Eyelids to the sky, arms motionless and hair slicked across her chin, like the stick and poke snake on my forearm. Both had dim origins, the tattoo and the tween lying on concrete. That was how I met the girl for the first time, followed by a second time on the eight o'clock news as Morana Novak. One styrofoam cup clammed into the crevice of her tiny hand, tipping out all the water that had come from the rainstorm; no one noticed when it ceased. Twenty minutes turned rain to beads of sweat, as everyone rushed around trying to find the right questions to ask.
As a child, I imagined thunder as God moving his garbage cans. They rambled across a driveway, resonating in Any Street, America—tumult to start an end. There resided a dead-end full of split level homes with siding instead of brick, weeds climbing into the flower boxes. Instead of planting petunias, there were only peripeteias inside. Every last name on those mailboxes had ended in divorce or death. The abandoned model suburbia held temporary stays for red-eyed travelers.
Daisies in the cracks of my eyes, instead of roses; I was running away again. I caught sight of another marathon winner such as myself—a teen boy. My eyes caught on his beaten converse, then on a scar running down under his ear; pale-faced and emotionally impaled. The wind was already knocked out of his chest, rain dribbling down his chin like cold soup.
I yanked his sleeve—since I picked fights back then—poking a scrawny finger at ‘em. His expression: dirty, wet shoelaces splaying from side to side.
Where are you going? He was angled away from a certain crooked house. The window had spewed glass over the lawn, a chair sagging down into the dirt after it missed its target. He twisted his arm, frigid eyes seeping into a grimace.
What happened? Busted lip, ripened with blood, akin to trampled strawberries at the bottom of a field. He told me that he was only avoiding what was coming, since the old woman called the cops. He didn’t tell me they’d find a handgun tucked in the trunk of a black chevy, off the highway.
Sighing, I gazed at a tree line of scraggly branches, bare as my midriff on that day in November. The shorts sat around my waist while a cheap-o sports bra clung to my back. I was frostbitten by a single image; my lulu-lemons soaked on top of the pile, accompanied by my mother's screams.
I released by grip, then tended to numb thoughts. Sitting on the pavement for a few, I noticed a petite figure pounding down the driveway of the crooked house. Unobtrusive in appearance, the house slouched over with age, but she stood straight and marched down the slope. Twinging in agony, the girl clamped a hand over her torso. She laid the edges of her skirt down in a puddle, stretching over the span of her frail body.
You okay? She stayed with one palm to the sky and the other clutching a cup, the water bordering her body. The boys came out wearing confusion and frayed jeans, accessorized by bruises of differing severity. Some were over twenty, but boys nonetheless.
She was wailing. They looked at the girl, some of her trickling into the water. In the muddled reflection, I couldn’t see off the thickness of blood or the thinness of water. I wanted to hold her clammy hand, but she pushed it away. Over the hum of new voices, I heard her huffing out:
Can you leave? I curved my head to one side, to the tap on my shoulder. The oldest of the bunch, with plum-rimmed eyes began to speak.
Is 911 coming?
Hands in his pockets and eyes gaping at her. She didn’t want it to be here in five, or ten or ever. Begging them not to call the number, but someone did.
The girl opened her eyes, pupils surrounded by silver pools, hazing over. Her arms ornamented the puddle’s surface, limp fingers sprawling out.
She said that it was already too late. She had seen death once or twice standing at the foot of her bed. He smirked, marked by the scar under his ear, from the time he got caught chicken wire fence. She saw it happen, when he was five and wanted to play around by grabbing the chickens’ necks. Last time he did that to her, she stopped calling him brother, but continued following his tracks—because of the track marks in his arm.
Sirens raced by our ears, soon creating waves on the tar shores of the street. She told me she didn’t want to die gray. In a hospital bed alongside monitors and coughing spells and cries; dwelling rhythms into the bleached air. Sanitized by the tears of her mother, seeing her face worn with disappointment. Except this was finalized, as the EMT’s clobbered over and stood around her, tugging at the girl’s arms while she screamed.
Are you her sister? She grappled into the ground as they battered me, trying to get the details. On the way over the bridge and through the neighborhoods in the back of an ambulance, my lips scrawled out anything but the truth. She cried and they strapped her down to the gurney. The girl said she had been pretending to float out in the middle of the ocean, like she did at home with the bathtub half full. Partially submerged with the deepest of things underneath her body.
No one really cared to ask how deep the puddle was. If it was becoming more blood than water, and how long had it been growing. Sugar-coated reassurances came from the paramedics as she faded on the way to the hospital, while somewhere her brother cried banging his head down on the steering wheel. I can tell only as much as her last thirty and what she asked: Do you think there will be oceans?