Like She’s Afraid

We were asked to write a poem in Creative Writing.  That’s it.  Just a poem.  About anything.  This is what I came up with.

This poem hasn’t gone through workshop yet, so when and if it does I will revise it.

Like She’s Afraid

The traveler never stays long,
Maybe only a day or two.
She asks for directions to the next town.
I can take you.
She climbs up the step, enters the truck
But will not make eye contact with me.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid of how I’d judge her.

I tell her my name: Thomas Jo Stevens.
“Ronnie,” she says, curling her hand into a fist,
Moving it closer to her side,
Silently letting me know she doesn’t want to shake mine.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid of too much contact.

“How long have you been on the road?”
Maybe small talk will offer comfort.
She shifts in her seat, moves closer to the window.
“I’ve been traveling a few months. This is my fortieth city,”
She says quietly, rolling the window down.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid of ever stopping.

“Do you want some breakfast?”
She bites her lips, runs her fingers along the lock button.
I press the gas pedal, ready to continue on the endless stretch of highway,
The trees enclosing us on both sides,
Then disappearing as we enter a city.
But she says, “Sure.”
I pull into a small diner,
I want a sit-down meal, friendly waitresses, something to feel like home.
She slides out of the truck slowly,
Avoiding a glance at me,
Avoiding leaving the seat too soon.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid of what I’ll do, say, want.

There is an old couple in the diner,
They sit at the bar, slurping coffee.
An old lady walks up to the hostess stand.
Her white hair seeps out from the sides of her hat.
“Two?” she asks, holding up two menus.
The traveler nods her head, follows the old lady to our table.
She waits for me to sit,
Her feet tap an impatient rhythm.
I settle back in the red, vinyl booth.
She sits and barely takes up any space.
We order:
Pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese, toast with butter
And an English muffin for her.
“Coffee?”
“Tea,” she says.
I see her slight smile before I take a sip of the hot liquid.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid to fully let go.

We pay the old waitresses, go outside to find the sun higher in the sky.
I hold open the truck door and wait for her to climb back in.
“I think I’ll stay here.”
My arm remains on the door.
I look past her into the truck,
Into the empty seats, the cluttered interior, the CDs I would like to use, but can’t,
The trucker radio stays on, giving the rides a constant static.
“How will you—”
“I always get to where I need to be,” she says.
I step up into the truck, say goodbye, good luck.
It’s like she’s afraid;
Afraid of trusting me.
It’s her weakness.

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