May 7, 2015

stopped too long for gas
in an Atlanta suburb
next to the highway
a few seconds too long
to realize I was the only woman
in the store
til a circle of men
crowded in too close
when I reached for an iced coffee
I don’t know
what they assumed of me
but I am certain
they were wrong.

I settle on winding, twisting roads
the kinds with bike lanes
where I can ride
slow enough to open my helmet
slow enough to smell the sweat and perfume of joggers
slow enough to watch pollen swirl through the air
at every stoplight.

drive down suburban corridors
lined with countless strip malls
and gated communities
with security booths by the entry ways
where hired guards
spend their days sweating.

when I cross the state line
the welcome sign reads
“beautiful places, smiling faces”
Bo’s Kountry Klub
is the first building I see in South Carolina
the second is a fireworks stand.

passing through
one mountain town
the only visible roadside sign reads
“the ole bar open again”
a few feet beyond it
an orange tabby is stretched out
dead across the double yellow lines.

I end the ride
between Traveller’s Rest and Greenville
wipe the splattered bugs from my face and neck
before joining the professors –
her from Iowa
him from Minnesota
they’d started a family in Nebraska –
and their daughter –
a vegetarian at 7
because she loves animals;
has “Laura visits!” written carefully on the calendar
that hangs on her bedroom wall-
we go for pizza and ice cream
at the canoe-maker’s shop
walk past spacious, manicured houses
with matching shutters
a place where people feel safe
leaving their doors unlocked
the orderliness of it all
calms me today.