Leila Bilick

High School Haibun

Somehow Becs and I got to the diner on Route 17 with Brian Polivy. Joey arrived after us, jumping over the back of the booth. Brian said if someone doesn’t show me their boobs tonight, I’m gonna be so pissed. Senior year. We ordered omelets. No way they weren’t a palimpsest of bacon grease and butter but we pretended not to know. Nothing was kosher that night. Nothing was a scandal either. Brian went home pissed. Next morning Mrs. Stern checked our skirts at the door as we shuffled in from the dirty snow covered in goose shit and Ugg tracks. Straight to davening, morning prayers. We took our places. Moved our mouths soundlessly, releasing private plea balloons. We rocked forward and back. Forward, back. A-onai s-atai t-ftach u-i y-gid t-hilatecha. On the other side, boys in their khakis and kippahs, Eitan leading us. My skirt never would’ve gone above my knees anyway – I hated my legs. Becs hated her nose. After we’d dropped the boys off the night before, we’d stayed in her mom’s car talking about that kindling in our bellies, how it smoked and waited to be burned, listening to Joni’s Cactus Tree.  He will find it hard to shake her from his memory. Was she really so free? G-d open my lips so that I may sing your praises. Open my shirt, my heart. Crosby and Cohen and Browne, all calling her home from the road but she’s not going. Next Sunday, we would cross the bridge in my old Volvo called Blue for Joni and because it was blue. We would go to Search and Destroy on St. Marks, buy old t-shirts and lace. They’d taught us as kids that G-d was all around: Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere. We would go to karaoke at East, Becs slapping her thighs to Hey Big Spender, me flipping through the fat book, forward and back.

Dear Brian, dear G-d,

whatever your name, give me

something to sing about.