Corrine found the headline glorious: Runaways Still Missing.
But back then, before police alerts and milk carton pictures,
running away seemed insanely logical, the perfect anecdote
to parental control—no more groundings, or in-my-day
lectures, or where-did-we-go-wrong laden sighs.
We worked on the note for a day: worded so they
felt guilt and we escaped punishment.
Her cousin lived in the next county.
We would walk or hitchhike there and hide out.
Midnight. My favorite spot, she decided.
My father, usually home and passed out,
chose this night to beer it up with the boys.
Mother was pretending to read a book.
It wasn’t until hours later that I was able
to scale the window and sneak to the park.
Corrine’s favorite spot rang with birch and maple trees.
She loved to sit on a bench in the middle
and share her troubles when things got bad at home.
She called them beautiful giants,
said they answered back, gave her advice.
I told her it was just the wind or birds she heard,
but she would have none of it.
She was not there.
I waited for awhile on the bench, tried asking
the dark monsters where she was, but they only
made me nervous as they creaked and groaned
spooky nothings to the moon.
I walked to her house, even threw stones at her window.
Realizing the plan ridiculous, I went home.
The next morning my mother shook me awake.
Corrine’s parents were frantic.
Torn between lying and her safety, I played dumb,
suggested she might have visited her cousin.
As hours turned sour, however, the truth soon erupted
into a babble of every rebellion we had ever considered.
A week later, she was still not home.
My parents tightened their leash, wound life’s horrors
around me daily until I struggled for breath:
candy-fisted men tempting rides,
sinister alleys and savage acts,
urgent graves in some isolated forest.
I took to sitting on her bench and crying.
Eventually I moved on and away
to big city life and unusual people
who would have scared the hell out of my parents,
but Corrine stays with me through time and distance.
I see her face in empty theaters,
hear her voice float up
in the silent lull of dinner parties.
I picture her married,
buying a surfboard,
working as a bank teller,
planting trees that gather around her
in welcome song.