The first Space Shuttle launch got delayed until
Sunday, so we had to watch the Shuttle’s return
to Earth in class instead—PS113’s paunchy black
& white rolled in, the antennae on top adjusted
sideways & down for better reception. That same
day, Garrett stole my new pencil box. That same
day, Cynthia peed her jeans instead of going
to the bathroom & letting Garrett steal her pencil
box. Both of us too upset to answer questions about
space flight, so we get sent to the back of the class.
I smelled like the kind of shame that starts a fight
on a Tuesday afternoon. Cynthia smelled like pee
& every-day Jordache. The shuttle made its slick way
back to Earth, peeling clouds from the monochromatic
sky & we all—even the astronomically marginal—
were winners. American, because a few days before,
a failed songwriter put a bullet in the President
in the name of Jodie Foster. The shuttle looked
like a bullet, only with wings & a cockpit, & when
it finally landed, the class broke into applause
& the teacher snatched a thinning American flag
from the corner, waved it back & forth in honor
of our wounded President & those astronauts.
From Map to the Stars (Penguin Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Adrian Matejka. Used with the permission of the author.