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Farmington, Maine : The Warmth of Winter by Julia Guarch

Every winter jacket I ever owned paired with layers made me feel
like the walking Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters,
my hands always icicles even under the thickest gloves,
my face hidden behind Russian nesting hoods and itchy scarves,
but no matter how many shields,
the winter would still seep through.

But winter was his favorite season.

I didn’t understand it, but I knew
there were bags underneath his eyes and his sentences were too slow
when I left for Maine.

He said he was tired.

The car ride was filled with
the roar of the tires, the grumble of the engine, and the tapping of rain,
only outdone by the bang of the bumps
of the pavement, rocking
the car and knocking
me off kilter in the back seat.

The fog and the snow
erased the ground.
Signs appeared from the blur,
trees clawed their way to the sky
and retreated.

Rain drops defied gravity on the windshield,
Stephanie and Brian cha-chaed in their front seats,
DJ Casper murmuring from the back speakers.

We passed the Electric Beach Tanning Salon next to another
frozen lake as I wondered
if I’m a terrible person, if I’m a good one.

We passed a snowmobile museum and trucks
driving on ice too thin
but they stayed above the surface.

“That’s the story of my life,” Brian complained,
“the path of least resistance.”

Crows were eating from the dirty snow on the
edge of the road, and I thought of him
with his drooping eyelids and short tone
I could still hear thousands of miles away.

I text him. It sends.

We pass Cemetery St, Cemetary Rd., Heirlooms of Tomorrow,
I still have no answer, but we’ve reached Nicole’s.

Her kitchen cabinets are lined with empty bottles and cans
swerving onto the top of her bookcase like the skin
of an alcoholic snake.
The post-it notes on the wall catch my eye before the ash tray catches my nose.

A shadow shivers on the snow;
we leave the rundown and charming apartment.
Words are typed out
but I keep doubting whether to press send again.

They’re drunk. We’re drawn to our technology
but my finger keeps backing away.
It’s a mistake, misplaced pressure.

I want to disappear.
Everything becomes deafening and silent.
I feel like a ghost, a nauseous ghost.
I retreat into my browser.
His Facebook photos are deceptively cheerful.

I don’t feel comfortable or safe or loved or protected
among my supposed friends.

I miss his brisk warmth.

The last 4 years of my life glistens on the four bags of liquor
they carry when they came back.
We are in New Hampshire.
They open the door and she says
“You can’t judge us anymore.”
I stay quiet and listen to Linkin Park.

There’s an abandoned Toys R Us on the side of the highway
and I realize I couldn’t wait to say “I knew them when”
because these friends would be far away
and successful.

The leaves trickling down the rocky valley
next to the stream of melted snow
remind me of his absent text message.
I send another. We wait in hideous traffic
and I try to fall asleep.

I return to my empty room, unpack my bags, and look out the window.
The words ring in my ear, “You disapprove of a lot of things.”

I notice the thinning snow.
My phone announces a text message.
The grass stabs through the ice.
I shiver.


about the author:

Julia Guarch is a recent graduate of Lafayette College who is invested in social justice. Her poems appear in The Marquis (Lafayette College’s Literary Magazine), the July 2015 Issue of Rain, Party, Disaster Society, and now issue #12 of The Vending Machine Press! She co-won the MacKnight Black Poetry Award and recieved special mention in the Jean Corrie Poetry Contest. She currently lives in North Hollywood, CA, and plans to apply to graduate school in the following year. She can also be found at juliaguarch.tumblr.com which focuses on writing and social justice. She’s honored to be a new member of The Vending Machine Press family.

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