The Summer I Checked the Ph Balance in Your Pool

Sarah Carson

It was the year when nothing went right for anyone; the automatic door on your minivan made a stupid buzzing noise when it closed, and I had gotten into several fights with customer service managers while sitting in the downstairs hallway of the building where you kept your things. Back in the places we were from, girls were leveling off bins of straws, packets of jelly; boys shook chicken wings into the fryer, went out back with their Seven Ups and cigarettes and told each other stories that even a state senator wouldn’t believe. All day you sat screening calls while I split shifts changing diapers and cleaning colanders, driving back and forth to the east side with a change of shoes on the floorboard, driving back and forth to the Walmart in Jonesville where I sat all day with a Pepsi driver whose children confused him with their specifically pointed demands. Each time through the roundabout by the tennis courts, after I dug the key to your backdoor out of a bed of river rocks, before I fell asleep on your basement futon with your dog, with your fabric softener, I dreamed of a life cut in half by a moment; a “before then,” “after this;” a “now that I have” in a long line of “since I won’ts”. In the mornings you’d cross town to where I was at work hosing down tumbling mats. You told the manager on duty you had something to give me, and she didn’t invite you in to meet the children; she didn’t ask if she could get you a glass of water or a package of crackers lined with shrink wrap and cheese. One night your daughter called me crying before I drove her home from a dinner she had hoped she wouldn’t have to go to. “Sometimes we have to do things we wish we didn’t have to,” you wanted me to tell her, but I didn’t. Instead I moved my things into an apartment by the power plant. Instead you finished remodeling your dining room. Instead you finally got that buzzing noise fixed.

Sarah Carson’s work has appeared in Cream City Review, Guernica, the Minnesota Review, the Nashville Review, and Whiskey Island, among others. She is also the author of the books Poems in which You Die (BatCat Press) and Buick City (Mayapple Press). Sometimes she blogs at