You ease into it. Migrating toward the door like a low-flying cloud. You move in the shape of a rabbit; a duckling; a puppy; the hermit crab that died while you were visiting your parents’ parents, that your mother promised “would be just fine” “wouldn’t need you” “could survive the Holocaust” hesitating after she said this, mouth open as if to retract the words, then waving them off. You have kept notes of all the things you wanted to say but didn’t. Couldn’t. Could barely keep contained, coffee cup clattering against the saucer, fork tines scratching the polished white china through some store-bought rhubarb or pecan or apple pie, head bobbing forward with each false start over taxes, abortion, that candidate who always says what he means—how you secretly admire him, how it must be nice to be able to get away with throwing social decorum to the wind. If you could be him for a day you know exactly what you would say about your job, the neighbor kid who moved away without admitting he’d shit in your sandbox though you pressed him every day, his dusty brown curls swaying side to side, his head reaching so far you think at any turn his neck won’t untwist. You know what you’d say about black holes, how you don’t believe in dark matter, how what we’re not seeing is God, how God is always a choice we’re close to making. You would finally tell your mother about the dream you used to have every day as a child until your father left her for a woman he no longer had the strength to drown with his words, the dream where you removed her heart and fed it to her so that she might finally feel full from love. You’d say, if you could, how you didn’t wash your hands in the bathroom just a moment before, how you never meant to, because you’re sure your mom’s friend Jan never does, how you sanitize your hands the moment you’re sure you’re out of view and now you want him to know you know, how the next twenty minutes will feel, resisting the urge to raise his hand under his nose just to be sure he’s sure. You know this goodbye is the door to hello.
Ralph Pennel’s writing as appeared in F(r)iction, The Cape Rock, Ropes, Ibbetson Street, Apercus Quarterly, Monologues from the Road, Open to Interpretation, Right Hand Pointing, and other various journals. His poetry collection, A World Less Perfect for Dying In, was published in 2015 by Cervena Barva Press. Ralph’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart, and he was a finalist for Somerville Poet Laureate in 2014.