Friday, April 19, 2013
Roots were somethin’ he never wanted to have.
I’ve always known it, ever since that first night we went walkin’ together like a proper couple and not just friends. I was all prettied up in my best sundress. Heck, I’d even raked out the garden soil from beneath my fingernails. My hair was still kind of damp and wild, but whatever. It was late spring and with the humidity as high as it was, it wouldn’t a mattered much if I had troubled myself to dry it up all smooth anyway. I was as cute as I was gonna get and I could tell by the way he kept eyeing me that it was more than cute enough.
The air smelled like honeysuckle, so sweet and perfume-y that I could almost taste it on my tongue. We were walking out on the trestle bridge. Once when our town was an actual town and not just the ghost of one, trains used to go across it. Back then kids’d test their bravery by crossin’ just before a train was due to come chargin’ through—flyin’ across the tracks like they were runnin’ away from those Spanish bulls. Most of the time they’d make it across alright, but there was always one or two a year that wouldn’t. We were following the path they always took, dodgin’ the creakiest spots and pickin’ our way to the path beyond, the one that switch-backs down to the riverbed below—when he opened his mouth.
“I ain’t dying here,” he said. His voice echoed a little—the words pinging off the river rocks below us so they could hit my ears a second and third time. He turned to me and looked me straight in my eyes. My whole body shivered from heat or nerves or maybe both. His eyes were the same gritty brown as the soil in my garden—unremarkable maybe, but rich because they were so dark, almost black in the moonlight. He put his hands on my arms, just above my elbows. I liked how warm his hands were. Even in that heat it was comforting.
“Come graduation I’m gettin’ as far from here as I can. I can’t plant myself in this town like everybody else has—stay so still that I practically grow moss. I’m meant to see more than this. I’m meant to be more than this.”
If I woulda been a good girl maybe I would’ve listened to what he was sayin’. If I’d been a smart girl maybe I’d have left him right then, just turned tail and walked away before he could—saved him the guilt and trouble of wanting to now.
But I’m neither of those things.
So instead I just stared at his mouth and brought a finger up to trace his bottom lip. I waited just a beat, until I knew he was primed, and then I kissed him, pulling that lip between my teeth the way I do a honeysuckle flower to get the nectar out of it. He started shivering then too. His hands went from holding me at arm’s length to crushin’ me against him so hard that I couldn’t figure out if either of us was even breathing anymore.
That was almost a year ago today. Back when I was twig-thin and not rounded out around the middle. Back when I could still walk the trestle and not worry about topplin’ off of it. Now I look up and watch as he crosses it alone. I stretch out on one of the river rocks and dip my toes in the water and try to look unconcerned. We’ve been coming here all week, ever since graduation. I know he’s remembering that other night—same as me. I run a hand across my middle, press the hard bump just under my rib cage and try to move it so I can get some air in my lungs. The baby kicks me hard enough to make my bladder tingle. For a second I’m half afraid I might pee.
I look up at him. He hasn’t looked at me once since we came out here. He never does. Not until I call and call and order him to come down because I can’t ever get off this stupid rock anymore without his help.
But every time I hope he will.
I dream about it.
I can’t seem to help myself.
The thing is I want him to have roots in this place, ones that twine with mine and dig deep into the soil so that even the worst summer storm can’t pull them out. I thought maybe with the baby that it just might be possible. But then we started comin’ out here again. And he started crossing that bridge again—goin’ faster every time like he’s hopin’ that a train’s still possible or something. I want to know--if there ever really was a train--whether he’d try to outrun it or just let it catch him. I need to ask him, but I can never quite decide how to. So instead I just keep sittin' here, strugglin' to breathe—waiting for him to figure it out.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
PHOTO BY: Gillian Woods