‘Out of the River’ by Bina Ruchi Perino

The intersection of Scripture and Ponder Street is lopsided, and heavy with history. Walking my dog on a warm January evening, I pass the apartments and houses, and time becomes a river that pulls me under. I am carried down the current into previous versions of myself.

At the intersection of Scripture and Ponder Street, it’s 2014 and August is broiling my
college town. I’m giddy, newly moved out, with excitement beaming on my face. All of the freshmen, including myself, are choosing our outfits every morning with the vision of being Somebody Else. I’m walking down Ponder Street with three boys who play guitar and talk about starting a band. We arrive at an apartment and I’m amazed at how I can’t remember where I am. Every moment is gilt-trimmed, a gleaming blur. The boys pull out a bong, an item I have never held in my own hands before. I inhale the thick smoke and pull it down into my lungs. I cough it back up, then stand up to follow them to the patio. They ask me how I feel and all I can say back is: “Everything is in H.D.” The mustard yellow walls of the house across the street glow in the daylight.

At the intersection of Scripture and Ponder Street, it’s 2015 and March is still gilded, but saturated in pollen. I’m feverish with allergies and the desire to begin my career as a writer. In my Introduction to Creative Writing course, I jot down poems dedicated to mental illness. The instructor tells us to imitate a poet. I choose Walt Whitman, replace Abraham Lincoln with Jamie Benn in O Captain! My Captain! My impressed instructor invites me out for coffee across the street. The whole time, my stomach is twisting with excitement and fear. He tells me his writing has been published in a variety of literary magazines. He offers to show them to me and invites me over to his home. Still eager and blinded by glistening newness, I walk with him down to the lopsided intersection. I see the magazines. His lips are on mine and I straddle him. Is this what academic mentorship looks like? The pale house echoes with my guilt and his betrayal.

At the intersection of Scripture and Ponder Street, it’s 2020 and January is quiet. So quiet, I can hear the wind shake the trees down both streets. I look away from the pale house. Sometimes I can’t make eye contact with it. Sometimes I can’t look away. I want to walk through the screen door, pace into the small kitchen, and stare back out from the window above the sink. I imagine his tall frame there, looking out. I imagine what it must be like to see his wife, knowing that he lured a student into their home. The yellow house sits there, demanding my attention. It whispers to me of things I have taught myself to ignore: joy, excitement, trust.

There’s a house between the two, a small grey thing. There was a time between a yellow August and a fevered March. I was a girl bursting with so much enthusiasm that I couldn’t sit still. I talked about dreams as if they were meals on my plate, as if I could eat every last bite. I laughed at the future, believing I had every part of myself mapped out perfectly on my concrete dorm walls. There was a time when time simply didn’t exist. The grey house is quiet like January, mourning something that hasn’t happened yet.

The boys in the apartment across from the yellow house have been replaced with new tenants. The creative writing instructor, his wife, and their young child vacated the small pale house once the couple earned their PhDs. The intersection is an ever-changing river. And even though these memories are stones I keep tripping over as I wade through the river, I’m picking up the ones that hurt. I launch them with a stronger arm.

Bina Ruchi Perino is an MFA candidate at Emerson College. Their work can be found in Rathalla Review, GASHER Journal, Euphony Journal, and elsewhere.

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