On Fencing, Gummy Worms, and My Inescapable Fear of Living in the Moment
by Mara Koren
Runestone, volume 2
“You’re never happy where you are,” my mother says, and I start crying. We’re in Baja Fresh, and I haven’t cried in public since I didn’t care about crying in public.
It is the same Baja Fresh we used to go to on Thursday nights, after Girl Scouts and before fencing lessons. On the way to fencing I would eat the congealed brick of gummy worms in my mother’s glove compartment, and contemplate running away, hiding in the Eddie’s supermarket down the street, and drinking pomegranate pear juice until it was time for my father to pick me up.
I never did it—I just went down the steps to the basement room, said hi to Ivan and the girl whose name I forget, went to the drafty bathroom, stepped into the white shirt with the strap that went between your legs, then the shiny metallic vest, then a battered glove, and lastly the wire helmet.
My father would pick me up and ask how it went, and I would say that I lost or I won, airily, while looking down over the edge of the highway, at a soccer field below, the sharp white lights burning through the night.
“Why are you crying?” my mother asks, and I shake my head, gulping, trying to regain my voice. I’m crying because one time we went to the Redwood Forest and I worried the whole time that I was not appreciating it enough, because I am ungrounded, because home is not what it used to mean to me—I do not tell her this.
Instead I say, “I hate crying,” and burst into tears again. “No, no,” my mother says, “Crying is good. Crying is real.” She gets me more brown napkins from the counter to blot my eyes.
Outside the dark window I see my nine-year-old reflection: eating a chicken burrito, fearless and shy, uncomplicated in a way that still wished to flee fencing lessons and hide in Eddie’s.
I am crying because I wish it was summer and I was sprawled on Russ and Damien’s lawn, in the patches of exceptionally soft grass under the maple trees. I am crying because nine-year-old me is gone.
The little girl outside the window, in the red Converse and the plaid button-down shirt, wraps her arms around me. “I wear makeup now,” I tell her. “I got my ears pierced. I wear dresses. I get drunk at parties. Sometimes I fight with Dad, sometimes I write poetry like the pretentious asshole you never wanted me to be.”
“What is it like,” she asks, “to be so radiant?” She turns and walks away, her ratty hair caught by the breeze, her strides long, her big hands stuffed in her cargo pockets. And I sit in the Baja Fresh, and I cry as my mother holds me.
Mara Koren is an English major at Ursinus College. She was a past editor and contributing author to The Lantern, Ursinus’s literary magazine, and has forthcoming work in Sigma Tau Delta’s journal The Rectangle. Mara hopes to pursue nonprofit work after she graduates.