Atomic number seventeen
by Lee Parpart

At seventeen we were briefly covalent. You were the
             slow-moving, stable Argon

to my twitchy Xenon, a soft-spoken athlete suddenly
             fixated on your

nerdy neighbor. All semester you studied me from two
             desks over, your

mind a slow transition metal exploring new boiling
             points and catalyzing

questions. I hear you like to write. Do you write every day?
             It sounds like you

work on your writing the way I work on football. I still love
             that image of us as

twin quarterbacks pushing ourselves towards literal and
             literary touchdowns.

It seemed to bind us together for a moment, like two
             hydrogens in search of an O.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me leaning against someone’s Porsche outside the little bungalow we rented for two years in Durango, Colorado.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It’s a common story: nerdy girl briefly attracts the interest of her high school’s football star, only to have him drift back to his natural tribe and her to hers. I was living in Durango, Colorado, with my mom, who was there for her first real academic job, and I was out of my element, a Boston girl totally unfamiliar with Western mores. For some reason, this star athlete, whose name I am ashamed to have forgotten, took an interest in me in chemistry class. I have never forgotten the sweetness and collegiality he showed with his comment about our shared work ethic in writing and sports.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart has worked as a journalist and a media studies researcher, taught film studies, and published widely on Canadian cinema and visual art. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous Silver Birch Press series, and her story “Nancy drew” was published in Silver Birch’s Nancy Drew Anthology (2016). She won an emerging writer award for her short story “Piano-Player’s Reach” in Open Book: Ontario’s 2016 writing contest, What’s Your Story? Lee lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. For more information, visit her website.