We didn’t intend to end up here, but neither did anyone else. At the diner, our waitress dumps a plate of pancakes onto our laps, syrup drips into our shoes, between our toes. A toddler pees his pants as his mother pulls him along. His older sister trips over her shoe laces.
The men at the barber shop swap stories, as they put bandaids on their bleeding ears. Bob’s neighbor was cleaning his gutters when he ended up lying on his back, grass tickling the underside of his knees, staring up at the cracked sky. Jeff’s wife's diamond ring slid down the drain like cough syrup. Larry heard that 70% of bicyclists in town break their legs each year, and 500 gallons of milk are spilled by townies, one cup at a time—soaking into the cracks in dining room tables, the crevasses in the walls, the one-eyed stuffed animal somebody’s sister left behind. Joe can top that story. He read that all babies born here start as unplanned pregnancies, erupt from unplanned births—often in shopping malls or parked cars or moving vans.
Here old ladies brush their teeth with Desitin. Men step on the toes of priests. Strangers elbow strangers, their arms swinging back-and-forth like bells in a grandfather clock. Here vegans eat green beans, only to be told they were simmered in chicken stock. Here, when a plane flies overhead, everyone ducks. Here, there are no good haircuts.
There’s only one way out. And the more we want to leave, the less likely it is to
Bethany Jarmul is a writer, editor, and poet. Her work has appeared in more than 40 literary magazines and been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Spiritual Literature. She earned first place in Women On Writing's Q2 2022 essay contest. Bethany enjoys chai lattes, nature walks, and memoirs. She lives near Pittsburgh with her family. Connect with her at bethanyjarmul.com or on Twitter: @BethanyJarmul.