C C Russell
There were the waves of the reservoir capped with light glancing over the shoulders of your makeshift swimming suit. There was your hair water-dreaded, dragging like snakes across the surface tension. I don't mean this in any kind of symbolic Adam/Eve kind of way — that's just how I saw your hair, the way its clumps swam over the water. There were your hands cupped into clumsy fins completing their circles underneath. There were your legs kicking slowly like some indecipherable symbol opening and folding back in on itself. There was half of a sun behind you. There was the barest hint of a future, an awkward V of geese flying back home. There were the quiet voices of water, the whispers of wind.
* * *
A man walks by today wearing a dirty white t-shirt that says "to fish or not to fish. that is the question." It is written in some industrial-block font down his chest and I think for some reason of practicing Hamlet in your basement, your Ophelia impressions (Have you always been this close to water?). Today, your text spoke of skinny-dipping late at night and thinking of me. Maybe, then, in some way I leak into your world too. And this is what you do to me — melodrama over a redneck's t-shirt. I text back breathlessly. I remember, I say. I leave it at that.
* * *
There was the language of water, the vocabulary of splash — hardened consonants breaking over softer vowels.
* * *
Let's play a game called revisionist history. I ask a question and you answer it and then we reverse. it's a simple game.
- What was your name for the moment the stone struck wood?
- Why were you afraid to touch me? Why did you want me to touch you?
- What did we mean when we called these things love?
- When did the river approach your house? And where did it veer away?
- Where did the language of the tinfoil kiss come from?
- How did it come to mean suicide?
* * *
That day, though, the water. Your skin beaded with pearls of it, you smiled and slipped your shorts down to one ankle. Your brother stood on the beach gathering logs for a fire while you moved against me, your chest rising out of the water and disappearing again below the surface. I was worried that he would see but you put your finger against my lips and pressed hard enough to hold them together. You didn't say a word, just the voice of two bodies merging and separating again — the voice of the wake we created.
* * *
A t-shirt brings all of this back to me. A t-shirt.
A few years ago, we played the internet tag version of twenty questions. Revisionist history. When I asked what it was that reminded you of me, you said the color yellow.
Yellow in and of itself.
But you weren't sure why.
I've spent some time off and on trying to place this color within us. Finally, I think I may have a glimpse of it.
On my bedroom door, there in my parents' house on that Frontage road: That small plaque, my first name carved in Palatino and an image — a small fish leaping out of the ripples. A remnant from childhood never taken down. Notice it with me now, the plastic. Do you see its bright, cheap sheen of lemon? That entrance to the room where we hid so often, where you sat with me that summer I was broken.
* * *
Maybe here is our true history, then:
A boy and a girl. They're so young, too young to understand the immensity of the tide coming towards them. They are mute in the face of this: The language of the kiss - its dreadful, persistent echoes. The ripples that it leaves in its wake.
has been published here and there across the web and in print. You can find his words in such places as Split Lip Magazine, The Colorado Review, Cimarron Review
and the anthology "Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone". He currently resides in Wyoming where he stares at the mountains instead of writing.