“Sure! When can you interview and apply?”
the woman who fielded my call at the Book Nook
raved when I hunted it down in the
Yellow Pages and asked if they sought summer help.
“Right now.” “Great, see you soon—but we close
at six o’clock.” It was half-past four;
I’d just strolled home from school. I hung up and scrambled out
the door to the Center to catch the F6.
From Dad’s passenger seat, I often saw the store
just beyond Greenbelt’s invisible
limits on the street between Greenbelt Road progressing
into University Boulevard and its spur
skewing left from their junction, a single story
of cinderblocks painted a creamy lime sherbet.
I pictured its inside still, inviting:
spacious bookcases with canvas-backed volumes staggered
in height like a city’s skyscrapers, rockingchairs
for readers to linger over pages’ lineny fiber.
That May, 1992, we repined
in George Bush the First’s economic entropy.
I wore jeans patched at the knee (the hole
would look chic, but sting in winter),
sneakers whose soles began peeling from
their suede. A postal clerk’s stunted pay
couldn’t fund the future college kept in store,
and who knew how far the savings bonds
bought in years of plenty would take me?
At Greenbelt Center, the start of its route,
the F6 idled. I sat under the wooden rain shelter
in the cloudless waning day, counting the minutes
until the door pleated in on itself and
slid to one side. Through blackened glass,
I spied the driver flipping through the newspaper spread
open over the steering wheel. He shut,
crimped, and tossed it on the floor, tugged the wheel
left, and jerked the bus from me into traffic.