At a Red Light When you Momentarily Forget Where you’re Going

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You ease your foot on the break. Your car smells weird like expired food. You let food expire in your car because you’re forgetful. You’re forgetful because you’re tired. You’re too tired to clean your car, which is why it smells like expired food. Your roommate is also forgetful. He forgets to go to the grocery store and never has food so he banks on your forgetfulness when he steals yours, because it sits there waiting to expire for days because you forget that it’s on the shelf, and he hopes that you don’t notice. You do notice. You’re forgetful but you’re also hungry and dependent. Your mother bought you that food last time you went home. When was the last time you went home? You forget. She called you the other day, probably to check in, maybe to ask you to come home, but you don’t know because you didn’t answer because you don’t like answering and you forgot to text her because you don’t remember things because you’re tired. You’re tired because you forget to do things all day and smoke pot until one in the morning and then remember that you have things to do and then stay up all night doing them. Your mom says smoking pot makes you forgetful. She doesn’t mean you, of course, just a metaphorical person, or people, a metaphorical pot smoker. She doesn’t know you smoke pot because she would never forgive you. She has forgotten what it’s like to be young because she is always tired, but she is very aware of expiration, especially her own, which shouldn’t be coming anytime soon, but if you ask her, it’s any day now. And I guess you never know. Every time you go home you have to reassure her that she is dying in the way that cheese ages and looks worse but tastes better, not in the way that the chrysanthemums on your bedside table are dying, in that they are saggy and need to be thrown out. It is exhausting. There’s trash in the foot of the passenger seat of your car because you never remember to take it out when you’re finished with it, because by the time you get home all you can think about is getting in bed. You try to remember everything by writing it all down anywhere you can find: your notebook, the back of your hands, little pieces of trash on the floor of your car. But even then something slips through the cracks, turns to trash, expires. The light turns green. You put your foot on the gas and drive.


Olivia Braley is a mostly-poetry writer living in Annapolis, Maryland. She is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of Stone of Madness Press, and a Reader at Longleaf Review. She is pursuing her Master’s of Liberal Arts at St. John’s College, holds a B.A. in English Literature and Spanish from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is an alumni of the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House. Keep up with her work on Twitter @OliviaBraley.

Categories: Fiction

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