Arnisha Royston

i bought a gym membership. worked out on the same machine in the same corner everyday. there is a man
that likes to workout two machines down from me. i thought about waving at him. i don’t think he’d wave
back. i am afraid of this kind of loneliness. i’m still learning to slow the inhale of my lungs before they
collapse. i am collapsing all the time. sometimes i can see the sun fall behind the brick building next to
the window. i like watching from the window. 

i once watched a man open his car door with a wire hanger. some people are fearless or reckless or
thoughtless. i thought someone might think he was breaking in. that the car was not his. that they would
call the police. that he might die in that parking lot with a wire hanger in his hand. so many things look
like guns. 

i think he might be sleeping in the parking lot. i think about his family. i wonder if they have big dinners
around wooden tables. with fried chicken and crying babies. i wonder if his family knows he is sleeping
in a car. how many dinners will they have before they notice he is missing. 

i live in an apartment too big for one person. there is too much space not to think about having a family. i
think about asking him if he has somewhere warm to sleep at night. i already know the answer. i do not
ask the question. i want to pick my own family invite them all in. let them curl up under the blanket. i
would be sick if i brought home all the things i wanted.

i want to stop writing. buy an old vinyl record player. and listen to old music when i clean or read or cook.
i want to learn new things. like ice skating. feel the cold ice against the metal. hear the scraping as i glide by. there are enough poems and too many things left to write about. to keep writing. 

i want to fall and become ordinary. in 1992 two months before the L.A riots my brother was born. my
mother’s largest baby. lungs full of mucus. he came out fighting. fist balled and arms up. black men are
always fighting something or someone. or nothing at all. 

i think she used to stand next to the kitchen window holding the baby. looking for the things she lost.
waiting for them to return. there is a riot going on outside. a black man is beaten by the police and my
father is missing. the older two and the baby. all boys. she is scared of losing them. she will never say it.
what it’s like to wait. and wonder. 

i like to watch things. to run and forget the treadmill. and the gym’s black walls. why would they paint the
walls black and have white clocks? i try not counting the minutes. to run for as long as i can. and look out
the window and watch the things that cannot watch me back. 

there is a man. he is black standing at a car with a wire hanger and a screwdriver. i think about the police
and the people thinking about calling the police. there is a man two treadmills down from me who looks
like he would call the police. 

i think about my father and how he drove a cadillac. i wonder if he ever slept in a parking lot. if he got
lost in 1992. i know he was homeless before. slept in a small room in the front of his aunt’s house. all our
baby pictures under a large piece of glass. i think the man in the parking lot looks like my father. how he
looked when he was missing. when my mother and the baby waited by the window.

Arnisha Royston

ARNISHA ROYSTON  is an emerging poet from Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Literature from UCLA and is currently obtaining an MFA Degree at San Diego State University. She aims to extend the understanding of poetry and its relationship to the African American community, through her experience as a writer. Arnisha’s poetry can be found in Zone 3 Press, Michigan Quarterly Review, Los Angeles Review to name a few. 

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