Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A _______ Summer

Saddest Summer – The Drums

It started out as one of those summers. Those tire swing summers. One, that when you say you're going swimming, everyone knows where. You're barefoot and only every fifth step hurts. Every fifth day is boring. It's mostly because of the heat though.

A summer that even three swallows in, you still feel like you'll always be thirsty. Water never touched your tongue like that. Time was never on your side like that. It was worth it to make the lemonade yourself. You didn't want to twist off a plastic cap. It was ok to pop off metal caps from glass though. A bottle opened summer. A blade of glass in the gutter summer. A grass blade summer. Stuck to your ankle.

A summer that only makes complete sense in November. On Thanksgiving, when you're bored and hungry right before the meal. When you realize where you're not. When you realize where the warmth is not.

A garden hose summer. Baby sat by automated sprinklers. Not a lifeguard summer. Not a suntan summer. A bike-pedal summer. A temporary bike-chain tattoo on your calf. Sweat pomade. Not a flip flop summer. An occasional tank top summer.

A sticky Popsicle summer, not a melted ice cream summer: a snow cone summer.

A sunlight strained summer. And then a sun-stained summer. Your summer with Carson and Audrey.

You took the job because of Carson. He was years older, but seems a lifetime older. Seems like this was the second time he's been alive. He was sort of a big brother, kind of a coach, pretty much one of your heroes. No. Unnaturally like him too much to be his brother. Listen to him too attentively for him to be your coach. He's not a hero.

You got the job because of Carson. You were a dishwasher. You didn't mind it because outside of working for your uncle, this is your first job. You like it because Carson frequently visits you in the back to hang out. To deride the patrons he was waiting on. The customers whom he would push to the upper thresholds of their tip scales with his charm when he went back out. Carson's charm. Charismatic Carson.

Genetic Carson. A DNA sculpted physique, not an iron earned body. Kinetic Carson. Athletic, but too cool for school teams. Wishes a guitar felt as natural in his hands as a baseball bat. Always wearing a reversible practice jersey from his older brother's basketball team that summer. Usually Away-side out. Under dirty blonde hair. Light and darker like sunny/shady sides of a dune. He knew what they had said about him in school when he didn't play. He didn't care at the time. He cared now. In junior high he had the maturity of a college student. In high school the maturity of a middle schooler. Now at a high school level. When he thought he was acting maturely he wasn't. The inverse as well. Synthetic Carson. Cosmetic Carson.

No one would ever think that. Except you now. Not you then. No one else ever. Maybe that's why he made sure you always got an invitation that spring semester. Why he would let you sleep over on the couch when he kicked everyone else out. You knew him. Like actually. Saw him might be a better way to put it. Maybe it's because he thought you were on the same branch, from the same trunk, of the same roots. You were, but only in your JV sort of way. You'd never live up to him except for where it actually counts. Then you'd surpass. Maybe he just didn't see you as a threat. You moved in with him for the summer hours after your last final.

A watermelon seed summer after a sunflower seed spring.

A college town, but a Southern city. Foremost. A place of drawn out a's. Faces registering decades of recognition. Paragraphs communicated in slowly nodding heads. Biographies and resumes exchanged and retrieved in a hand shake. A city of 10 o'clock yawns. Perspiration, the greatest source of precipitation. Here couldn't provide college kids with a diet of internships or with enough electricity for their LED skeletons.

So they left. For the summer. They were gone. Your friends. Your acquaintances. The people you'd met once. The ones you had hoped to meet. The ones you walked past at the same time each day of the week heading to class. No names for their faces. Really though, Carson was your friends. All you needed. Wanted. Whatever.

He was supposed to graduate. Didn't. Taking summer classes so that maybe by the end of August. You still had three years. No longer a freshmen though. Still pretty much a freshman. A sophomore summer after a freshmen spring.

Bang Pop – Free Energy

After work, the start of summer. Grease stitched in your clothes. Carson, you. On bikes, dusk draping its pink sheet on everything but the shadows. You pedaled, but it felt like you didn't. It felt like youth was pedaling. Like summer was. All downhill and everything had momentum. Like you were being pulled.

Then Aaron. Yours and Carson's friend Aaron. Behind a 4Runner like Sisyphus. Pushing the vehicle with all the force he can squeeze out of wedging himself between the car and the Earth. Movement that was so slow. It seems an optical illusion.

Carson and you slid down the sidewalk towards the scene on your bikes. Dropping them on grass and into a run like you would after playing in the street and then heading in for dinner. You guys on either side of Aaron throwing ambiguous heaps of effort behind the vehicle, not sure, but hoping it helps. The kind of heavy you cannot comprehend, least of all your individual effect upon it. You hear it then. A female giggle from inside the SUV. From the driver's seat. It acts upon something installed deep inside you. It comes again. All of you hear it and when you do, it's like a whip on your broken backs bidding for more strength. She lazily cracks the whip. Unknowing. It makes you guys bleed. Seemingly silent grunts creak out of you like a wooden dock. You three, together, tip the car into a parking lot.

A spool of brown hair and cuffed skinny jeans drops out and bounces back towards you all. Laughs lick out of her. A hand on her face in mostly mock embarrassment. Thank you’s to all. Introductions to Carson and you. Aaron has grown up with her. Seen the thread change, color with different hair dye jobs and texture with their transformation from t-shirts to blouses, as it was slowly spooled into the ball that stood in front of you now. He didn't see her like you saw her. How Carson and you were seeing her. Audrey apparently. No natural nicknames. Audge maybe. It's awkward though. Like trying to take a first bite out of a too large sandwich. Audrey. You wanted to know her on a nickname level. At the very least.

She had been giving Aaron a ride to work. Like siblings. Parents didn't even give them a curfew when they were at each other's house. He was now a half hour late. It was a snow cone stand though. Plus things ran on Southern time. On summer time. No biggie. It was also a snow cone stand.

Rides on the bikes. Carson's had pegs so Aaron was with him. Audrey positioned on your handle bars. A lady of the sea on the front of your ship. Creates a memory that you don't think has stopped playing in your mind since. At least subconsciously. Frequently consciously.

It makes sense that Audrey comes over to your guys' house after so she does. It makes sense to get Audrey a bike so to campus to find one without a lock. It makes sense to bike around town so the three of you end up in the nearest grab bag of mansions. It makes sense to play strip bike tag so you all leave a breadcrumb trail of clothes on the laboratory lawns of the affluent. It makes sense when you're down to your underwear to ride the paths of the golf course nearby so you do. The darkness hugs and the breeze wrapping around your bodies scrubs you clean of angst and anxiety. Because of this moment, tonight, it makes sense that the three of you will hang out all summer long so you do. At some point it makes sense to go home so you do.

It really was a bike summer after that. Audrey's car perpetually placed in that parking lot. Like a memorial to her first meeting with you and Carson. No real thought to usher it to a mechanic. Audrey's calendar was made of minutes and milliseconds. Schedules no more than a blink ahead. Her plan was to take care of it on one of those mornings when one is inexplicably motivated upon waking up.

The size of the city seemed to shrink over the summer. A bike felt just as fast as a car. She lived close. To campus. Her summer classes. Her part-time job as a lab attendant.

Her family was male-pattern rich. His father was a photographer and her mom taught English at a community college. Her grandparents had a weighty bank account from her grandpa's decades doing corporate things at Wal-Mart. With their clay of stocks, mutual funds, and checking accounts Audrey's grandparents had churned out a home spilling over with square footage. A collection of walls they had left in May to return to in August. They were off seeing the chunks of South America they had yet to check off. An estate happening to be in that southern town, in the neighborhood biked in by you three. A house to be watched over by Audrey during their seasonal absence. It was nice, but not too nice. Not second-glance nice. Not daydream nice. Not sell-your-soul nice. Tilted head nod nice. And Audrey there alone. Junior Audrey. She's a junior at school. Junior in multiple manners. Little Audrey all by her lonesome in that large host of negative space.

Small Audrey. Short, but in the way that it was a fact not a definition. Defined, defining. She was Polaroid beautiful. Not photography studio beautiful, photoshop beautiful, fancy camera lens beautiful. Nope. Her looks were best shown in a way where people couldn't make excuses or explanations for it. It's there.

Like her smile. That college girl grin. Naively wise, with a whole life’s worth of possibilities shining through it. When she smiled there was something preordained about it. Like it was always there, but that she decided to throw off the sheet covering it right there in that moment. Pulls back the curtain. The reveal. Most of the time you don’t even notice the act of smiling. It doesn’t appear; it’s appeared. Never see the act, the creation. As if it had been.

Her shape. Like a slender suitcase packed pleasantly full. No fear of breaking zippers. No screaming seams. Not eerily empty. One of these pieces of luggage that make you want to travel just at its sight. Her cinched-bow waist. An analog bag of candy from the grocery store, brimming. Substantially and happily inhabited by sweets. Not a branded bag pumped full of smoke and mirrors air. A candy bag summer. A sugar chapstick summer.

Summer Lake – Thee Fair Ohs

You are not in classes, but they are. They're really not though. An A's an A, but B's and C's have bloomed and ripened over the summer and can be picked from the trees free of charge. It even gets to the teachers. Summer does. The three of you make a rule. For every hour spent in class each week, that same must be spent swimming.

In a skinny street of stream you three immerse. Sometimes among others, mostly not. Near the boat ramp. A tire swing sets the scene for some. Propels the rest. This stream the hypo-chromatic hue of a watercolor paintbrush depository.

A Thursday afternoon, Carson carving through the air into the water off of trees and the tire swing. Sunlight wicking water off you. Audrey beside, a bundle of limbs held together by a towel. Her wet hair, elongated stabs of brown crystal. You feel so young. You are younger even than you feel.

"Why is it more fun to swim here than in my grandparents' pool?" Audrey.

You ask her why it's been more fun to bike rather than drive a car. She laughs. "Good point," her reply. You were asking a sincere question and not making a statement. Carson is suddenly there. A clod of flesh, wiping his hair on your chest. Family pet playful. Laughs forced out of you as if tickled. As if squeezed from a tube. Like Carson's cranking some old timey toy and you have no choice but to react that way. You pry him off, give his shorts a mischievous tug as he walks away. He winks rakishly.

He holes the tire swing. Audrey lays out the same question to him.

"I'm not actually sure it is more fun. In fact, in the name of science, I think we should throw a little pool partay there just to make sure."

"Any excuse for a party, eh?"

"A little shindig at their pool doesn't sound like a good time to you?"

"Mmm...I don't know. Maybe not the right species of good time."

You just watch. Amused you'd say.

"What are you talking about? A good time's a good time. Where's Bawdry when you need her?" You two's nickname for her when she's jocular. Especially jocular that is. She's almost always in a fun mood.

"Bawdry drowned in the water today. I was simply trying to baptize her, but apparently she can't swim. I only wanted her to be a good girl like me." She smiles. "All of that is to say, I will be zero fun for the remainder of the summer."

"Well are we sure Audrey knows how to swim?" Carson jolts up and hog ties her legs with his arms. "Hey, help," and at his command you join. Her arms by her wrists. Down to the water. Back and forth you guys swing her. Threatening at anytime to release her into the wild. The water. A smoothie of screams and giggles from Audrey. You miss sitting and talking on the banks already. You wish you were sitting and talking on the banks again.

She is let down. Says, "I knew you wouldn't have the guts," and then laughs and laughs. Sometimes her words appear as if from the bustling bright-eyed braces of a 14 year old. Other times they're coated with the hieroglyphic lipstick of a 40 year old cocktail waitress.

"You know your grandparents will of course get the invite too."

"You know I don't think they'd be able to jet back to this continent in time."

"Well the gesture would still be made."

A small pause. The sun: an umbrella of summer.

The sun seemed so cleansing. You would shower in its beams and vitamin D. Not water. You never felt clean getting out of the water. Even though it started the flow of sweat. Even though it actually made you dirtier. The ooze of perspiration that appeared. Dried and caught bits of the world in it. A layer of grime. A layer of your day. You told yourself that was the sweat though, not the sun. You reached for the sun. It felt like it was burning off what you didn’t want. Sanding down your skin to that blank stare bronze. Cathartic. Washing with the wind rinsing. Not a summering summer. Not a laying out summer.

You look up at Carson and tell him that it's not a pool party summer, it's a beach party summer.

Heart to Tell – The Love Language

Audrey glances up and down at you. You feel like she's looking at your spinal column, not you. She says, "Exactly." Says it slowly. The word cruises from her mouth. Loiters in the air. Keeps her eyes on you. She looks like some sentence that used to be a statement was suddenly a question to be pondered. So you guys have one, a beach party.

That night at the golf course. In the sand trap. Near the water hazard. With people and umbrellas and coolers and coconuts and tiki torches and rainbow silk flowers and sand sand sand. Carson in a Puka shell necklace. Also in board shorts and a surf company t-shirt two sizes small. He thinks it's hilarious and so do you. Aaron and Carson play ukuleles badly, but happily.

With a finger you draw a couch in the sand for you and Audrey. She pretends to make a big show out of not wrinkling her grass skirt, sitting modestly in it. You tip back your straw beachcomber's hat. Charmed because it was all your idea. She tells you she gets scared staying all alone in that house sometimes. Not joking. Says she knows better, but still. Your eyes to the sky. The stars are more muscular out here. The darkness feels like a container. Stars seem like breathing holes someone poked to keep you alive. She loops her arm through yours. Says she's scared. On your faux-couch.

Later, sitting by yourself in the sand. Thoughts about earlier in the day, swimming. When she catches you by the wrist, a step away from the water, to put sunscreen on you, it's maternal. Jesting, throws a glob on your chest it feels like she's your sister. Her hands, a butter-knife on your back and it's like it might be something more. You tip your hat back even further.


You are little brother content. Baby brother content. It's the best way to be. When you are, it's all a cherry on top. Frosting. You're just happy to tag along with Carson. You're just happy to tag along with Summer. Happy just to be there.

You don't notice the cracks. The pores. The continental drift of character. The plate tectonics of personalities. The weather patterns of egos. The erosion of expectation. Not encased by entitlement. At least not consciously. It all pools somewhere in you though; sewers of your instincts.

Every experience feels nourishing. Falling asleep in the role of Carson's roommate is satisfying. You feel like you learn something important when you trip up the stairs chasing after Audrey. Walking in the morning with the sun behind you and its heat like massaging hands on your shoulders. Lying on your back in the nostalgic tall grass of engagement photo-shoots. Every thought pacing in your head has the potential to reveal the non-existent secrets of life. To become a best friend you might jot down, fold, and tuck away in your mind or your heart or bones forever.

National Anthem – Lana Del Rey

The times that are supposed to be fulfilling, even more so. The Fourth. There you are. Fireworks break the surface in the grayscale pool of sky; frantic, drastic, splashing, dramatic. As if they held their breath beneath too long and couldn't stay submerged underneath for a sigh longer.

With all your friends. Your summer friends. You three among many of them. A neighborhood of blankets. You, Carson and Audrey stacked on one such expanse of fabric. Framed in grass with red flannel wallpaper.

Audrey in the middle. Accidental contact of the shoulders, calves, hips and forearms. The three of you like an octopus outlet. Spits scintilla. It was necessary. Making due. You feel it, but to you it's a sparkler, not actual electricity. Being baby brother content, you don't see it's parlous.

You shouldn't be thinking about any of that anyways. Not today, tonight. Not with fireworks. That sound. The sight. God crumpling your fears into powder and flicking the confetti that remains into the sky. A firework summer. Really though, every summer is a firework summer.

The sounds stop. Then the sights. Smell remains. It's time to leave. Through the channels and canals of people. To your bikes. Follow your other friends on cars. They get caught in nets of traffic. The three of you slide past. You know where to go. A field. Then woods.

You are fertile tonight. Things could take root. You could change. You might look back and pinpoint this night. It's possible. Thankfully these thoughts evade you. You're saved the embarrassment.

A pleasant backstroke chat with Audrey and Carson till the others show up. They do. Call out to you in the woods.

They are handed out. Lit. Lights burst, birthed from Roman candles. People run around. Laughter foaming from their mouths. Screams pulled from their throats like silken ribbon in a magic trick. Take away the darkness, the Roman candles, and this looks exactly like elementary school recess.

Moving diameters of daylight clarity. At each other. Speeds both surprisingly fast and surprisingly slow. You don't aim at anyone. You aim at the inches just past, where atoms switch allegiance from humans to the world. Spinning and stuttering behind and between trees, you wonder what others' crosshairs are on. You lose Audrey and Carson. You lose everyone and yourself.

Your 19 years were simply a giant slide to drop you off at this moment with these people. Lights intersect and traverse. It feels magical. Like wizards and witches. Feels like stupidity. Floating flash bulbs. You breathe in air and it's milk. Pumps of light.

Own personal meteor shower. No, it's shooting stars. You guys shoot wishes at each other. The opportunity for wishes. You all shoot chances for fantasies. Opportunities and offers to fulfill each other's fantasies. For each other. All you have to do is hitch a wish to it. What summer is. What being young is.

The next thing you know you are back home with Carson. He sits on his bed with the mumbling light from his nightstand lamp to his left. You are in the doorway to his room. The living room light that everyone always forgets to turn on or off, behind you. The house is dark besides.

He hasn't seen you're there. He doesn't realize the hollow tornado of confidence this night and this summer tricked you into currently dressing in. Heading for him.

You look at Carson and say words. His spine springs like a mousetrap at the sound of your voice. Within those words you use, you reveal you have feelings for Audrey. For the first time, Carson seems like he doesn't know what to do. Looks like he hopes you'll just walk away and a half-moment before you do, when you later wish you had, he speaks,

"One time my dad asked me if I could come help work on the car. I said yes, but played video games for another half hour. I finally dragged myself out to the front of the house. It was September, dark out. I saw my dad there, at the car, with the hood open. He had a flashlight in his mouth. I don't think I ever respected him more than when I saw him then. I'm not even sure why. I'll never forget that flashlight clenched in his teeth." Pauses, thinks. "Audrey is a super cool girl..."

Carson continues to talk of Audrey in the banal patois of morning show hosts. So harmless. A coil of conversation that amounts to something of a 'good for you.' A few minutes later you leave. You are confused. You had hoped that he would tell you what to do. You are not tired. It’s late. In your room now.

When Carson began talking about his dad you thought he was taking you into a new room. It turned out it was the same old spot he'd always let you in. There was just a new mirror he had put in to trick the eye. On first glance you think there's another room; more space. You hope it's a window at the very least, but no, just a mirror. You are old enough to realize as much. You are not old enough to understand why. You know him enough to see that he's given that same speech before and that most people don't catch that it's a mirror. Not a new room. Essentially left staring at a reflection of the vulnerabilities you brought with you into Carson's room. He thinks you won't notice whose they are as long as there is the presence of some right there in that room. His sense of obligation to match the exposed vulnerability. His solution. You know better. Mostly you know him better.

Brushing your teeth. You hide when your confidence comes looking for you. To you, it acts like a spurned bookie. The racing mind of a realized mistake. A stationary bike. Eventually you will understand your confidence was callow because of the result you expected, not because of surety of what you felt and what you did. There was nothing wrong with that.

Carson slides into the mirror behind you. "Audrey just texted me that she's feeling kinda freaked out. I'm gonna go over and wait with her till she falls asleep or calms down. Want to come?"

You can tell the invitation earmarked by requirement. You decline. Jump into the giant pocket of your bed. Carson heads out. You don't think much of it. You decided to save money for the summer by going without a phone. You weren't planning on having to contact any one besides Carson anyways. His phone is the one she texts.

Growing ur hair out – Sun Sister

Days become more fluid. The liquidity of time that comes from days spent swimming and riding bikes. You guys sit on covered porches too. A few times in air-conditioned rooms.

Promoted to waiter. You're swell. You have the charm of a cup of tea. Sometimes you out-tip Carson.

One night you guys head to the city for a concert. It smells like a coin jar. Lights go on and off to entice you to join, partake. Lights flash on and off to tell you to wait, walk, hurry. Lights flash on and off to tell you to be excited, participate. You're not sure it was worth it to come.

More days. More swimming, more sweating, more bikes. More summer. Less left. The seasonal see-saw tilted down towards August weeks ago. Carson continues to go to Audrey's every once in awhile; when she's frightened. You're little brother content and you only awake from sleep once a day.

Strewn lazily on a couch like clothes hastily thrown during a midday bedroom costume change. Watching a movie. Carson goes to the bathroom. Audrey sits up. She's a knot of knees.

"Oh, before I forget, do you have plans not this coming Friday, but the next?"

You reply hanging out with her and Carson with a laugh. This will be the last moment in your life that will truly be kid brother content. You don't know to enjoy it.

"Well how would you like to hang out with just me? My grandparents are getting back that week and are throwing a huge soiree at their house. They want me to bring a date and I definitely don't want to go to that thing solo. You interested?'

You tell her that you most definitely are. Her question becomes a crux of growth and decay.

"Faaantastic. It'll be the greatest night ever! For sure. Also, don't mention anything to..." she tosses a nod towards the bathroom. "...yet. I just don't want him making a big deal out of it; feeling left out or trying to crash it or something."

You say sure. Looking down you notice the cuff on her cutoff shorts. You wonder how she got the ratio of cuff to short length so perfect. How she got her fray to look so right.

It wasn't really a seersucker summer and yet here you are. You mined the suit out of a consignment shop. A seamstress tightens the screws on it till you're encompassed correctly. Your blonde hair off your forehead for the first time in months. Your mind processing the experience from the passenger seat. Audrey pilots her grandparents’ yacht of a sedan from your place to theirs.

You try not to stare at her, but it is hard. Something’s different. It feels like you're watching a movie you hadn't seen since you were a kid. While walking out the door Carson asks where you're headed. You tell him. He's surprised and you're surprised he didn't already know. You split before additional inquiries can be heard. His reaction was a chore to be put off till later.

The car just now in park. The slacking sun. Makes the sky slouch. The colors in the sky like stretched taffy. To your left their lawn looking like fresh linens. It slopes down and then rims up to include an arrangement of tables and people.

Your hand through your hair. You are nervous, but you're not neurotic so it never occurs to you to not tell her. So you do.

Your hand coming down from your hair. She catches it, presses it. Says the sentence, "You're with me, don't we always have fun?" underlined with a smile. One of her inevitable ocean wave smiles.

The Town – Little Racer

You blink and when you open your eyes. You're at a circular table, with a white lace table cloth, sitting in a white chair. The dress embracing Audrey's body, her cheeks, the roses on the table; all pale, fair, but with the blood of life breathing through. Delicate and indestructible at the same time. Milk with unstirred strawberry syrup swimming through it.

Grass heaving beneath you. Only the geology of crumbs on your plate. Clear glasses filled with clear liquid. Audrey to your left, kicking your leg when she finds something funny in a way that can't be expressed by her body above the table. Jockey’s whip egging on your enjoyment and it works. Her grandparents looking at you with genuine warmth. Their backdrop, a large screen flashing shots of their summer travels in genuine South American warmth.

"How would you like a tour?" Audrey tilts her head towards their booming house.

Stepping over a welcome mat that doesn't say "welcome." You ask if you should take off your shoes and she laughs. That wasn't your intention, but you'll take it. She walks around the house in the swaying trot of a bird usually accustomed to moving through the air. Takes you to the kitchen. You say you like her bedroom. She laughs as you were intending. Going up the stairs, she stops, turns. Says she likes interacting with you. You laugh and she laughs.

Takes you to three different guest rooms. She even shows you her grandparents’ bedroom. Then to her room. It's in a corner of the second floor furthest from the stairs. Doesn't sit so much as falls backward on her bed.

"It's technically a guest room too, but really it's mine." She looks around at it. Appreciates it in a way she hasn't in awhile. You pace the carpet, but don't say much. When you're near her bed you squeeze the bulbous post with your hand. It feels like you might be able to absorb something of value from it. To you it seems like this house has some secret worth you want to understand.

"Sometimes I'm embarrassed of this house, my grandparents." You ask why. "Not for sure. I think it's because, like, I try hard not to be materialistic. Like my parents were hippies and I know that I'm some sort of vague 21st century approximation of that too. That's what I want to be, try to be. You know, just loving music and books...and people. Trying to keep an open mind and be open to experience. At the same time I'm drawn to my grandparents’ world of money and comfort. I don't want to be though. I rarely admit it to anyone. I love my grandparents and all, but I just don't, like, want this." She gestures at the house, but really gestures at much more. "I feel comfortable in it too. I just don't want to. I’m embarrassed, but I secretly am glad I feel it fits me in and am ashamed that it does compel some part of me." Swishes the blankets on her bed. "I think that's why I want to be a nurse. I'm caring for people, but still have a good chance of landing a rich, doctor," she laughs.

This is something you yourself have thought about Audrey before. You thought this was how she felt. It feels both reassuring and strange to hear it voiced back to you by her.

You tell her things. Say that if she likes it, then she likes it. Tell her that the alternative ways of thinking can be just as oppressive as those from the mainstream. Even kids our age who are indie can try to control your thoughts and feelings as much as stodgy status-quo adults. You say that it's ok to like what she likes, especially when so much of it is attached to people and places she truly values.

After you're done. You feel like you talked too much at once. Scuba diving and you wasted much of your oxygen fumbling around. She felt the same too. About herself. It's an unsettling feeling. It's not a bad thing. Taking a chunk of something you thought in your head, felt in your heart and throwing it out to someone else. Creates a vacuum. You feel the rush of matter trying to fill the space. You can sense how the thought isn't there, that a feeling is gone. You've come to live with its presence so you feel off-balance without it. You both do. So you smile at her. Sincerely.

You are on the floor. Your back against some drawers. Ask if you two should head back out. Audrey flings herself flat on her bed, says yeah. Stand up and for some reason you brush your pants off. As if you were sitting outside on the ground. You comment about a door to her left, open the width of a fist. At first she says it's a closet, then says it's a bathroom. Air in the room suddenly perfumed with anxiety. You jokingly ask about getting the full tour. She constructs a laugh, replies that it's just a bathroom. You simply steer the canoe away from the bank because you can tell she doesn't want to get out there. Most people would've pushed it. You start to walk out of the room after her. Look inside the bathroom as you pass. See a mesh jersey on a maroon bathroom mat. It is Carson's, it's lying home-side out. You make a note of it, but don't think of it the rest of the night. It never occurs to you to tell Audrey how you like her that night.

You think about the space you have built for her. The residences people build to house each relationship. Romantic, platonic, familial. How the size or expense of the building reflect nothing about its real value. How it’s about putting together a space that fits the relationship, person, people. People make mistakes in these things. People get lazy with it. Try too hard too. Assembling the right home means knowing the other person; yourself too. The home can be an office, a villa, a series of underground tunnels, a Putt-Putt course windmill. It’s where you want it to live. Where you want you two to live. Whoever those two might be.

You can mess up living in it too. Some people make a palace for someone, but never show them anything more than the front porch. People can also have a palace made for them when they really want a quirky townhouse. Can be erected too small and you get trapped or come down with cabin fever. Created too big and you can’t keep up with maintaining it, the bills; it becomes decrepit. Many spaces are made for the maker and not you; disguised prisons. This is where your relationship has to live. Has to get up in the morning and pour a bowl of cereal. Has to react when it stubs its toe. Has to find a light switch in the dark. Dance around when it’s by itself. Look up from reading a book to see the other person. Shower.

The houses you build for each other. People forget, you two have to exist there. Residences of relationships.

You clutch the post at the top of the stairs before heading outside again. Hope for it to transfer some builder’s wisdom to you. The darkness is contented with its hue for the night. At some point everyone starts dancing. Old stuff.

You dance with Audrey and it feels like she's on your handlebars.

Nowhere – Wild Nothing

Upon waking, you find yourself with the inexplicable urge to tell Audrey how you feel about her. Standing up while pedaling your bike. See Aaron working at the snow cone stand, you decide to stop. You think it'd be nice to surprise Audrey with her favorite: something called Blue Hawaii. All through the summer the three of you at the stand whenever Aaron was working. He would always give you guys the VIP treatment. Just a snow cone stand, but still.

The mornings are slow so he is thrilled to see you. Says he'll take his break and come hang out with you. You only want to go to Audrey's, but he seems excited to have company. Plus you like Aaron. Affable Aaron. Always unshaven Aaron. Sitting at an umbrella'd picnic table. A picnic table summer.

He asks what you did last night and you tell him.

"Sounds magical. I bet Carson probably wasn't that happy about it."

You reply that you agree since you three had done practically everything together that summer.

"That too. To me though, personally, if I'm hooking up with a girl, I feel I should at least get a free meal out of it, right?"

Ask him what he means.

"I mean I would just feel entitled to a courtesy invite."

No, you say you want to know what he means by hooking up.

"Well...Carson and Audrey. Like this summer." Looks at you. "Did you not know?"

He is told you didn't.

"Carson didn't tell you?"

You say he did not.

"Oh," he laughs. "Yeah, well he told me all about it. He said she would text him if she was scared at night, but that he knew what it really meant." He laughs some more. "I figured he would've bragged to you first. Weird."

You had no idea it was anything more. You had this image of Carson dutifully sitting guard on the floor of Audrey's room. His back against those same drawers where you sat. Waiting for Audrey to pass to sleep so that he could head home to do the same. Maybe that was. Maybe Carson made it up to try and impress Aaron.

It’s then a revolving lighthouse inside you. At one pole it shines right at you and you are sure it's true. You think of the jersey, staking its claim. At the other, it is far away and you are convinced that it's not accurate at all. He, she, and they wouldn't. Not this summer. Not this lighthouse summer. You also feel everything in between. The light keeps rounding. It is surprising to you how quickly it rotates through all the degrees of realities. How you can sincerely believe all those degrees of reality at different moments; in such a short span. Completely buy it at the same moment you begin transforming to believe something modified slightly.

A vehicle pulls behind you. Its engine breaths on you. Emits a honk causing you to jump. Turning around you see Audrey in her car waving like crazy. She gets out.

"You know for some reason when I woke up today, I was super motivated. So...I decided to finally get the ole thing fixed." She pats it. "And look! Good as new. I already forgot what was wrong with it, but apparently it was not a big deal. An expensive not a big deal, but hey it's working."

She is excited and has lots to say. Doesn't give anyone else a chance to speak.

"I'm glad I saw you two here. I was actually heading out of town. My grandparents surprised me with a ticket to Arizona to see my parents. It was kinda last minute. I'm on my way to the airport now, but I have a few minutes to spare and I'm so happy I'm not leaving without saying bye!"

Aaron and you welcome her to your table. You pass her the snow cone. She pats your leg, but it feels like a bear patting a human. Mauling the person though it actually thinks it's just being playful.

You try to converse with her. Talking is thick. Pasty. Used to have the sinewy savvy of a family business. Muscle memory you didn't know you had. Now an assembly line. Designed. Predeter'd. Your mind, translating the tribal language of your heart into English. So Audrey can understand. Usually they talk the same dialect so you don't have to think about it. More than just translating though. Not really translating. Laced with compounds of diplomacy. Bowdlerize. Words commercially packaged for a targeted demographic. A person.

Talking about the fun times from this summer. You hate it. It's a clip show. It's the last thing you want to be talking about. It's directly related to what you want to be talking about. The lighthouse.

Then Aaron, "I thought your little trio was closer than what you apparently are." You look up at Aaron knowing what he's about to say and not sure whether or not you want him to, here, now. Audrey looking innocently perplexed. "Someone had to find out this morning from me about yours and Carson's little friends with bene's sitch." Points faux-covertly at you. "Was this classified information or what?"

Your eyes slide to Audrey and hers are digging into the wood of the table looking for some ancient answer. Sawing for spare parts. Drilling an escape route. The normal time for a response runs away. Sawdust and wood chips accumulating on the table.

"Audge?" Aaron asks. You wonder if it was a childhood nickname, if her parents call her that. Never heard her referred to as such before. The social cue sprints off again.

"Oh man. I just looked at the time. I gotta go. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for whatever stupid conversation you were wanting to have later, Aaron." She corkscrews from the picnic table. Her eyes turn from Aaron to her car, but for a pulse, between them, they are on yours. They don't look guilty at all. Just passing over so she could maybe see the reflection of what you saw. What you see. Are seeing. It's then, for sure, you have everything you need to know. Her eyes finish their circle and they’re away from you.

Bedbedbedbedbed – Deleted Scenes

The unapologetic hands of the workmen as they industrially scrape the sentimentality from your ribs. They say it's their job. It'll be better this way. Get testy when you linger. Tell you they don't work for you. It's true. They don't.

Audrey drives off on her in her 4Runner. It's self-powered. Doesn't need three men pushing it anymore.

The deconstruction. It was a boat. A ship. Wouldn’t have seemed out of place next to a yacht or a Coast Guard vessel or in a cove in nowhere.

You say you should be off too. Aaron doesn't think anything of note has happened at all. Audrey being Audrey. Classic Audge. He hasn't felt anything except the extraction of injected synthetic strawberry from ice. He absentmindedly shakes his strawberry snow cone. Strawberry syrup in ice never sounded good to you. Strawberry in milk though.

Realizing halfway home that Carson is working you turn around. You know it's important to get to Carson before he has been warned. Before he has time to make bullet points. To not give him a chance to think himself from intelligence to stupidity.

The poles are now about blaming. Carson, Audrey, them, you. The rotation. The lighthouse.

She was afraid. Terrified even. Audrey meant it when she said she was scared. She told both of you the truth. Independent truths. Two truths, no lie. The lie she saved for herself.

She told you of her real fear. The rationally irrational fears of phantasmagorical fiction. The burglar casing the house from the garden. The fugitive eyeing the gazebo for cover. The ghost you only see behind closed eyelids.

With Carson she told of the same fear, but meant a separate kind. The irrationally rational fear of the dust settled truth. The muscular arms that hurt and hug with the same strength. The aging body that needs a subscriptional reminder of worth. The razed soil that might not ever get planted.

One brand of fear ebbs and passes like television commercials. Changes with the cast of a fishing pole. Finds comfort in the universality of it. Lies, but they’re for everyone.

Too much imagination. Lack of imagination.

The most perpetual fears require the most immediate fixes. Baths of band-aids. Treats a human heart like a child's game with blocks and shapes. Lies, but they’re only for you. Makes them even more terrifying.

At the age where girls stop believing all the true things about themselves and guys continue believing untrue things about themselves.

You think about them talking. You wonder if it was flirting or just banter. You hadn’t noticed anything at the time. Really though, what makes flirting flirting and banter banter, is whether the bulldozer is pushing it to the recycling center or the garbage dump. You forget which one is which.

Carson wanted her because it was the best movie playing that weekend. You wanted her because it was a film you'd been waiting years for.

You knew you were more for her. You did. You were. Sure of it. There was a room she wouldn't let you in. How funny, because you were her preferred houseguest. Her favorite houseguest. He wasn't even a houseguest. Simply a plumber. A maintenance man. To do what she was scared to ask of you. What she didn't want to ask of you. Of anyone. What she needed to be done to keep up the appearance of an orderly running residence. She gave you a tour too. There was a room she didn't let you in.

You walk into the back. The kitchen. Carson is sitting on a stainless steel counter, talking to the cooks. You ask if you can talk to him. Says yeah and the cooks go back to work. A little after 11 so the establishment is mostly empty.

You ask him why he didn't tell you about Audrey. You see him age before your eyes. It is hard to tell if he ages forward or backward. If he seems old and beaten down or young and puerile.

At first he is philosophically apologetic. "Hey man, I'm sorry. I just didn't know what to say. I never meant for it to happen or to hurt you. Sometimes darkness promises to tuck your sins into bed for you. It tells you it's ok. That it'll adopt your mistakes and assume responsibility for them. You know, it's night and you're alone with a girl you have feelings for and..."

"Cars!" He is called away to work. You wait for him.

He comes back and you ask him if he really liked her. Instead he starts acting like it was out of respect for you.

"I just couldn't stand to let you down. I was scared. Really scared to not be the guy you thought I was. I liked seeing myself in your eyes and I didn't want to destroy that. I didn't want to confirm that I wasn't because I was scared I wasn't. It's one thing to not want to be something that I know I'm not. Like I don't want to be hunchbacked, but I know I'm not so it's nothing. I don't want to be a scared little boy, but I'm scared I..."


Called back to work again. Carson returns and you ask him if your relationship with Carson is just about making him feel good about himself. Instead of answering that, he is bitterly defensive.

"You know what? I tried to apologize to you, but I think it doesn't matter to you. You're just looking for an excuse to punish me. Sorry I liked her and actually was man enough to go for her. Sorry she went for it. I don't know what else to say. It wasn't that big a deal. You have got to grow up and stop being such a starry-eyed kid. Don't think you know me. Don't think because of our time together you should know everything about me. You know it's not that big of an issue so give up trying to make it one. Drop it. It's what's best."

"Carson!" he is called out again.

You now understand exactly how he feels. This third time he talked. You find it hiding underneath every sentence he just spoke. How each one was the opposite of how he really felt. The lighthouse. Mirrors. A reflected beam. The rooms we build. Spaces that house our relationships. A mirror. Lighthouse. Written in reverse. Mirror image. A one room lighthouse. One of those. Lying lighthouse. Didn't know there were those.

"Hey," Carson pauses with his hand on the door; about to walk out. "Leave. I'm not coming back here to talk. I'm tired of talking to you. What else do you want from me? I've had tons of skinny little freshmen following me around like a puppy. Just leave me alone."

My Boys – Taken By Trees

You smile. Laugh a little. No longer care about asking him prosecutorial questions of timelines and actions and motives. You turn before you see him go through the door.

Go to your bike. The sun grabs you immediately. Squeezes you until sweat comes out. You think about the Roman Candle war, how you lost track of who everyone was out there. Those terrible moments when friends become pronouns.

It is a summer. Do the only think that makes sense at the time. You go out to the swimming hole and jump your bike into the water.

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