One Last Look

Emma Hodges, Grade 12, Haddonfield Memorial High School


Boxes, bags, books that you will “maybe have time to read” but you will not

Folded-up sweaters and jackets in hand-me-down bags for little cousin Abby

Mom says, “Down in Georgia, you will not be needing those”

Pieces of home – a family portrait in an antique frame, memories fast and fleeting

Pieces of the future – a bed and a fridge from a doll’s house, small enough to fit in a dorm room

Numbers upon numbers saved in a cell phone, because you will “call every day”

Bottles of shampoo and tubes of lipstick and extra blankets for December

Even a stuffed elephant, your first Christmas gift

Eighteen entire years in the bed of a pickup truck.

Everything that you could possibly need is packed, every box has been checked

So what is it that makes you run up that creaking staircase and check one last time?

A little white lie, an item you have “forgotten”

A lie that is worth that one last swing of the back porch door

One last bark of the dog as he hears the unique and particular sound of your footsteps

One last climb from the bottom of the staircase to the top.

When you were five, you refused to sleep in this room alone

You cried until she came back and rocked you to sleep

When you were ten, she convinced you that there were no monsters under the bed

You woke her, only sometimes, after a scary movie

When you were fifteen, you never left that room, you “just needed to be alone”

Well now, you are.

If in that dorm room you call out at night, she will not hear you from five states away.

A long distance call is not the same as a warm embrace

You wish you had cherished the eighteen years you spent with her being right across the hall

Love cannot be packed in a box or a bag, and you realize this now during one last look

One last look at the last eighteen years of your life.