My Mother’s Middle-School Yearbook

by Alex Manuel

Some names were highlighted
in a faded yellow marker, and I don’t understand why.
The first few were boys. Initially I thought
they might’ve been her school-yard crushes,
but I doubt my mom had a crush
on her chubby English teacher. In his photo, he wore
glasses that made his ears bulge out.
A jokester chicken-scratched
Dumbo by his name.

I flip to the superlatives,
searching for clues on the anonymous comedian
in the “Smooth Operators” section.
The geeks who wrote their superlatives made
Debbie seem aspirational and Larry
a man-whore, quoting how his only plans in life are
flirting, making money, and then flirting some more.
I can imagine the words graze
his peach-fuzz mustache as a razor
should have but obviously never did.

He wasn’t the only one though;
nearly every male award-winner wore
their faint whiskers with a peacock’s swagger,
as did the female class clown,
whose novelty pencil-stache almost looked real.
I scour the back cover for her goodbye note,
hoping it might match.
It does at first. She scribbled her note but signed off

in a Renaissance man’s calligraphy,
and I can’t tell if her name starts with an f or an s.
Her words hide a suppressed anger
as a modern wedding-veil would a bride.
The phrases always think twice before talking
and between you and I only are underlined.
She added that they should K.I.T., along with
only the last seven digits of her phone-number.
I wouldn’t call, even if I could.
Some things are meant to be kept secret.

Alex Manuel
studies history and English with a concentration in creative writing at the University of Florida, and he currently serves as prose editor for
Tea Literary and Arts Magazine. His work is forthcoming in I-70 Review. Born in Miami, he currently resides in Gainesville, FL, 350 miles away from his childhood dog.

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