Saturday 6 June 2020

'Musical Chairs' by Tom Weller


 The largest game on record was one starting with 4,514 
participants and ending with Scott Ritter, 18, on the last chair
 at Ohio State University, Ohio, Apr 25, 1982..
--Guinness Book of World Records, 1984

All around the mulberry bush. . .You’re still walking because she’s still walking. Or maybe you walk for him. Or maybe you walk for them. Circle after circle, you want to walk for them. the monkey. . . You arrived together the three of, still wearing matching high school class rings, braids of memories binding you together. First licensed drives, windows down, speakers rattling, voices tangled in song. Friday night parties, bonfires and warm beers in the same backwoods where your parents first drank. Her pregnancy scare. His family fistfights. Your flirtation with pills. chased the weasel. . . . Today’s one of those days you and he and she sang about on those shared drives, one of the days you conjured together on Friday nights as the bonfire dimmed, cold settling into the greying backwoods. First day of college. There’s still the three of you, but the rest is all new, all strangers in a strange landscape cajoled into a giant game of musical chairs. Freshmen orientation is weird. The monkey thought. . .There’s power in threes you remind yourself as you march. You think musketeers and tenors. You think clover leaves. You think pigs and bears. You think Moe, Larry, and Curly. You think Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. You feel this power, an electric tingle where you hold his shoulders and she holds yours, feathery light of dusk reaching for the three of you circling two remaining chairs. ‘twas all in good fun. . .There used to so many of you walking, hundreds, maybe thousands, pie-faced kids from towns you’ve never heard of in corners of the state you never been, all of you circling, circling together. But not really. He matters. She matters. The rest didn’t. The rest don’t. The rest were just bodies filling spaces you and he and she didn’t want, just hips shimmying to kids’ songs crackling out of boombox speakers, just open mouths laughing in the liminal space between childhood games and grownup aches. Pop!

The rest are all just footfalls vanished now, and all that remains is the earth trampled under your feet, his shoulders skittering away from your fingertips, her breath skating across the back of your neck, the fading last note of a song you never wanted to end, and places enough for two, hip to hip, and the ghost of a spot for a third heavy with longing like a phantom limb.

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