surf Covers Depeche Mode

Your arm felt twice as fragile. The fiberglass cast collected weeks of dead skin in gauze. You swore you could feel the screws and plates holding the bone together beneath the flesh. Twin incisions running parallel along the radius and ulna. The staples in your right arm completed the train track scarring. The doctor winced before you did–the staple remover was broken and pulled the staple into the fresh incision. Blood. A faucet running down your forearm to your elbow. Cold, then hot–sting with a progressive blast radius from where there once was a staple to where there is now an extension to incision. It’ll scar nicely. Your mother loses all her island pigment. Someone gets her a chair and water.

dirty blue jeans
police cars
at the laundromat

By the time you came in from recess, it was a forgone conclusion to send everyone home from school. Mr. Eiffort was always kidding with the students, and when he said it had exploded some of us laughed. Before he could reiterate, there was intercom feedback anticipating the pin drop. The thick cotton cloud funneled with tiny prongs and in an instant you were living through your first conscious national tragedy. The teachers were probably more upset than your classmates, or you. A few weeks later, you crash your bike at the foot of the driveway and peel the skin above your knee away like an orange. The winter thaw was earlier than any expected. The cloud of a puddle was trapped under ice. Your father poured hydrogen peroxide on the gash–it foamed like pink surf boiling around denim.

harvest moon gravel embedded in your kneecap

You think about strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone melting on the sidewalk. That’s the image your memory comes back to–you don’t even like strawberry ice cream. Was it going through your mind? Why were you heading back into the classroom? Was there an ice cream snack for lunch? You do remember Sherry M. knocking you into the metal double doors. You remember your teacher stifling a scream. The blunt bell-struck echo–not quite a ringing but more like the wavy ripple from the source. Your head felt dull. There was a small Pollack squirt gun splash of red on the industrial green. When you pulled your hand away from your head all the sound which was muted came rushing back to clarity. Your classmates were yelling. Ice. Brown paper towels which never soaked up messes as much as they spread a mess around. There would be stitches and a lump that never would go away. You don’t even like strawberry ice cream.

call it in the air cokebottle sunset

You are a boxcutter surgeon. Cardboard mailer and packing tape yield slowly. You can feel the unsheathed razor deflate the bubble wrap. The incision is too deep, but not deep enough to damage the contents. There is a muffled pop. Two more quick slices along the spine of the box, and then you pull the record sleeve away from the mailer. Removing vinyl from packaging is about as delicate as you get. Run brush over the LP, static collects fingerprints and evidence of any former owners. The paper sleeve inside the jacket has yellowed. This Smithereens album wasn’t particularly expensive or destined to be the crown jewel in anyone’s record collection and was decidedly the purchase born of insomnia and whim. You nearly forgot you ordered it, but when it arrives on your doorstep, tumblers in your mind lock into place, and a door opens to some summer past disasters and ice cream.

How long was this weight inside you? Invisible but heavy enough to know its weight in absence. There is a song which reverses the hollowness held between your shoulders as of late and when you fill your room with its brotherhood of harmonies and Spector-esque drums. A rumble of thunder which promises no lightning, or rain. You are sitting on the floor leaning against blonde second-hand dressers. This ache in your back undoes the gordian knot of your spine. There is warmth–like sun invading this creek near your parents’ house. You would wander barefoot there to feel the smoothness of rocks and learn about the persistence of time.

Department store radio
We
are no longer strangers.

_________________________
Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and Smartish Pace. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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