In eighty-degree heat, my son graduates with an associate’s degree.
He moves on to a four-year school.
We move on to find our chairs.
Nearby, a baby cries.
Make that ten babies.
At the podium, the speaker is a board chair.
I’m bored in a chair. Same thing, sort of.
In the audience, a woman yaps, slinking sideways in front of me across my row.
At times, she hovers like a balloon.
She leans against my chair, casting a shadow over me.
Her helium voice is like a balloon.
My husband leaves to find my parents, who are MIA.
A new speaker, a valedictorian.
A life story with no end.
She lived in a basement apartment in Queens.
Got pregnant three times.
Got drunk a lot.
Five decades have passed in her life and mine.
I bat my eyelashes to stay awake. It doesn’t work.
I kill a gnat instead.
The woman in front of me reads the program cover-to-cover.
She has white hair and a yellow jacket.
She’s not a bee.
The droning stops.
The valedictorian steps aside.
At the podium, a merit award.
The name sounds like “bullshit.”
Bullshit rambles on about resumes, speaking loudly over the murmur of the crowd that is restless and scary.
Heavy perfume wafts across thick wet air, drying my contacts.
Cell phones ring from the chairs.
People answer them and talk.
My husband returns.
He found my parents.
They are sitting two rows in front of us.
How did we miss them?
Behind me, a woman threatens a child.
“I’m going to smack you,” she says.
A rustle and thump from the microphone.
Another merit award hand out.
The MA says, “My wife was the wind beneath my arms.”
“The wind that comes out my butt,” my husband adds.
Next podium person pontificates.
“Time to honor a distinguished dead alumni.”
Oh, God, I hope the dead lady doesn’t speak.
The pontificating continues. “This is a great institution.”
An institution all right.
Dead lady once said,
“I’ve got my foot in the door and am not leaving.”
Maybe that’s what killed her.
Crushed like a doorstop.
Podium guy continues
“She was awesomely human.”
Did he really just say that?
The speaker stops speaking or whatever that was.
Time for the diplomas.
Air horns blare from guests in chairs, as if at a football game.
A child yells, “I love you.”
Screeching from behind.
My ears bleed.
My husband turns around. “Warn us next time. Will yah.”
“Hell yes,” a woman yells.
Somewhere in the distance, a cowbell rings.
The commencement ends.
We find my parents and my son then go for seafood.
My soft shell crab is mushy like my brain.
I wash away the mushiness with a beer.
This time, it’s not a sound check.