Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Dear America

Dear America
Photograph via Flickr by Stef Schrader

Dear America,

Years ago I had a boyfriend I gave my pin number to so he could go to the store for me and buy me cough medicine. I didn’t always read my bank statements so I didn’t know that after that he kept slipping the card from my wallet to make withdrawals from my savings account, which I had a lot of money in because my dad died when I was young, and the government gives you money for that. I must have known something was happening because bright patches of eczyma bloomed and scabbed on my arms and I had to wear long sleeves. I was student teaching, and I was terrified standing up at the board until a student asked me a question I had known how to answer for years. I had a black skirt and matching blouse covered with pink flowers and a blue and white dress that looked like it had something to do with sailing. Once when my boyfriend picked me up in my car which I was letting him use because he didn’t have one, there was a box of baking soda spilled on the floor of the back seat. It reminded me of drugs, which is what he was using it for, but then I thought no, that can’t be right. Sometimes you don’t know what you know. I have written about this before, America, but perhaps I have not been fully honest. It’s time to say that I was young but not so young that I shouldn’t have known what a lie was. Canker sores grew inside my mouth like those magic rocks my brother and I put in a fishbowl and watched every morning to see how much they’d grown. It hurt to talk. My boyfriend said he was going to school, so I dropped him off at the community college where I work now. I remember the exact spot on the grass where he sat when I came back to get him, wearing his argyle vest, having never been to class. I like that I pass his ghost every day to enter building 5 and teach people how to support their ideas with evidence. The thing about fooling someone is that America is beautiful. Once when I was a child at camp, I was swimming in the lake and I looked up at the mountains and they were purple just like the song said. America, I am wondering now if the nice people I see on the streets and in the stores think you can say anything if it’s in a locker room. That violence is okay if it’s hidden. That you can buy a woman cough syrup and drive her to work and make her the stuffed mushrooms she likes from the restaurant where you met and play her “Nightswimming” by R.E.M., all while you slowly take everything.