Melissa Gibson is an educator, writer, scholar, and mother based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, tweens, and a menagerie of fur beasts. When she's not chauffeuring, laundering, cooking, or at her paid job as a Professor of Education at Marquette University, she's usually planning the next family adventure...or watching Ted Lasso.
He smells of stale PE,
she vibrates with story,
and the news is talking of war and gasoline.
She slides into the car,
telling me already that she has decided to be weird
and Sol has decided to be a they
and can I please turn off the news.
In the mirror I see a fight brewing in him,
so I ask—
How was your day?
another day of hurts,
but also of Jackie Robinson and trampoline classes and grasshoppers,
and of wondering what it means to have depression.
Brake lights on 17th Street:
but her stories are uninterrupted—
stories about consent and rope climbs and lockdown drills and Ms. Brenda’s death.
He notices the mural we see every day,
and he asks again about Breonna Taylor,
and her voice rises to remind us of the terror during our own break-in,
and even then,
my heart is quieter than thirty minutes before,
when I wrangled a day of chaos
and aggravated my shin splints with a parking lot sprint,
just to make it here with them,
barely on time and breathless.
The traffic moves on Wisconsin Avenue:
She turns on Bowie,
and he hums,
and she pulls down her visor to watch herself sing lyrics she doesn’t understand,
and he rolls old Easter candy around his floormat,
and for a moment
there is only the thrum of us, mother and children, in these cracked leather seats.
Right onto the 6th Street Bridge:
He asks if we have time for tacos,
and she asks about social media,
and he says he feels lonely,
and she asks about crushes,
and I notice a crack in the windshield and the oil light on,
and I glance at the always-slow clock, but she answers for me,
with an eye roll:
Yes, Mama, we are late. Again.
We yield at the roundabout:
He asks when we can drive to Florida again,
and she remembers how we cheered when the palm trees started,
and he is talking about crocodiles and manatees and megalodon teeth,
and in the mirror I see his dimples when he says he loves exploring with me,
and she is watching me watch the road,
wondering how I know when it is our time to yield, and when it is our time to go.
You’ll learn these things when I teach you to drive,
and she starts the math on her fingers—
four more years,
even though she still lives in her imagination
and squeezes her brother’s hand in her sleep.
Four more years until she gets to decide when to yield, and when to go.
I move us into the circle of traffic:
Together, for now,
while the odometer keeps ticking up
with more miles.