ATTEMPTING TO TEACH IN A DESERT
The blonde boy in my composition class is a snarky one. He, unlike the others, understands the semi colon and the tonal aside. I am attracted to him for this. He condemns the prison industrial complex, the decline of credible news resources, and writes satirical analyses of country songs. I feel under qualified to teach him.
His mother went missing four months ago. Went to a 24-hour Wal-Mart and never came back. I think about this when the sun goes down and I’m still too many blocks from home, how gravel under my feet feels like the scuffle she might have had.
When I get coffee with the blond boy, before I leave to teach at another university, I ask him how he is doing. He knows what I am really wondering and shrugs it away. I tell him, “Write about it” and feel overbearing; I am not his teacher anymore. I tell him to “keep in touch.” We will not.
The night before I move to the deep south, I buy two packs of L&M Reds and while leaving the gas station, I check my height on the measuring tape that lines the exit—still 5’4. There are two fliers on the door: a Methodist Church advertising summer art classes, and a missing persons. “Have you seen this woman?” No. My stomach turns for my blonde student, who is no longer my student, the one that won’t keep in touch.
Months later, I dream that my new porch has been white washed, all that’s left: two rocking chairs. I sit like I do most mornings, light my cigarette with a white lighter. Everything is colorless in this dream. When I exhale my drag, I rock backward. The porch’s railing has disappeared and my front yard is a sand dune, a dune that leads to another and another, forever—a bright desert. I take my few stairs down to the sand and it burns my feet; the heat wakes me, and my sheets roll like dunes. Still groggy, I think to something my blonde boy said over coffee: “There’s really nothing. So many things could have happened, that nothing happened. She’s just gone. Poof.”
I imagine his mother out in a desert; I want to fall back to sleep; I want to bring her water; I want to pitch an umbrella; I want her quenched and shaded when I ask her how she could leave her son.
Kayla Rae Candrilli received a Bachelors and Masters in Creative Writing from Penn State University and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Candrilli was awarded first place in Vela Magazine’s non-fiction contest for women, and is published or forthcoming in the Chattahoochee Review, Gravel, Wilde Magazine, and Driftwood Press.