thoughts at longhorn
thoughts at longhorn
by Nico Johnson
we’re at your 51st birthday dinner, you’re sitting across from me.
the loud hustle and bustle of the waiting staff bringing table 23's hot lava cake
and table 36's medium steak
swallow up my pitiful attempts at small talk.
in this moment i wonder what it’s like being you. to see this hand-me down face
staring back at you and expecting something.
maybe you sit and try to find little differences. i’ve got longer lashes,
bigger eyes, and thick, curly hair that couldn’t possibly have come from you.
or maybe you don’t think about this at all. maybe i’m just overthinking your gaze.
all these thoughts join the pile of things i don’t say
just like i don’t say that i’m glad you stayed this long
but you still say I’m just happy you showed up this time.
we talk about school, the boy i’m supposed to like, the lack of ketchup,
and the soggy fries.
your hair, uneven and straight as a board, is longer since we last spoke
just like the new wrinkles sprouting at the edges of your eyes.
i talk about my writing, and you say you got it from me,
turning the spotlight to back you rapidly.
I loved to write.
i don’t remember you ever writing.
in fact, i have very little memory of you at all,
i don’t even remember what you looked like before i was twelve.
i never saw you much.
before then the idea of mother was a patchwork quilt
of the mothers on tv who looked at their children like
they hung the sun.
you never see me now.
but i still remember the way
you held me tightly in your arms the night
CPS knocked on our trailer door. i remember how the words
I’m sorry spilled messily from your lips like a prayer.
i remember trying to comfort you with my
frail little hands brushing through your hair
telling you it’s okay.
i remember wishing you hugged me like that all the time.
and now I catch myself in times of sadness
searching my memories for the stale scent
of sweat and nicotine.
i blink back into reality and look at your thin hair, streaked with gray and
the stressors of middle age, and peer through the sides of my eyes
at my own because i cut my hair shorter every single time
and i know one day you won’t say she’s mine.
and i know that you know
that when you look into your bathroom mirror
it tells you that i am what you could’ve been
just as mine whispers that you are all i will ever be.
we’ve always been
just a little too much alike.
as we leave you hold my hand and say i love you
the sunset paints you in its soft glow as you
finally let me go.
"i quietly mourn the knowledge that the light will never shine bright enough// to dissipate the shadows we cling to// in place of one another."
and to myself in the separate car ride home
i quietly mourn the knowledge that the light will never shine bright enough
to dissipate the shadows we cling to
in place of one another.
About the Writer...
Nico Johnson is a senior creative writer at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. She primarily writes fiction and non-fiction, but poetry also holds a special place in her heart.
About the Artist...
Marshall Shane is currently a junior in high school with a passion for the arts and the macabre.