“When Divorce Was Romantic” by Brenda L. Nicholas

My grandmother told me about Maria so-and-so 
who ran away with another man. 
I see this woman dashing through the hallways 
of my mind to her bedroom in the middle of the night.
She heaves a heavy leather suitcase 
onto her bed. I hear the click, click of metal latches 
popping and a musty, moth-ball scent
dampens the air as she spreads the suitcase open,
wide as her future. She folds her favorite skirts
and cardigans, throws in a few neckerchiefs, 
pearls for luck, and of course, her sexiest stockings.
I imagine she stands in the doorway 
of her daughter’s bedroom, blows her one last kiss
from red lips and a gloved hand and then waits
by the window in the parlor.
He pulls up in a 1941 Pontiac Torpedo, 
hits a horn that actually sounds like “honk, honk,” 
and she scurries down the porch steps—
grin wide as an ocean—slides into the seat,
snuggles up. He directs her to a folded map in the glovebox, 
says, where to, doll face?  She cannot contain
the chirping birds in her chest at this point 
and frees them until they dive 
into vicious giggles in her throat. 
At the first stop sign, the map commandeers 
the entire front half of the car—
from her lap to the dashboard. 

There is no satellite guiding them, 
only roads colored red like the veins 
weaving through her legs. Bing Crosby
sings Don’t Fence Me In on the radio
as they cruise along avenues 
at a comfortable speed, no seatbelt required. 
In fact, the car lacks seatbelts altogether. 
There is nothing holding them in place now,
no cell phoned voices to answer to.
There will be no ugly custody battle, financial struggles, 
child therapy sessions, or anti-depressants.
There will be only a lacquered wood steering wheel 
and a smell of chemistry lab 
wafting through chrome vents
as he drives her to a new home. 

Brenda Nicholas is an Associate Professor of English at Temple College in Texas. Her work has appeared in Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Evening Street Review, Conneticut River Review, Unbroken, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, Menacing Hedge, The Helix Magazine, and other literary journals. Her chapbook, Hari Om, Hurry Home is available at Finishing Line Press & Amazon. Her full-length manuscript was selected as a semifinalist in the 2020 Philip Levine Book Prize and is forthcoming at Kelsay Books. Website: https://www.brendanicholas.net