Garfield Park, Indianapolis, 1979 by Dale Russell

“I want to break up.”

It ricochets in your skull like bullets, tearing and cutting.

A fall wind blows through the car and tickles your hair and rusty leaves laugh and birds mock you. Her bare feet are on the dash, where they’ve always been, her tan legs drawn up to her chest and her eyes trained on her pink-painted toes. You trace your finger around the Trans Am logo on the shifter and scream inside.

Either of you could have said it, but the fear of ending “what is” had you locked in the cage of “what was.” It’s been over for months, but feelings are threads woven into the web of our bones, and untangling them pulls deep.

You will miss her sweet fragrance, her strawberry lip gloss, the way she squints her eyes when she laughs, and the stolen glances in English class. You become aware of your breathing and the heat of your face and you desperately want this moment to end. You’re suddenly embarrassed by your KISS tshirt, your arrogant car, and the faces you made during those intimate moments with her.

She is leaning against the door on her elbow, staring at a patch of yellow flowers and twirling her long, brown hair around her index finger. Her short fingernails match the color on her toes and are chipped from playing tennis.

She turns to you, awaiting your response, as the words echo and rain fills her eyes.

Staring at your hand and picking at the loose thread on the steering wheel, you stutter “Okay” as your voice cracks. “You want me to take you home?”

She looks out the window and whispers, “Sure.”

A squirrel runs up a tree, and the flowers look away.

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