You were saved at three, so your parents call you a Searching Christian. Home for the summer, you’re trying to please them, painting dorm rooms with guys who insist they’re still Addicts because they go to NA each week. Once an addict, always an addict, everyone says. De-Nile ain’t just a river in each Egypt, they say.
In Sunday School for Singles you learn Brianna’s truth of Chakras and the body’s layered pleasure points. She has almost bulbous, gray eyes. She says, “We have one soul. For some it takes thousands of lives to get it right.” The lesson ends. You follow her. She wobbles a little with each step like she isn’t used to high heels. Next thing you know you’re sitting together in Worship. She rubs her leg against yours. She’s gorgeous, except her teeth— they’re brown. Stained from coffee? Cigarettes? You ignore it. What do you say? Why are your teeth so brown?
She lives with her alcoholic grandfather who’s not home when, second date, she opens the door dressed in black lingerie. She calls you her white prince, leads you to the claw-foot tub lit up with so many candles you find yourself feeling a sense of the sacred, like you should be kneeling in prayer instead of kneeling eye-level with her dark belly.
All summer she has you fumbling for words, divine guidance. She steers with her thighs the wheel of your white Skylark, rolling jays of exotic weed from dealers she never lets you meet. The hiss-and-pop audio of Grateful Dead bootlegs reel into your dreams. You meditate with her daily, a crystal poised between your eyes— experiencing past versions of your soul’s habitation. You find yourself peering through the eyes of John, baptizing Sweet Jesus Himself, God’s voice thundering overhead, a dove cooing in an olive tree. Mostly, though, you find yourself hungering for her transfigured body. Her nails rake across your back, the two of you screaming and sweating like gods creating a world.
Then, she leaves on a dig outside the Petrified Forest with a divorced archaeology professor who once called her brilliant. You dream them groaning among the ruins of some nomadic Apache tribe littered with brittle bone and broken arrowheads dating back to the otherwise neglected past. She writes you years later, asking you to join her at a nudist colony where they run in circles on public land, holding hands, chanting to the river, asking to be taken back in.
Because I could not have you in the way that I
believed would be—most satisfactory—in the way that a
Chuck or Billy would brag about having the Rachel
they’d been ogling for weeks, snapping cue balls with
a directed energy, I shrunk you down to the size you
looked from my back window, & I took you with me
everywhere. For instance, the small circle of my
guitar behind the strings, which might have looked
like prison bars from inside. How the walls of that
guitar must have vibrated from inside! I’d shake you
out like a fumbled pick. I hung you from my rear-view
mirror with my crystal swinging light on my Vega’s
interior vinyl. I could look at you at stoplights or
when the highway was free & open & REM jammed from the
speakers. You were dancing on a disco ball with the
Rocky Mountains as your stage drop, but it got hot in
the car, & it had a stale odor I could never get rid
of. I didn’t want to associate you with that smell.
So, I plucked you from the top drawer of my desk where
you clung to a red Crayola, & plopped you in my
backpack only taking you out when no one was around:
in quiet libraries, in the field by the ancient basin
owned by the state.
My friends thought they were losing me. What was I
going off alone for all the time? Just a few weeks
earlier we’d slug Pabst Blue Ribbon in front of the
tube, play video games or watch Pulp Fiction for the
hundredth time. Was it something someone had said?
Roger decided it was, & convinced the intellectually
inferior Andrew who then spread rumors about me & you,
the girl I’d told them about who lived behind me, whom
I’d watch from my back window when she sunbathed in
her yellow bikini.
Before I knew it you’d grown life-sized & stood on my
front porch, hands on your hips, looking flushed &
beautiful as ever. The meathead next to you grabbed me
by the collar when I smiled & beat me like I’d never
been beaten before. But the next day there you were,
shrunk down again, apologizing for the
miscommunication, telling me so long as we never
fucked, you’d always be my muse.