Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 16
Autumn, 2014

Featured painting, Old Dream Collector by Andrea Wan.

Featured Novel Excerpt
New Works

Sara Walters

Dead Girls

In the summer I write a lot of stories about dead girls.
Dead girls washed up on riverbanks.
Dead girls on cold basement concrete.
Dead girls tangled in metal and glass on a nighttime road.
I write about their clothes—bright sundresses speckled in blood
and one black ballet flat missing from a small, pale foot.
They're always blonde, always with bronze cheekbones and carefully lined eyes.
Chipping fingernail polish and smooth lips.
Sometimes, they speak.
They sit with crossed, bruised legs and lean back on scraped palms
and say things like, "You don't even remember the way my voice sounds"
with a sense of ease I imagine only comes with death.
They're all the same because they're all her—her in my basement bedroom, knees pulled to her chest in the tiny room in the back of my closet, tucked under the stairs, bruised arms wrapped around her legs. Her with the shadows under her eyes. Her holding her own picture in one road-reddened hand, cold tears wetting her stringy blonde hair.

I don't remember the way she sounded but sometimes when I dream of her, she sounds smokey and cool, reminding me in careful tones that I never really knew her at all.
I've had ten summers since you left, but even your wrinkled photographs still seem to smell of wet bathing suits and pool water.
I tucked a typed letter inside a ziplock bag and anchored it into the damp earth with unfolded paper clips. The grooves in the granite that spelled out her name were still dusty and new, freshly carved and dropped into the ground above her head, and when I would put my palms on its surface, I swore I could feel her heart beating in my hands. Loose sod stained the knees of my jeans. My mother stood a few yards back, the heaviness I gave off too thick for her to step through. A couple of rows to the left, a blue tent stood over an empty hole, open and waiting to swallow up its new tenant.

The sun ached on the back of my neck. Through the clear plastic, I could read a few lines of the words I'd typed out for her:
I really miss you.
I still have your bracelet.
Remember when we used to crawl through the hole in the fence to get to the pool?
When you wake up, come home.
I wonder what happens when the ground fills up. What will we do with our dead? Will we have to cremate them all? Will the sky then become so thick and gray with smoke that the plants will no longer grow, that the fish float at the tops of the rivers with their silver bellies dull in the lightless day?

If we must start stacking five, four, three feet under, over those at six, I hope they layer me above you, so once the earth is packed in cool and tight around us, we can cup our hands around our ears and tell each other secrets through the smooth, lacquered walls of our beds.
On your twenty-first birthday, someone left a bottle of liquor on your headstone.
Once, after you died, I found you.

It was sometime during the purple July night that I spent on a dark, empty golf course with a handful of warm bodies and voices I recognized and felt at home with. We pinched a joint between our fingers and took pulls between loudly recounting all of those remember-that-time-when's.

On the walk back through the fifth green, I slowed behind, those five or six voices getting swallowed up by the thick air even while the bodies they came from were still in view.

You were standing there, on the edge of the woods where the soft wet grass met the tree line. You had holes in the knees of your jeans. Your hair hung in a ponytail over your shoulder, and the blonde looked almost silver under all that purple. You held one of your elbows, your weight shifted to one hip. One of your tank top straps had fallen down against your arm.

Wordlessly, I lifted a hand to you.

You lifted yours, back.

Sara Walters writes: "Currently, I'm working on my MFA and my mile time. I spend too much money on overpriced coffee and I wear yoga pants to teach my undergraduate courses, even though I don't really do yoga. I tell my students I'm getting a degree in Making Shit Up. Sometimes, I can't remember if my memories are real, but I'll still write about them like they are."