I shake off the last drops of urine.
The bathroom door swings
open. Stone-faced parents let the policeman
in before I can flush and wash
my hands like they taught me. His leather boots
creak as he comes toward me,
sits next to me
on the edge of the tub.
I stare at the backs of my small hands.
My teeth feel as if they will splinter
in my parched mouth.
Am I in trouble?
For riding my bike to the school
after my mother told me not to go that far?
For liking the colorful drawings
of little boys in superhero costumes
only above the waist?
He asks about the man at the school, his voice
soft on my seven-year-old ears. I give him
only silence. He stands, tells my parents,
I’ll come back
when he’s ready to talk.
When he is gone, I run to the couch.
I want to disappear inside the cushions.
My older sister asks the same questions.
Her voice grates against my ears. I burst
out the answers as if I’m on a game show
in which the prizes are silence and solitude.
It is Saturday. My friend and I rode our bikes
to Fremont Elementary. A man in mirror sunglasses
swung his metal detector over shaded sand.
He said he was an artist
and showed us his cartoons—
his intentions hidden
Philip’s knee started to bleed
from the scab he’d picked at all day.
He told Philip to use his own underwear
to wipe the blood. I saw fear on Philip’s face—
his eyes and mouth wide. I watched the man,
tanned skin and black-stubbled face.
He leaned against his ten-speed bike,
his back turned, pretending
not to look. I shook my head,
a silent plea to Philip:
Let’s get out of here.
After that day, no one spoke
of the man again.
© Josslyn Turner
This poem also appears in the 2018 issue of Penumbra Art & Literary Journal.