Every Wed. Thurs. Fri.

Melanie Kessinger

         The girl drives to school and she glances at her bleary eyes in the rearview mirror. Her hair is long and often slips in front of her face. She looks at the road, at her reflection, at the road and at her reflection. Her boots click on the pavement as she listens to passerby students recite words they do not understand, memorizing stories and existences that are not their own. The girl tucks a headphone into her left ear, hoping the beat of the music will drown out the clanging of car keys and swishing of ponytails. Everyone else sees bright sunshine and emerald mountains, but the girl sees fifty-one days. She bickers with her sister about blue jeans and turns up the volume of the music. The classroom is awash in snow-colored light, but the sky is aegean blue. Puppets and porcelain dolls sit at desks: a pretense of purpose. The girl watches a young couple outside the window. He reaches for her hand; she pulls away. He looks through her and she looks at the ground, his fists clenched and her knees wobbling. The girl fiddles with her bracelet and imagines she had seen something else. Chipped nail polish and bare feet on grass and a plastic crown. The man at the front of the room wears detachment and a burgundy sweater. He instructs. The girl listens. She brushes past a stranger in the hallway. Pencils tumble to the floor. Smiling faces approach her, but she turns away from them and clutches her cell phone close to her side. She is exhausted and dizzy but the world refuses to steady itself. Her legs brush against each other as she walks. She is too weary to wonder about this. Tap, tap. Her fingers on the steering wheel. Red red red red red red green. The ink stain on her thumb is a blistering reminder of tomorrow. The girl collapses in a four-wall sanctuary where band posters and faded photographs decorate the walls, and clothes are strewn about the floor. She disappears in the comforting painted parchment woes of another. In dim moonlight she sets her alarm for the next day, and opens a notebook while balancing a pen between her lips. Yet even in the shelter of the third person the girl cannot escape.