by Salena Casha
It was a chant
A quick one-two beat
My tongue thick with nerves
So wired i could feel every
Postule writhing in a language
i didn’t know.
The notecard: tucked into my pocket
edges pinching my fingers
speaking to me in my own tongue
even though i was fluent in his
within my head.
It didn’t matter, the answer, nein.
No, danke. Thank you.
I trained myself for this,
practiced the way he’d say it
blond curls lit up and burning my
The air smelled of baked asphalt,
curried pollen, boy sweat.
He walked ahead, his converse
soles slapping away from me
and i stepped in his shoes. Keeping up
I don’t know if i said his name but he turned to me
and my hands shook even though it was my tongue
that would do the talking and someone whispered
“Willst du mit mir zum Prom gehen?“
He frowned. No nein. No no. Just a blank stare
As i shuffled for the card and offered it to him,
my handwriting smudged, my fingerprints stained
and smeared on the blue lines.
He looked at me and smiled, wide and bright,
and I stared into him, a transfixed star
even as my face burnt red in the sun.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Friends are the best sort of dates to proms (6/8/2009).
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some people say kids are resilient, but at 17 you feel fragile. Like a word could splinter a sliver of you, an important puzzle piece, especially if it’s a “no.” But still, somehow, the romantics of that age prevail. Or at least they did for me when I asked a German exchange student to prom my senior year of high school. Embarrassing? Yes. Successful? I don’t have any prom photos to prove it. However, that moment when I offered him my heart on an index card is one of the most formative moments in the year of Salena Casha: teen nerd.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Salena Casha‘s work has appeared in over 30 publications. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her story “Il Sale Della Terra,” which appeared in the fall issue of Mulberry Fork Review and her flash fiction piece was selected by Roxane Gay for the Top (Very) Short Stories of 2015. She was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Boston Public Library’s Children’s Writer-in-Residence and a 2011 Bread Loaf Scholarship Recipient in Fiction. Her first three picture books are housed under the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt umbrella. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c.