Josh, Once

By Isla McKetta

Before he went away to college—this beautiful boy who’d worn a pocket in his cheek so he could hide, not a key like Houdini (though he had magician’s hands), but Orr’s chestnuts—drove me in his parents’ vintage Volvo to Italian food across state lines. We’d never been close, except once on a school-trip plane. I, his friend’s little sister’s friend, admired his intellect, big blue eyes and serious curls—despite his watching all the parts of A Clockwork Orange. It was lunch, I think, the restaurant not fancy but new—beneath false frescoes on yellow walls I watched his hands, fingers that had taught me airplane gin, though it was his shuffling I admired: precise, fancy—like my grandfather’s. That last day before he left (as in a nostalgic screenplay) he said he’d write. And he did, I think, once, and I wrote back, but home is a long way from the future, and unlike that other boy whose name I no longer remember—the one who showed up on my doorstep with a Fimo necklace and undying sendoff love, (I was the girl they all bid farewell even when we’d never said hello)—unlike him, Josh drove me home with only a chaste goodbye, and I wondered then as I have wondered since—once or twice a decade in Google dives and Facebook follow-ups—if he loved me or I loved him.


Isla McKetta is the author of Polska, 1994 (Éditions Checkpointed) and co-author of Clear Out the Static in Your Attic: A Writer’s Guide for Turning Artifacts into Art (Write Bloody). Isla makes her home in Seattle where she serves on the board of Seattle City of Literature.

FewerThan500 authors appreciate your feedback. Please leave a comment.