by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

I’d leave the house at 5 in the morning, shutting the door discreet behind me. That was a dark time all the year long. No one else awake to see me, no one else leaving that early. No cars crawling half-asleep in darkness, no worried parents offering a ride. I stumped along to wait for the early bus down on the highway. I was a purist. I believed drinking coffee was cheating.

There was no such thing as an AP calculus class at the high school, easy and cozy with everyday classmates.  No other girls at all in the class at the city college. High school dress code banned all jeans, all slacks for girls. Cold air swirled around my legs bared by my miniskirt. Cold even though I almost trotted, wondering if I had missed the bus, if I’d have to hitchhike.

Five times a week, I pushed like a prisoner, Oscar Wilde treading out hard labor. My arms hugging brick-thick textbooks, calculus and physics, civics and Gilgamesh.  Jesus sandals slapping the asphalt mile to the highway, down and up and down again, climbing again when the road gave descent then took it away.  Walking under stars like a Star Trek background, distant and real as the end of the world. Yesterday’s heat lay under the cold like the stale smell air freshener cannot remove. Until the sun cleared the horizon there was only light enough for black-and-white vision. Then came the moment when daylight gave back green to willow leaves, opened up the lived-in world. The long day just now getting started.

A Note About the Author: Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and photographer, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it a lot. Her work appears in venues including Sow’s Ear, Comstock Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Otoliths, Naugatuck, and, Measure. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book, The Book of Knots and their Untying. She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California.