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freshman


I signed myself out of the dorm apartment.
I didn't want to be there (my roommates didn't like me)
and their displeasure
left a film on my skin
I could never seem to wash off.

Still, I had to sign myself out from the apartment I was paying to "live in."
"Jennilyn Fisher. Thursday-Monday."
May as well clear out a few days.
Where was I going?
"Camping."
That should do it.

I didn't know where I was going, or when I'd be back between classes and work.
Fortunately I had a bike,
a few dollars,
a backpack.

That's all I needed, anyways.

I was only 17. Barely 17, actually,
a fact I tried to hide when I met other college students.
I didn't want to explain.
I hated explaining.

I pedaled hard to class. I had an old steel mountain bike. It was heavy and stiff, but it had gears and brakes and we got around.
I left it unlocked and hurried to class.
No one would steal a heavy kids bike.

I couldn't pay attention
not that I needed to listen, the grades were easy.
Attending class was a priority
because it gave me a sense of purpose,
and participating
(when I had the nerve, or
when I was forced to read from my papers to the class)
gave me... a temporary sense of
what was it?
equality? No...

Belonging.

Where to go?
Couldn't go back to the apartment. No.
Then where?
I could go to the Blacks.
Sherrie loved me; she wanted me to date her sons.
She wanted me as a daughter,
and using their home left me feeling guilty.
I just wanted dinner and a place of refuge.

There was a state park, the bushes tall beside the river.
Late night college bonfires would be noisy,
but the noise made me feel safe.
Or I could ride to the sandbar... so I could swim.
Float on my back, and pretend I was everywhere,
pretend I was no where.
But the sandbar wasn't a safe place at night.

There was always the old broken dam
where high school students and
college dropouts gathered
swapped drugs and
poured gasoline into tires,
lighting them on fire, and spun them down concrete.
Laughing, dangerous-
I don't think they knew
what was funny
or dangerous.
They were harmless really,
always nice to the quiet girl who came
and sat away from them,
watching them,
writing.

But that night,
I needed space
so massive
it was claustrophobic
and safe.
Where the land around
was wide, and wild, and free
and where silence had a taste.

The farm roads.


Black rolling asphalt,
emptiness.
Occasional silos,
that's what they call those funny corrugated buildings.
Sometimes I'd stumble upon a good irrigation ditch.
My favorite ditch was 8 miles away, it had a rope swing.
A young girl needs a good rope swing.

Lots of fields, lost in fields.
None of the roads had a name.
'A rose by any other name...'

The sky was so blue and broad it reached down below my tires.
I wished I could run, but I didn't know how.
My feet couldn't take me as far as the wheels could,
and far was what I needed.

For $0.85 I bought a mini loaf of corn bread and honey butter.
The can of green beans polished off a perfect dinner.

Maybe I'd just sleep here, doze and watch the stars come out.
Read poetry and let the words mix into dreams,
let the stars blur into a blanket around me
the mound of dirt behind the potato cellar
shaped into a pillow for my head.

I could wake up and bike back in the dark.
My roommates would be asleep then,
I could shower, pack for work, sleep a bit more,
and be to the gym before 6am.

my tires took me into the fields


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