I Go Back
Flash CNF by Justin Carter
In my dining room, I paced circles around a table—what I always did when the sounds of the crickets outside the window became too loud—while the stereo played the new Kenny Chesney album track-by-track. When “I Go Back” came on, I started to sing Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane,” not aware that Chesney was about to sing about Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane.” In that second, I thought about about the connections a brain makes, the way things are sometimes known before they happen, but I didn’t think about what really mattered—the sentimentality of both songs, the way they ask us to remember & idealize the places we don’t want to remember, the times we should just forget. That year—it was the summer the Baptists kicked a boy out of church for being gay, the summer my uncle disappeared—the oil platforms in the Gulf, my father said, code word for something he refused to name. The summer our family drove to a small restaurant every Saturday for the fried quail buffet & pretended we had enough things to speak about but ended up watching the muted television, the summer my grandfather’s best friend died, a man named Sam whose son was, at the time, fighting to keep the family cemetery from being covered by the expansion of the highway, a fight they never could have won because the highway needed two more lanes— lanes that still, all these years later, haven’t materialized— the state always telling us patience, patience— & now, Chesney coming on the radio, I still think of the place I’m no longer in— when he sings of funerals, of the young dying, I think of Casey in the back of the construction yard, the tractor tire he was inflating exploding itself & himself, I think of the football player shot outside the county’s only nightclub, of the girl whose name I don’t remember but should— her face turned into a decal on the back of truck windows, into a scholarship fund whose guidelines no one knew, & I think of the junior high coach who jumped from a boat into the San Bernard one April to save his best friend’s child, then never returned from the water.
Justin Carter's poems and nonfiction appear in The Collagist, DIAGRAM, The Journal, Redivider, and Sonora Review. He is currently a PhD student at the University of North Texas. He writes about the WNBA for The Charity Stripe and fantasy sports for RotoBaller.