Promise Him Pencils
I cannot tell which day I mark him absent, again, is the one I know he will not be back. He stops coming to class—mine, and apparently algebra, and biology—but still comes to school. In the halls, he holds his back straighter than he ever did in my room; his eyes shine brighter. Here, it does not matter that he never has paper. Pencils. Whenever we pass each other by the stairwell, he stops laughing long enough to vow, “Ima be there tomorrow!” The next day, I tell myself: he meant it at the time.
Soon, he stops coming to school, but I still see him sometimes. Now, instead of by the stairs, I pass him on the street, wondering how far he is from home. The sun shines on him here.
In my car, even with just glimpses of him, I am reminded of how he would look in the hallway. Every time I see him, it is at the same corner, too far—and too late—for me to promise him pencils. Driving past, I know all the reasons he will not realize I am there. I shout anyway.
This morning, the streets only trickle with traffic, and I can tell that today is the one he will see me. Again, I shout his name. Watching him grin at me as he lifts his hand above his head to wave, I want to press the brakes on my car. On time.
Instead, I blow him a kiss, regretting that all I can offer him is love.
About the Author: Kerry Graham lives, teaches, writes, runs, and photographs in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has appeared in The Three Quarter Review, Spry, elephant journal, A Quiet Courage and Vine Leaves Literary Journal, among others. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter: @mskerrygraham.