Previously published in Crack The Spine.
The November we are fifteen we run away and the boys around the block put us up in a motel room on the turnpike that has a hole in the door so we can see everyone’s sneakers shuffling past.
We write poetry and eat potato chips all week and one night I sit on the chipped-tile bathroom floor and feel my mind break apart and the pieces get sucked up into the air vent.
On Thanksgiving the Arab at the front desk calls and says in broken English no one’s paid the bill for the night but we understand clearly when he says, I’m calling police.
We hide our bags in the woods and use the last of our change to call the boys from the pay phone at Waffle House and the ringing just trills through the ear piece like a jungle bird.
We tell the waiter behind the counter we don’t have money and he watches us the way my father looks at sick dogs.
After an hour he gives us coffee and after two hours he goes over to the gas station and buys us cigarettes and after three hours he puts sopping plates of smothered hash browns in front of us that we can’t eat.
Two boys with slick white smiles and a car say we can go with them and the waiter behind the counter keeps wiping the same spot and watches us go out into the dawn, where everything is soft and blue at the edges and we are glad the night has passed.
The slick boys have keys to an uncle’s barber shop and say, here sit on our laps, and we look at each other like maybe this is exciting, maybe something is happening.
Something must be happening because the lights are off but the room is still glowing and the only thing holding us onto these bony knees are the arms slung over our hips.
But it’s hard to tell because we are weak from hunger and sleeplessness and the blunt passing through our hands and all we want is home.
The problem with a strange boy’s lap at dawn is that it shrinks your hearts, like how eating potato chips for a week shrinks your stomach, and when someone tries to give you something real, there isn’t anywhere to put it.
Lydia Armstrong lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is active in the spoken word community and helps facilitate Slam Richmond. She collects bugs, drinks copious amounts of white tea, and has a cat named Birdie. She is working on her first novel. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @cr0ssmyfingers.