Ohio This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 9, 2012
going on vacation –
drive might take a while.
so i pack up my expensive cds
my expensive cd player
pack up my expensive clothes
getting there, driven forever
sanity fleeing more after each city
but we’re going around to some different towns now
ones i’ve never seen
maybe the boredom will pass
the scenery is so different here:
buildings half torn apart
looking like something in an ad on tv
for some war-torn country
far, far away from my safe haven
kids as young as ten
skating through cracked sidewalks
on old, worn-out boards
old punk band stickers scraped and faded to an outline
some have cigarettes stuck behind their ears
most are mistaking them for pacifiers
i think, those should be suckers –
those should be cherry suckers.
we stop at a red light
(damn light, my mother says)
looking out of an open window,
i wave at a man smoking in his car on the street
(don’t wave at strangers, my dad snaps irritably –
especially from this neighborhood)
this man has lauryn hill turned up
even louder than my screeching noise
different cultures …?
or simply different tastes …?
i wave again, trying to look sweet
he turns to me with a sad look on his face
and swivels back angrily
without waving back –
did this town mark him so harsh?
i race by buildings with holes in roofs
in my mother’s white grand am
an ancient man is riding past us
>on his rickety bicycle
and i wish he had a white car too
small children with dirty faces
they crawl all over their tired mother
i wouldn’t mind watching her children for a while
so she might soak her feet and paint her nails
like my mom does
maybe she could even learn to rest a while
none of this is noticed by my parents
who sit in the front, arguing once again
about the fastest way to our destination
i don’t think they want to stay in this place for long
i think they want to speed by it, forgetting it
safe from hell in the sanctuary of leather seats

and metal walls covered in attractive white paint
my attention diverted from the trivial happenings of the front seat,
i glance to my right
a young man is scurrying out of a homemade shelter
plastic and cardboard and crates.
his shirt bears the same name as the cd in my expensive player:
Dead Kennedys.
shaken by this, i realize:
that could be me.
that could be me.
but not really.
i would have my parents,
my parents’ visa, my parents’ concern.
and this boy has nothing but cardboard.
where am i?
this can’t be america.
this cannot be the land of opportunity, land of low unemployment,
land of magic.
this little town in ohio impacts me more
than any adopt-this-skinny-child-from-biafra magazine ad.
cardboard, plastic, anger:
proud to be an american.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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