Author: Cheri Paris Edwards
•7:13 AM
politics of pretense

I squeezed through the narrow Amtrak train door,
the box I held, my guide. with the side of a foot
I pushed the sturdy cardboard until it joined the
other packages and suitcases littering the square
cemented lot. sitting on an unsteady container
stuffed with my belongings outside the one-room
college town train station, I mopped away late
summer sun sweat droplets. Having made quick
friends with a girl whose face escapes me now,
we two divvied our dollars and hailed a cab to a
high rise dorm seen only in photos before that day.
Buoyed by youth and naivete, I felt rich with $100
left in my wallet. my new friend giggled, bubbling
excitedly about college, happy to be away from
home. I smiled, and chatted back, pretending
I knew why I was there.

Months later, I was already gone. failing almost
every class--weed smoking, bid whist playing and
late night parties, where I shook my money-maker
until the obligatory playing of Kool & the Gang’s,
“Summer Madness” proclaimed the end of another
party weekend--my greatest collegiate work. a
failed love affair with a dimpled fraternity boy
had broken what resolve I had left, and I opted out
of academic life to move to the big city on a love
hunt. this time my chase a burgeoning relationship
with the father I’d only met months before, and
visited in Chicago during out of school breaks.
seduced by the possibility of Daddy’s attention
and the sweet view of the winking colored lights
greeting me whenever I rounded Lake Shore Drive,
I moved my country self to the city.

Tonight, I lay under the thin frame of a green-eyed
semi-stranger. older than me, but not old, he was
a precinct head, hoping to move up the political
ladder I suppose. searching for a job, I’d wafted
into his corner office wearing gratitude and a
naif smile. sent by the clerk at the local Catholic
Church active in helping folks in this southside
community. with a few phone calls, he'd booked me
an interview at at temp shop, where typing skills
learned in a high school filler class landed me
a position in a highrise uptown on Michigan Avenue,
across the street from Washington Park. later he
called and asked me out. my father grinned as he
watched thinman open the door for me and I folded
into the seat of the red sports car. now, pinned
on a dingy couch, in a dingy apartment, I moaned
dramatic appreciation of his efforts pretending
to know why I am there.

© Cheri Paris Edwards 2009