Day 99: Auction

The sale bill hangs on the diner’s bulletin board. Even from across the lobby, even partially covered by a handwritten looseleaf advertisement for babysitting, I’d know that house anywhere. I see it in my dreams sometimes, even now, decades later. Shannon and I climbing the back porch steps after school, playing fetch with her dog in the yard, or studying at her big dining room table.
“They’re selling it,” I say out loud.
“There’s no one left,” Shannon’s voice says, but that can’t be. She’s gone now. Gone from rooms, gone from grass, gone from a house that dreamed us.

Day 91: Defense

Coach’s favorite words are “grit” and “toughness.” After the homecoming game, when I broke the school record for sacks, he said I was “gutsy” and he liked my “tenacity.”

I’m not sure what he’d say if he knew.

He’d probably take it all back. No way would he think I’m tough if he knew how close I come to melting when you look at me. How soft my chest feels when you touch me, or how tender your groan sounds in between our kisses.

You adjust my shoulder pads. I hand you your helmet. We go, together, to the line.

Day 90: Midnight

It’s there,
On the other side of the fence.
Look through the links, stick your toe inside,
And push. Me with my Converse,
You with your saddle shoes. We’ll land
On the other side, on concrete that still
Holds heat, sticky with Coke and orange popsicles.
The water, still as glass (and as silent), is
Tired of children.
If we slide in, ankles, knees, hips,
(No splash),
we won’t wake it. We’ll be its deep night dream,
It’s teeth-chattering, goose-bumped memory
That swirled and kissed,
Dripping wet when we climb out again,
Before midnight turns the gate into silver birds.

Day 86: Lanes

We’re put in the same heat for the hundred meter dash, like always, but for the first time he’s assigned the lane right next to mine.

“Jesus fuck, it’s cold,” he mumbles, half towards me. He rubs his bare arms and shakes them out. I’m transfixed by the graceful shoulders, the ripple in his jersey. He’s grown since last year.

“Yeah,” I say lamely, my cheeks heating. “Meets in March suck.”

The official blows his whistle and points to our line. We crouch, our fingers pressing the asphalt, so close. I hear his breath. The gun cracks, and we fly.

Day 81: Collateral

Rooster got his nickname in basic, when his cowlick wouldn’t lay down no matter how much he wet it. He’s got twenty-two confirmed kills, highest in the squad. He shifts into murder gear with music, the pounding, screeching beat of dark metal defining the soulless, thousand-yard stare that keeps everyone away.

Everyone except me. I’ve seen that harrowing blankness on the daily. But I’ve seen him come back into himself after lights-out, when he’s just Josh. His eyes get glittery and soft, then, and he melts, reaching for me, whispering tender things, humming Mariah or Taylor Swift against my skin.

Day 79: Round

There is a woman in my yoga class
Who some might say is too old for tank tops.
Her silver hair, a cloud of jasmine, springs from her forehead
Rebellious and shining.
(I’ve never seen someone so beautiful.)
I can just imagine what that raven crown,
A shock of strict and serious black,
Must have looked like at forty, at twenty-seven, at twelve.
(How is someone so beautiful here?)
Her body responds, breathes, folds over,
Bends, becomes round, luminous, and transforms
Into a pillar topped by a waterfall,
Torso spilling over ground.
(You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.)

Day 78: Best Man

What the best man is supposed to do: Make sure the groom shows up, sober and on time. Keep track of the rings. Make sure the groomsmen are ready, dressed, and behaving.

What the best man is absolutely not supposed to do: Mess up the groom’s tie just so he can straighten it again. Adjust the groom’s pocket square so he can rest his hand on the groom’s chest. Definitely not supposed to stare into the groom’s eyes, whisper in his ear, cling too long in one last hug.


Inside my pocket, I slip the ring on my finger.

Day 74: Coffee

Chris walks out of the convenience store toward the truck with a coffee in each hand. I’m tired (hungover, if you must know), but there’s something about his walk, his denim-clad thighs, his steel-toed boots that wakes me right up.

It’s just easier to carpool to the job site, I’d told him, and he’d agreed.

I push the passenger door open from the inside, and he steps up and in, a freshly showered, woodsy smell wafting in with him. Goddamn.

“Morning,” he says, as our fingers touch briefly around my cup.

We sit, sipping. The air between us hums.


Day 71: Horse

“Yeah? Fuck you too, Erika.” I spin, heading for the door on wobbly legs.

“What’s his problem?” Someone asks, but music drowns out any replies.

The backyard is crowded, with everyone dancing and drinking around the pool. For fucks sake. I grab another beer and push through, leaving the noise behind.

Dribble, dribble, clang, bounce. Dribble, dribble, clang, bounce.

Alone in the driveway is—shit, that’s Matt Fowler. Basketball phenom, full ride to Iowa, three years ahead of me. I take a second to stare. Everyone crushed on Matt Fowler. Including me.

“Hey,” he calls between dribbles. “Want to play?”

Day 70: Asleep

As the superior officer, Julia took first watch. Even with a company of two, rules were rules.

They’d talked a bit, to pass the time, after they’d cleaned their guns and checked their ammo. About their hometowns, mostly. Connor had tried gamely to stay awake with her, but the grind of the last thirty-six hours had finally caught up, swallowing him mid-sentence.

Her eyes had long since adjusted to the darkness, and she saw Connor plainly, curled on his side on the floor, one hand on his gun. So young. She turned back to the window, listening to the woods.