Like Fish

I am eleven in July 1998, camping with the family again at Maple Park, still young enough to spend entire days in the pond with my brothers. “Like fish” my mother says from her beach chair. It’s true, I think, I could float around like this forever, watching clouds pass overhead. I dip my head back and the pond twirls my hair, the heat of my scalp softened, caressed by the cool water. I don’t need anything else in life

That night the Boyles come and set up camp close to ours. The Boyles have three kids too—I’d known them my whole life. Jacob, the one who’s a year older than me, had been acting differently lately. There’s an energy in the air when he’s around. Like static, there’s a crackling.

The dance is that night in the barn. I’ve been dreading and looking forward to it, I’ve never been so conflicted. My parents and the Boyles spin around like they’ve never felt conflicted by anything, and I feel an expansion in my chest, like my ribs cannot contain my body. I notice Jacob’s sitting on the other side of the room, arms crossed, just like me.

That’s when we hear it, the blast of thunder. Outside it starts to pour—the dance ends early. Our parents take one last sip and gesture to us, come on, let’s go! Jacob and I run down the ramp together in the pelting rain, up the hill, tiny rivers already forming along the tree-edged path. My feet fly out of my flip flops and after I bend down to grab them, I sprint barefoot through the pine needle-filled puddles. Jacob looks back at me and I smile through the darkness, rain running into my mouth, thinking No, I was wrong, I need so much more.

Lauren Rheaume is an essayist and the HR & Operations Manager at GrubStreet in Boston, MA. Her work has been published at Breakwater Review, Crack the Spine, and Thimble, among others. You can find her at lauren-rheaume.com.

 

Photography by: Geetanjal Khanna