Gift Wrap

“May I gift wrap this for you?”
She smiles and nods at first. Then,
“That’s ok, I can do it,” she says.
It’s nothing new.

Maybe she sees my arm
Realizes her mistake
Maybe it will look bad, she probably thinks,
I can do better.

I shake my head,
“No big deal—it won’t take long.”
A reassuring smile.

I tear the paper off the roll
Position it just right, just enough, not too much
Years of practice.

She stays at the counter
Eyes my folds.
Pretends not to, at first.
Reaches over,
“Here, let me help you.”

Her fingers bump mine, obstructing my work.
Don’t touch it, I want to say.
But instead:
“I got it, thanks.”
My cheeks burn like hot embers
Was that rude? I’d hate to be rude.

I push the box against the counter with my stomach.
It sits, pressure holding it steady.
Crease, crease, crease
Crease, crease, crease
Fast to prove something

I hold the corner creases with the weight of my elbow
Reaching around on my right side with my left
Arm stretched wide
To grab tape, ribbon.

I’m a tangled marionette.
It’s always on the right side

I laugh. It’s not as hard as it looks,
After all.

Carolyn Friedman is a writer and gallery owner from Raleigh, North Carolina. Her work has also appeared in Adventum Magazine. When she isn’t writing, you can find Carolyn hiking with her crazy dog, Enzo.

You can see another poem in issue 4.3