Precedence ~ creative nonfiction by Kathryn Pratt Russell

There’s a place where my mind goes to attenuate. I can call it “Paris,” because that’s what exchange students call it when they’re traveling through its metro stations. They can get all the way out to the country and its terrifying rural confectioners, before they know they’ve left the city. I’ve seen them looking purposeful, in a way I could never simulate, as I try to get close enough to the station map to find my route back to city center. 

When I’m lucky, my mind drops me off in a vintage hotel, settling at the corner of the Boulevard and a pop-up Renaissance Fair. If I turn the proper corners and locate the pillared side hall and wine-colored carpet, I can emerge on the Rue le Marquis, or d’Orleans, or something else decrepit. Here’s where the thin French lady with gray-streaked hair commands the bakery, which operates by strict precedence, and by rules governing self-service with plastic tongs. It’s easy to enter the bakery, but something has drawn the employees away from their stations. I will not get an éclair or pastry at this time. 

I don’t like it when my mind drops me on the north side of the ruins, marble and smoky piles evoking miniature Rome, or grandiose New Orleans cemeteries. If I can traverse the ruins, I’ll enter the safer place, the wealthy university’s groomed campus, with dorms where I can secretly stay in a spare room, tiny and chaste. In the morning, if I can find the right floor of the Edwardian administrative building, someone might listen to me and help me move on from here.

Kathryn Pratt Russell has published poems in Gargoyle, Black Warrior ReviewChelsea, Red Mountain Review, and elsewhere, and her chapbook will be published by Dancing Girl Press in July 2021. She teaches literature at Clayton State University outside of Atlanta.