Brevity Twelve

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Mask

by Denice Aldrich Jobe

Dannyís Camaro was primer-gray and had a broken window crank on the passenger side that I cut my leg on when he took a turn too fast. I still have the scar.

It had sun-bleached burgundy seats, and the air inside smelled of too-sweet cherry licorice -- a pot of air freshener under the seat to mask the smell of sweat, decay, vulnerability.

He spent too much on a set of rims. Flashy jewelry for a dying thing.

*

We chose a direction and drove, and I hung my head out the window like a dog, eyes closed against the whip of sun-streaked hair. He sped through intersections late late late at night, never bothering to stop, resting his heavy forearm on the window frame, looking at me, instead of the road.

*

We walked the grounds of our high school, leaned against its cool stucco walls, and stared at its doors -- closed for the summer -- as if to ask, What now?

I liked to step behind him, press my forehead between the blades of his shoulders, wrap my arms around his waist. With every breath his flesh filled my palms.

*

Vagabond, wanderer. Boy of no fixed address. I counted on you to just show up at my door, until one night you didnít.

I heard you got married. Your friend told me in the 7-Eleven, somewhere between the cat food and the Slurpee machine.

"I thought you knew," he said.

*

I marvel that the smell of cherry licorice can conjure up that old primer-gray Camaro and its driver, and I wish I could say that fourteen years later I can flip through these scenes as I do old vacation photographs, with mild interest.

But with one whiff I can remember, vividly, how damned hard it was to smile at Dannyís friend in the 7-Eleven and say, "Iím so happy for him."


Denice Aldrich Jobe works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine and online in Wilmington Blues.

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