Your voice: dry as summer grass. Yellow, the tips of your words. Your teeth black and wet until the last slime of chewing tobacco splats on the concrete. Warm that pavement, as always; thank you to the Southern sun.
We are a weird tribe. I love you, I think, as I watch you scuff too big wood chips over the smear of tar on the drive, so your dad won't notice later on. You've got a face the sun paid more attention to--as I do-- my girl. And you've got a mind as unsoiled as summer lightning.
My bike’s the green one. It's turned half sharp draped over your orange old Huffy, and the two new boys from the beach calmly roll a joint beside them. I tap my tire and watch the spokes spin and wait to get high.
We found them, earlier beside the sea, draped in spray –salt kings and young-shaped with those groves by the hip bones. Yum, you said. Zebra Shorts with the black hair and the boring face asked me for a knife—these boys are always trying to tackle the Latin gang baby-faced fighters, in their minds only. But it's not a bad way to get a girl to talk back.
The blonde bigger one with the yellow shorts went for you because you're a blonde beach thing—oh man how I wish I was one.
His nose looked like it broke sometime, for something, someone. Now the beach towels are on the tarmac in the dead end of your cul-de-sac. Sand sprinkled like lost drug dust, pale against that hot black. I love the burn of the road. Everything smells better when it's heated up. The weed, green as serpent muscle and strong, sparked and lit, passed between our sweaty fingers. Sweat rolls in a clear crystal ball down the soft underside of my arm. I don’t wipe it away. You suck the smoke up your lips petal pink and I think of a fire burning through the clear summer world inside you. We all swallow hard and sit easy. Zebra Shorts sits close to me, his knee knocks mine. I lie flat on the road and tell them: Imagine if the sky was really the sea, imagine if we were drowning, imagine if we learnt we could breathe underwater and live forever preserved in salt and grime—the new merpeople of a soon to be apocalyptic world, because isn’t the end the one threat that never goes away?
The sun slants orange and purple light now, we’ve been outside for days, nights — we are the wild life too. We look better in the dusk, under the rule of its magic shadows. The boys have an old Infinity parked at the end of your dad’s driveway, in the space where his truck usually is. We leave our bikes in your garage. The car is black and dirty and the right headlight is crushed like a soda can. You and I sit in the back; the seats stick to our fleshy thighs. I know I should be scared, riding in cars with boys we don’t know. But we’ve been invincible before. We swim in the dawn hours when the bull sharks go hunting; we’ve shown our bodies naked and budding to those grey-nosed monsters— I’ve dreamt their teeth crunched me to floating nothing, and I’ve woken up panting and good.
The one level houses of Jupiter, Florida are crushed under the weight of sun. All is a blur through the window mottled with patterns of old rain. We turn into a lonely looking neighborhood when we reach the Farms. Grass and grass and grass and finally a house that defies hurricanes; all wood and glass and forearm thin beams supporting a wide porch.
The car crunches over gravel. I hear the taut clang of a chain fence. You turn your red eyes to me and smile. We follow them up the porch steps; Yellow Boy keeps his wasted eyes on us as we walk inside. He smells sweet like weed and deceit, drugstore aftershave as blue as pool water. The house is ranch long and stairless, furnished an Arizona orange and red- a 70’s vibe; I think of the parents, over the hump of youth, with their patterned cushions and carefully bought lamps. My paranoia wanes. These are high school boys, not killers.
They show us the yard. A sugar-colored horse is folded quiet in the long grass, its dinosaur neck curls around to its back so it can chew at the touch of flies. You’re beautiful so they pay attention to you more, their side-looks search for your shape and the scissor blade bones in your face. They don’t know your son is probably awake now and asking for his ma, your mom putting on cartoons for him and a cushion on the floor because he always sits in front of the set with his little neck bent upwards.
It’s dark outside the windows.
At midnight the boys drive us home. We find a kitten in the mangroves. I hold it in my hands as you go through the cupboards in the kitchen looking for a can of dog food.
Later on that summer (maybe that is why you're always summer to me) you go through the windshield of Kelsey’s car. I called her a slut that one time, and I am sorry I can’t say sorry. She was on pills, already unearthed- floating high above the danger of the highway, halfway between worlds- I imagine her slipping easy like a released balloon. I think your death was hard. I saw the tire tracks black on the road, and I thought of the day of the Beach Boys, the smear of wet tobacco fresh from your mouth.
The kitten is a cat now, it’s mean and quiet and lives outside most of the time. In August, when the air shudders with heat, it lives in your mother’s garage. Your son is five. It’s good for him to have an animal. I take him to the beach every day after school when your mom is at work.
It’s an evening warm like most others; we’ve collected more beach glass to put in the jar your mom put on the mantle, next to your freshman yearbook photo. The waves are more curly than usual; we had a hurricane last week. Navy and white, navy and white, the water is impassively violent. I watch your son hurl sand into the fray, his little body upright then bent against the power of the wind currents, his ankles buried, the sea rushing to and receding from his hands. Sometimes I look for the beach boys and their beat up black Infinity but I haven’t seen them since. If I do, I’ll catch an arm of whoever is closer, pull them towards me, remember her? She was it.