“A Different Route”

 

by Dwayne Betts

 

 

Last night I

took a different route

home, drove my Buick

towards a street I ran

as a child, a street that

outlasted my wind

and held laughter and danger

like small lies. I turned

onto Swann Road, a payphone

that once shouted loose coins,

now dead on the right. Years older,

beside the payphone, stood

the Popeyes, still rooted behind

Lancaster Apts. On the left,

a row of ever changing stores.

Safeway long gone,

my first kiss surrounded by

the black of its dirty gray and

red delivery truck, a memory.

I drove, passing three rows of

apartments that housed my child-

hood, much has changed and still

I see myself shooting jumpers on a

crate suspended from the Old Safeway’s

rear steps. None of us stayed. Not

Brandon, not Oatmeal, not Antwan…

all scattered, some in prison, others in

colleges or on other corners. This

night I looked for a clue, a reason

why so much was falling

apart and in the eyes of the few

children there, out on a Friday afternoon,

I realized how consumed with the moment

we were. I drove until my vision blurred,

until chasing an old memory placed

him there, speeding like nightfall

towards me in a stolen car, hands

twisting the wheel, struggling to straighten

the tail, unable to straighten about to…

and he vanished, left in ‘89

when it happened. His name another

forgotten detail. I took a different route

home last night, visited old parts of

myself. A lot has changed and I failed

to find in the eyes of others the thing

my wife, my children say has turned

to stone in my own.