Mom is making your room an office. I wasn't supposed to tell you; she threatened in her usual way, her owl-neck swiveled, searching the readiness of my casual nod, my fingers for the itch of your phone number. She's already started the dressing-down. The pinchbeck trophies that lined your shelf, each of some palooka stamped in a virile pose, face blank as the moon, has been burped into casket-sized tupperware. Your murals, pulled down from the wall, cite erstwhile best friends: Carl, the thespian who wore his charm like a loose T-shirt; Patsy, who kept your heart in her shoe. And you, with a dangled cigarette, hair in your eyes, winking that smile that made girls so greedy. The decor is as if life spit up upon your walls. Your sloppy autobiography, a jumble of tacked-up memorabilia: flags from camp, photos of girls 15 forever on your bulletin board. Tolkien and Watterson, strange bedfellows, yellow and sweeten on your bookshelf. I love the baseball cap graveyard: mostly won or earned, each a Boy Scout badge for your head. They sit in your closet in a clump, tattered and sweat-stained, too dear to be cast to landfill forever. My room, which did not smell of almond grove, was made sterile as soon as I set foot on the stoop, suitcase in hand. Yours breathed seven solitary years, like a deep gouge in wall paint, showing past generations of misbegotten color: puce, mustard, rainbow appliqué. This shedding of time will probably seem like turpentine: caustic, flammable, too serious to seem really necessary.
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Danielle Burhop is an IAS undergraduate student at University of Washington, Bothell, and is an NSCC alumnus. She has been published previously in Exile and Twice-Bloomed Wistaria. She can be found traipsing around The Loft with bewildered ESL tutees, and posting snarky tidbits at www.everypoet.org.