October Moon

The memory of a shed that was once someone’s home fills my head. The sound of glass breaking. You broke the window with a blanket wrapped around your hand. We slipped into the abandoned house. It stood in a little field that pylons had been built around. They looked like giants come to kidnap us. Flowers and wires. I remember the feel of your fingers as you led me into the dark. We had flashlights. Lightning bugs and moths followed us inside. I was scared, but was trying hard not to show it. You were so brave, and I wanted to be just like you. A spritely grin on your face. The cockeyed smile ripe with mischief. The floor was sticky. The wood was warped and the varnish had faded over years of abandonment. Our tiny bodies filled the small space. I remember the smell of wet dirt from the night before and weeds that crept through the gaps in the floorboards. Little purple and blue and yellow flowers, some soft and others sharp, in a haphazard polka-dot pattern. We tried to avoid the prickling from thistles. We could see our breath. The October Moon and its stars, the bugs on the floor, and a passing rabbit were our only audience. The giants stood sentinel. We thought we were such rebels that night, unfolding a second blanket and propping ourselves up on skinny elbows. We tilted the lights up to show our faces to each other. You showed me how to smoke a cigarette. Your brother had taught you and you were proud to teach me something taboo. I hated it. It made me cough; it made you giggle. I demonstrated how to kiss, using the palm of my hand. I had seen it on TV. We chomped on Watermelon Bubblicious. Our favorite. We tried our best to scare each other with stories of wolves and ghosts and Bloody Mary. We heard barking in the distance and tittered over shivers. You laughed, throwing your whole body into each sound, a rhythmic shudder of pure joy. I laughed with my eyes, afraid someone would hear us and spoil our fun. The cigarette that you extinguished in the dirt; I snatched it up when you weren’t looking. I was taught to keep a clean house and hadn’t yet shaken the habit.

You were reckless. I loved you with all of my little heart. We were eleven and twelve. You were older than me – by a month. You liked to remind me of this when I disagreed with you. You were older. You knew better. Our adventures continued throughout school, evolving as we grew up. We grew up. You matured faster than me, you said. It was why you could drink, have sex, smoke; it was why I couldn’t. You knew better.

At the reception of your wedding you took my hand and we ran out to the backyard to watch the moon rise. We stole two flashlights from the garage behind the barn and chased the lightning bugs. You told me it was my turn to fall in love. I agreed. We were giddy. I laughed with my whole body now, unafraid of onlookers. The champagne went straight to our heads. Our men came looking for us. Your husband and my date. We did not care. We ran around in circles, our Marilyn Monroe dresses twirling faster and faster. White and blue blurs in the yard. Our hips moved to the music coming from the whitewashed barn as we swished and swayed.

“Faster, faster, faster,” I thought. “Faster, faster, faster,” you called out to the moon and the stars.

The swishing was my favorite sound. I told you a ghost story, with the beam brushing over my face, shellacked with makeup. We fell to the ground with our feet kicking up in the air. We were kids again and not kids again. The men watched and half-understood. But we knew our souls, our selves.

I think of you, remembering all of this, as I pass through towns and cities, and of what you told me of my new voyage. You said I deserved to be reckless. That I needed to explore. As I drive along, I look for abandoned shack-houses, and imagine us there again, the staccato sounds of bubblegum popping in the quiet of the night.

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