Emily Kendal Frey

Five Alive

As I drove down Williams Street a woman yelled at me. You suck! she said. I felt the white onion in my chest. I choked for a minute on its bulb. I do suck, probably. I have done bad things. I drink too much coffee. I don’t call my dad. I know that what I want is for my dad’s long velvet arm of love to drape over me. Yet, I don’t call my father back. When I was six or seven I said I’d be an architect. The adults watched us from the dining room as we played. It was a performance. I’ll be an architect, I said, and moved blocks around. When I visited my cousin in Boston I bought a maroon Harvard sweatshirt. I’ll go to Harvard, I said. I’ll be an astronaut. Are you gay, my mom asked. It seemed like my mom wanted me to be gay. In fifth grade we had a club called Five Alive. It was five girls. I think we were in love. Our moms dropped us off for sleepovers. I don’t know what we did. It was very important, very intentional. On the blacktop, at recess, we almost couldn’t speak. No one sucked. I make food and don’t eat it. I watch it on the countertop. When I am hungry, I circle in. That feeling where you feel you may die if you don’t have a person. Shrapnel on the side of a mountain. What if I do not have you and you do not have me? I listened to reggae with the older kids at summer camp. I lay back in the dark and felt the boy near me—his wet wheat smell. Maybe if I stay very still, I thought. A darkness will descend that is our radius. Him and me. We will be invisible. My parents got divorced. My dad got a phone with a long cord and talked on the phone to his new girlfriend. We lived in a new yellow house. He bought donuts and chocolate milk. My sisters wanted to watch movies. I went to the kitchen to get us what we needed.


Emily Kendal Frey lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several chapbooks and chapbook collaborations. THE GRIEF PERFORMANCE, her first full-length collection, won the Norman Farber First Book Award from The Poetry Society of America in 2012. Her second collection is forthcoming from Octopus Books in 2014.