Crowded DriveThru At 3 In The Morning

Jeff Whitney

Then there are those moments. Everything’s connected
like the entire office wearing green except you, so here
comes a pinch. Sometimes the pinch is however many years
in the desert or a new understanding of how you respond
to adversity. My move growing up was become a rolly polly
when my brother started to wail on me. And could I have
rolled away? Isn’t that the way it goes? We ask, when really it could go
any number of ways. The marble my grandfather tossed out
then scooped up, an act that won him thirty cents, how that
became a date with the girl who wore glasses, an evening
in my prehistory that changed everything, and that day just a square
further down time’s improvised hop scotch, only we don’t know
who does the hopping, if anyone, and is it a single hop or a double?
Listening to NPR, I hear that loneliness can be as bad for you
as cigarettes, lightning, fast food, deep ocean, and time
put together. But then other people can also do a number on you
otherwise reality television wouldn’t be so interesting. The island
would just be lots of getting along and teamwork and nobody
wants to see that. Just like nobody wants to let go until it’s too
late. Or how, wearing a parachute, you just wish you weren’t
up so high. But here we are so might as well make some hay
of it. Which is for horses. It’s another way things are connected
imperceptibly, and why the law demands we say jinx
quickly, poke poke you owe me a Coke. Johnny Appleseed Is Dead
Because I Killed Him goes the tellall sensation nobody read in a future year
I’m inventing. It starts out Citizen Kane, the famous man deceased,
and as you read through become more and more apparent
the killer is you. Or something like that. Maybe it’s opposite day,
and nobody told us, or only some were told, so we’re in this place
where half of everybody is saying the opposite thinking the opposite
is actually true while the others are saying the truth not understanding
they should be saying the opposite. Which is: I made cake. There’s
a spider in my shoe. How will we solve the crisis of our fellow citizens
not having clean water or food? We used to have remedies for these things:
the cootie catcher, MASH. Ways of looking at life from the top down
that are really just carrying around magic 8balls asking what will come of us
now? and the ball saying you never knowWe want to know, and can’t,
and so smash into the wall of the present one second at a time
until some of us have problems with drugs and really don’t care
about the school production of Grease. Some begin to hear messages
in the music of Green Day. And so most days, whether officially sanctioned
backwards or not, are weird, and hard to know how to live within, much less live
more. It’s election season and I want to be the change I want to see in the world.
Or, in opposite terms, I don’t want to not be the change I don’t want to see
in whatever is the opposite of world. Then it’s another hop down the unseeable sidewalk
where if we’re good we’ll get to see each other again or at least have a conversation
punctuated by pinching and maybe an occasional jinx, where my brother is
a friendly panda, and we speak to the dead by saying someone’s name five times
under water, or stomp light bulbs then analyze the patterns. How there are moments
when the names of friends appear unexpectedly, a night sky of fireworks
fading, so you just start laughing, as you’ve heard that’s another way. Laughing, then not.

Jeff Whitney’s most recent chapbook is Sixteen Stories (Flume Press, 2022). His poems can be found or found soon in Adroit, Bennington Review, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, and Sixth Finch. He lives with his wife in Portland.

© Variant Literature Inc 2023