Takeoff

Does a false start to our youth alter our course?

bernard-poem-graphic
by Jensen Bernard / Garnet & Black

i started chewing my gum too soon

it’s sort of an art form i aspire to perfect

my own personal game, an inside joke with the one I know best 

you try to unstick the piece of gum from the rest that it is so desperately clinging to

the piece puts up a bit of a fight, much happier to remain in the pack

you unwrap it as silently as possible 

pull your mask down and back up again 

—you know the drill—

one fell swoop 

then pop the gum in

experience the refreshing and familiar burst of flavor.

the trick is to pop it in right before the 


roar of the engines. 

the plane rattles

the game has begun

all of your body weight pressed back into your seat

and then 

up 

up 

up.

that’s my favorite moment.

when, in a moment of confusion

your body believes it is weightless 

so relieved to no longer be held down by the sheer force of speed 

legs tingling 

or are they numb? 

sudden hush of white noise


but yes as i was saying

the trick is to pop the gum in right before takeoff 


this time, like so many other times

i was fooled by the taxi

silly me

we’re not taking off yet 

just traveling to the runway 

the connecting piece to a world of possibilities

but we have not yet entered the world of possibilities

and so now, when i need the gum the most

to stop the dreadful 

pop 

pop 

pop 

it will be flavorless 


i popped the gum in at the wrong time 

truly believing that this

this was the moment

things were going to start happening


but it was a false start. 


last year was a false start for so many of us

january and february were spent

buckling our seatbelts

stowing our luggage in the overhead bin

preparing for flight.

and we knew the path there might be bumpy

but when we took off it would be glorious 

instead

we never even made it to the runway


we’re still sitting in our seats

waiting for action

waiting to seize the day

watching the “best years of our lives”

slip away


i don’t even want to say its name

i’m tired of seeing it in every headline

email

text

test result

cancelled plan

death notice


let’s try a few alternate phrases

you know them already

unforeseen circumstances

trying times

unprecedented events


something so powerful

so disruptive.

so able to lord over us

and our

families

loved ones

hopes and dreams

we don’t even need to see its name

to recognize what it can do

what it has done

what could’ve become

but it was a false start.


freshman were flowers ready to blossom

to grow, to learn, to meet new people 

a fresh start


sophomores eagerly awaited return

so happy to have finally found their place, their people

a firm foundation


juniors set their eyes on the horizon

secretly ready to utter those mocked words, “study abroad changed me”

a new perspective


seniors stretched their fingers as far as they could

longing to embracing their friends for the last time

a last hurrah.


we’re still sitting on the runway

pack of gum in hand

ready. 


and now we know 

what exhilarating feelings we’ve missed

what we hold dear

what we’ll make sure to treasure

this time. 


it was a false start.

but that won’t make our takeoff any less glorious




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