Alex-Quan Pham



Summer Night

It’s a summer night,
and the air is cool and comforting,
as if it’s apologizing for the smothering heat of day.
I sit down on a patch of dead grass,
my arms wrapped around my legs,
knees to my chest.
Tall pine trees tower around me,
standing vigilantly,
like sentries on guard.
There is a musky scent in the air that reminds me of Grandpa’s favorite cardigan.
The scent of safety.

A plane roars overhead,
and I answer its call,
raising my head toward the night sky.
What I see is a love affair.
Between the sky and the sea.
Mirror images of each other.
Like the Greek boy Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.
Both images vast, beautiful, infinite.
Everything feels like it is one.

I try to picture the people seated in the plane.
There is a small, elderly woman,
of 76 years,
bound for New York City,
for her older sister’s funeral.
There is a 13-year-old girl,
tall for her age, gangly,
a child born somewhere in the middle amongst her nine other siblings,
quietly weeping for her father,
thinking no one can hear her,
bound for New York City,
for his funeral.
There is a 17-year-old boy,
lanky and pensive,
also bound for New York City,
looking down at the earth, at me,
as I look up at him.
And as he is looking down from his window seat,
I wonder if he knows there’s another 17-year-old boy,
lanky and pensive,
bound for New York City,
looking up at the sky, at him.

The plane flies out of sight,
leaving behind it a trail of scattered stars.
Like distant burning halos,
illuminating the velvet darkness.
Sometimes,
I think,
if I look hard enough,
I can see the twinkle in Grandpa’s eyes.

As I look up at him,
and he looks down at me,
I wonder what he’s thinking.
I wonder if he sees Mom quietly weeping,
when she thinks no one can hear her.
I wonder if he knows I miss him.
I wonder if he misses me.
I wonder if he knows that I’m 17 now,
lanky, pensive,
bound for New York City.
I wonder if he knows that summer nights are my favorite time of the year,
because it’s when I can best see that twinkle in his eye,
and it’s when the scent of the trees is strongest.
I wonder if he knows I still wear his favorite cardigan,
and that it still carries the scent of safety.