The Suitcase

I am waiting for the rain to stop but it won’t let up.
The clouds came in before sunset and now there’s
no telling whether a sliver of light remains of this day.
My ex-wife came by before the clouds rolled in, to pick
up a suitcase in the attic. She’d called earlier
and asked: “Hey, don’t I still have that suitcase
up there in the attic, the real big one?” Without hesitation I said, “Sure,
I’ve seen it up there.” I could’ve seen anything or nothing up there, actually.
There could’ve been gold bricks and marble statues up there.
When was the last time I’d been up there anyways? God, I know,
and I’d like to forget.

She waited for me at the bottom
of the ladder while I went up and got this big gray suitcase –
big enough to pack about three lives in, if you move
around with simply just clothes and shoes and the small rest of things.
What I wouldn’t do to just lug around a sack made out of
a picnic blanket tied to a twig. A bindle, I’ve heard it called.
Shoot the rails like they do in the cartoons or
wherever it was I’ve seen it. But I live this life now,
lugging this suitcase down the severe incline of attic
stairs. It’s heavy, too. It’s burdened with something. I couldn’t
bring myself to look inside, for it’s dark and I’ve no light.
“It’s heavy,” I say coming down. Lani reaches,
puts her hands on either side and pulls. I have to match
the speed which the suitcase moves or else Lani gets crushed
and I fall behind. “Easy,” I say. I pull on it. It gets to the bottom.
“Jesus,” Lani says, “it is heavy. What’s in this thing?” She looks at me
for an answer but I’ve got none. “Find out for yourself,” I say. She unzips
and it’s just as I expected – some of her old dresses,
polished shoes, a brooch pin, things I can’t for the life of me
envision her wearing, drawing any sort of memory which
puts her in those clothes. There’s a tear in the side
of the suitcase, maybe a marble could fit through but that’s it.
Can’t think of anything else of importance that’d slip out, nothing
that small anyways.

They are on the road now, her and her new man and his two kids, all
of whose names I’ve forgotten. The lights of their car had cut through the rain as
it turned out of the driveway, the red lights then disappeared, and I remembered
she had once said she loved his kids as if they were her own.
She had dropped the suitcase back off. Turns out she didn’t need it.
I left it leaning on the wall near the door. She said, “It’s empty now,” as she stood
under the porch awning with the sound of the rain bouncing off the canopy.

This storm is not letting up as I’d hoped
it would. Now I imagine they are in Orlando at the airport waiting in
some terminal. If this storm has reached them, sure their flight
is canceled or delayed. I’d be certain of it. I’d bet on it.

The wind gusts, palm fronds brush against the window
and I’m reminded of not knowing that guy’s name, nor his kids,
or what they even look like. Even
if they stood outside the door wet and pathetic, I wouldn’t know
who they were. But they were in their car where I couldn’t see them,
But I knew they saw me. This guy’s headlights pointed at me
In all my stupidity. It must’ve been quite the sight.
I must’ve met them a hundred times, but still.
There’s no telling where such people come from. Out
of thin air, my father once said, and into your life. But he’s gone now.
It’s been going on for this long, this rain, and it doesn’t seem to let up.
But then it will. It always does. But suppose I can’t count on it.
Just suppose.

Orange Grove

In Central Florida
there’s a highway that cuts through an orange grove
in a town between Kissimmee and Okeechobee.
There is also one big freeze per winter. How do
I know? I’ve been through it,
where on this same road people had covered
their plants and flowers and trees in rejected
bedsheets, the taut ends anchored by
cinderblocks. The outlines of what’s underneath,
apparent. Covered was whatever that couldn’t
withstand that one day, for the new things planted
without established roots deep in the soil.

Through all this I’ve seen in a blur
from my father’s car, from the window
as he drove. He had said if they keep
those sheets on long enough, they’ll
I couldn’t drive yet myself, and if
I could then, then there’d be no telling where
I’d end up. He pressed me to shift gears from
the passenger seat, but that’s as close
as I’d come to driving.

But going down this highway, that road
with the orange grove, there are those
stretching rows of trees and deep-running
gaps between them. During that one freeze
clouded icicles hung from the bright, bright
oranges, and their dark green leaves and
branches. Far into the grove, far from the road,
I saw shapes of men picking the fruit
rapidly, and tossing it down, rapidly,
their heads unmoving, bodies, too,
just their arms reaching and dropping.

My father had slowed down, begun to steer
the truck to the side of the road. The
tires met the unsympathetic dirt and the truck
bobbed. He asked then if I wanted to stop,
pick an orange right there on the side of
the road and eat it. For how badly I wanted to
taste it, the sweet cold juice to dribble on my chin –
how good it must’ve tasted – I said no, let’s
keep going. Good then, he said, and kept on.
No fence separated the trees
From the road. I looked out the window and laid my
hand on the gearshift and listened to the heater rattle.
I half expected him to try and convince me of something,
and I braced so that his words might hit the back of my neck.
But he said nothing and we kept moving.

That night we stopped at a motel as we
had the night before and the night
before that. We’ll make it to the coast
tomorrow, my father called out from the bathroom sink.
From the motel window I could see the parked cars
as they filled every other space, the light coming
from the manager’s office, the dark curtains
blocking in the rooms across ours.
Looming above the street, there was the vacancy
Sign lit up in red neon, above the marquee that
spelled out:
in little black letters.


These cups in the sink
waiting on me to get home.
And they greet me like an interviewer
from HR: Where do you see
yourself in ten years?
at least.

What a question for cups
to ask, in a sink nonetheless,
just laid there by wet hands.

Can I remember even drinking
from you, Cups?
What held within you?
It’s simple to guess – liquid
or something that might turn
to liquid. Water and ice comes
to mind. And easily I can excuse that.
I can leave it there. But there could’ve
been sherbet in you! I’m serious! It
fits in you as well as it does in any bowl,
I’m sure. Imagine chunks of honeydew, now.
Imagine. Stew steak or mashed potatoes. Whipped
cream. Who cares! Having been once filled and
emptied of something
no one else could get at, not burdened
By the expected.
Water! Ha!

The least you could do, cups,
is to stay out, let me speculate,
let us linger for a second. The worst:
you rush to that cabinet with no light
where I can’t hear from you
until I need you to hold something,
not giving a damn where you had been
or for how long you’d been locked up,
to fill you up of my own burdens which
I can’t hold on my own, to empty you
of this again and again, and again,
all over and over and over again.
Until I move and leave you in
The last garbage bag I’ll throw out
from that apartment we shared, because
of some cracks around your rim, cosmetic
damages only, nothing which lessens
what you can hold. Didn’t I see a label
on you once: handwash only? It must’ve
been from my haphazard forgetfulness,
and I’m sorry for that, I really am,
but in the compactor you go with all the
other bits of forgotten things: useless keys,
buttons, screws. All of that
which’ll have no purpose in a new place,
which’ll open and shut nothing.
There’ll be no guessing after that,
just where you’ll

So what’s
your hurry, cups? Where
do you have to be?

Alan Massey is a fiction and poetry writer from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. He sincerely thanks you for reading his work.