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The Other Place

Updated on July 5, 2015

Nupur sat, the teacher’s aide, apart

in the back of my third-year French class

checking homework and tests; if the lesson wrapped up

a few minutes early, I’d migrate from my

desk in front to the empty seat beside her.

She gushed that she was “impressed” by my subterfuge

of explicating my own poem, read

anonymous, at a magazine meeting.

I saved for years the first page of an essay

on one of Greenbelt’s forested corners

she returned with the blue ballpoint

comment in bounteous, pointy script,

“This makes me want to go there RIGHT NOW!”


Late in fall, Nupur stood at the curb

for her ride home as I walked out of school

after the day’s-end rush. She smiled and

reflexively almost sang, “Sometimes I just want

to get away—no, not from you;

that’s not what I said.” I was too jarred

to tell her I felt the tawny aura

in her of the sun melting toward us.


Then she disappeared from school. Three months later

we passed in the hall between classes—

so serendipitously she scarcely seemed real,

a mirage to a parched desert pilgrim.

Her eyes still shone but her whole body

sagged. “What happened?” She murmured,

“I don’t even want to talk about it.”

We never met again at Roosevelt.

I asked another magazine staffer

for Nupur’s address: Mitchellville,

where I endured childhood stranded with my stepmother.

I wrote Nupur that I missed her,

that she appreciated me and my writing

more and was more of an angel

than anyone else I knew. I extended

my address and phone number. No reply.

The place she lived in barred me from her sorrow.

I had fled that place because it meant pain

for the only refuge where I’d ever felt at ease.

She knew me here for a time and we shared

joy, clouded because she couldn’t help

returning to her place of pain. I could only know

she stayed somewhere I couldn’t bring myself

to remember, suffering what I couldn’t imagine.


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