Every morning, our feet take stretches of road
like pages, like pavements that have not yet
born our words, our miles, our smiles,
our tears. We reach up, we reach out,
we bring wheels to asphalt hoping that the next day
is not split in two by a fissure crack –
or two, or twenty –
of heartbreak. Yes, we humans chase pavements. And we
do it again, and again, and again. I do it every morning,
trying not to look behind me.

This morning, I read newspaper articles about you, and I
rewind. I am sixteen. It is the dark of morning
on a school day. I hesitate
to let feet fall out of a well-worn bed and
connect with hardwood floor. Underneath my heels
my words and tears lie sleeping under
a rug of ragged jonquil, tucked away to dream
between white college-ruled pages hidden between
the covers of a scarlet folder. If you were
to pry the journal from its resting place
or from my paranoid brown teenage fingers,
you would know the reason my feet
wish to sprout wings and fly instead of
connecting with hardwood floor,
or pavement, or tile: they pick on me,

Sixteen. Or fifteen. Or fourteen. It doesn’t matter. I am
always sandwiched between two glass walls,
both of them rigid, algid, and unforgiving. From
both sides, they throw stones: the kids at school
making target practice out of a frizzy-haired mixed girl
who prefers Greek mythology and
building temples of mental worship out of books
instead of malls, clothes, and boys –
and my family lobbing boulders at me demanding to know
why I cannot be normal. I will not know until I am thirty-four
that the thing marking me for target practice is named
Asperger Syndrome and that its double-helix magic
is why I will never be normal. But in the meantime, I write poems,
trying to construct new pavement for my feet to follow
over the river choked with steel-mill chemical blood
and past too many apartments and houses that have seen
my nightmares.

What do your scars look like, Lynda?
Mine look like the edges of the lockers into which
I was shoved. My bruises are
shaped like triangles with ninety degree angles
from the shoulders of water fountains. I have
a detention slip hidden behind my spleen from where
a boy tormented me so bad that I cursed at him
in front of a teacher. And despite the fact that
I have learned to love the autism in my cells,
I still sometimes slide eyeballs to one side like abacus beads
with nimble-fingered precision and aim satellite ears
in the direction of a look or a whisper. I am thirty-five
and I still sometimes wonder if there are spider web rumors
weaved out of my synapses, blood veins, and eccentricities that
glisten in sunlight behind my back.

You took the road out of Escondido, chasing pavements
all the way to Syracuse. My feet found a bridge, crossed
that poisoned river, and followed a scholarship road
made out of yellow brick and which ended in Bowling Green.
But there are blistered off-ramps like nerves
poking out of my spine, each of them leading to
an early exit. Seventeen. Twenty-three. Tombstones
waiting for my name. Forks in highway with
still-born poems and unanswered propositions
lying by the side of the road, not even marked by
crosses or flowers. Do you have off-ramps too?
And if so, do you ever look back,
marveling at how you never took them?

Written 5/21/12
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #106, Fork in the Road. It was also written inspired partially by Adele’s song “Chasing Pavements” and the story of Lynda Frederick, a woman bullied during high school who wrote a poem to her classmates on the Facebook page for her high school class’s 25th reunion. The excerpt I read of her poem online as quoted from the Huffington Post was heartbreaking:

that little girl who came to school with the clothes she wore the day before
instead of asking why.. you picked on her
the little girl who had to walk to school while others rode the bus
instead of asking why.. you picked on her
the little girl who had bruises and was dirty
instead of asking why.. you picked on her
the little girl who was always crying
instead of asking why.. you picked on her

Thinking about her and my own experiences with bullying made me wonder about roads never taken. Sometimes, the off-ramps should be avoided. I almost crashed and burned on the shoulders of a couple of the off-ramps in mine, and I sincerely believe that had it not been for God and my now-fiance’s prayers, I would not be here.

I salute Lynda’s courage in writing her poem, addressing those who bullied her. I have never had the idea nor the courage to address my tormentors from high school, and I don’t know if I will ever address the people who made my life a living hell during that time of my life; instead, I pull some of that shrapnel out of my heart, grind it into ink, and use it for my poems. I hope that more of us come forward, tell our stories, and bring attention to the damage that bullying causes. Perhaps we can find a way to end this problem and the heartbreak it causes. We don’t need anymore young people like Phoebe Prince or Justin Aaberg believing that there is no end or hope in their sufferings.


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
This entry was posted in Asperger Poetry, Ekphrastic, Music, Poems, Prompt Poems, WWP Prompt Poem and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Pavements

  1. Pingback: Bullying, Chasing Pavements, and Asperger Syndrome « Woman With Asperger's

  2. CJ says:

    Amazing poem. I’ve been there too, Nicole. The worst was in elementary school, grades 6-8. In high school, I made friends. Fortunately, my high school was not a bullying environment.

    Unlike Lynda, I could never write a poem like that and share it with my elementary school tormentors. Frankly, I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that they had such an impact on my life. My priority now is to heal myself, not enlighten them.

  3. Irene says:

    Seventeen. Twenty-three. Tombstones
    waiting for my name.

    The last stanza is particularly powerful, Nicole. I just read a book, which had someone jumped off a cliff because of bullying. Bullying in all guises is really what destroys a person on the inside.
    Good to see your body of work on Asperger’s syndrome is growing.

  4. Pingback: Reblog: Bullying, Chasing Pavements, and Asperger Syndrome - Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

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