Everybody is from the Same Place
Existing/growing on this lake is different than existing/growing on land. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Under sun and moon this body winks from coruscating coves and glittering inlets. Double suns replace alarm clocks: one high which nudges our shoulders at dawn; one low that sits on the body, shining its reflected light into our rooms under the seeps of doors. And the thickness of summer air: in its height the vegetation receives more, swells with humidity. The moisture emanating into the air from the body is so thick that when our families visit from out of town they walk around wearing snorkels. From inside, they sweat with each glance they poke outside through the windows, which remain clouded with condensation. And everything is green. Even the water is green in reflecting the puffs of green trees miles high, as big as clouds and as thick with water, too. Sweaty, slick branches uplift leaves that pant tears like hot, green tongues. Yet we have cycles, too. In a seasonal spiral towards vegetation’s abdication, the boughs give back more. Things turn colors. Fires scintillate on shorelines across the lake from wherever you are; their distant flashing accenting the shades of the season of everything falling into the water. Near-decomposed brown quilts of leaves crinkle under preteen feet racing to and from docks. Later, coupled teens pile quilts into abandoned boathouses for fun and fumbling, warming each other with skin against skin. It never freezes here: exposed limbs line the body and soon slip straight into sleeves of new leaves. The fresh and heavy heat comes quick, overnight. And now it has cycled into our last muggy months here in this place that I’m from and that, in some ways, everybody is also from. There is not enough of me to breathe it all in before leaving. Most everybody stays: getting hitched, thronging around the body in new homes, starting careers, saving up to buy their parents’ boats, generations upon generations of motor oil making faint trails through the body which just erases them anyway. And now, realization: there’s not enough time in this last summer cycle to be ready to leave, yet I’ve been breathing this my whole life, never once stopped breathing it or even left to breathe somewhere else. And leaving coming so quick that we’ve abandoned maintenance of the house. We have since allowed the fish to sleep on our roof. We have since let the vegetation swell wild, the grass appear mangy. And during sleep, shellfish and other lake-beings hover over my bed. Drip things into my open mouth.
In the new place, sealant paint covers the walls white. They are not yet the color they will become. The first time I saw it I got embarrassed when we arrived in my father’s car and saw the others cutting wood with an electric saw, pouring concrete over his future porch. He takes me up to the house through the mud where the driveway will be. The halls echo with a voice like my own but older, one I can never inhabit, with plans for paints and future furniture: This is the master bedroom, this is the master bath. His voice goes on but all I can think of is this is the master bedroom, this is the master bath. He’s not pointing or gesticulating to the vaulted ceilings or high archways; he holds his hands behind his back like my grandmother taught him as a child when in stores, so as not to touch anything in that childishness he shed long before I knew him. Yet he’s making happy, quick steps, dodging piles of wood and stone, his wood and stone, soon to be placed into a permanence that will long outlive his retired time here, that will eventually become a place for others. And although he is from the same place as me, it’s not in the same way. We share experiences from the lake house, only gathered and kept them differently. Now, this skeletal frame filled with carpenters and the hammering of wood is housing for us a very different experience. And, for him, it is a good one. He shows it to me like it’s his new toy which requires our dislocation to be fully assembled. Later he asks how my own search for place is progressing because, frankly, time is running out. The yard isn’t much, he says, but that’s the point, you know. Less yard = less yardwork. No lake winds, no double sunsets blinding from the west. Less space—we don’t need it—functional rooms, open floorplan. It will be ready in October.
The air’s thick moisture vibrates with the psalms of swans as they scull themselves across the body in this last summer cycle in this place which, in some ways, everybody is from. Someone living elsewhere could make that same argument, no matter how differently they see things. These twins down the lane sleep religiously tangled in each other in order to see each other’s dreams, wondering if one day they’ll be separated and how they’ll share each other’s memories like they do now. They wake in kayaks bumping against their neighbors’ docks, arms linked so as not to drift away from each other. Still come and visit us, they say as they pass by our dock in synchronous paddling. During their wet naps at noon in the grass, short and neat next to ours which we have long since allowed to climb past our knees, they dream in nervous conjectures what translocation from each other will feel like, guessing its texture. Anyway, it is sweating and, like a lantern, the body holds moonlight: the bulb above feeding the shimmering bulb below. The heads of snakes make trails in the body close to shore, where we are sitting and drinking. I breathe in, hard. We pull fish out of the body like flapping silver coins and take the hooks out of their mouths, send them swimming into September.
Joe LaFata is earning his MA in Digital Publishing from the University of Illinois Springfield. Having earned a BA in Creative Writing from Illinois College, he has lived in the Midwest his entire life. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Forte, The Alchemist Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine.