Youth

By: Emily Philbrook, For The Clock

esphilbrook1@plymouth.edu

The cicadas are buzzing as we lie among the grass blades surrounding the fields of cucumbers and pumpkins that your family grows- has grown for generations.

You are so inexplicably tied to the very soil of this town and I realize you may never leave. Even at 10 years old, I am watching the way your brown hair falls in waves across your shoulder and the way your soft belly rolled into your muscular thighs that matched my own, and I know you will live this day a thousand times over.

A day spent training on the beaten ground, tilled with lines to resemble the pitch, and sweat, and deflated and chewed-up plastic balls and a broken net your Dad stole from the school late last fall, as the snow covered the ground during recess.

But it is summer now and our days remain on a continuous loop of sunscreen and lemonade and fresh vegetables that we pick, your pink fingernails grazing the leaves dripping in dew and chlorophyll, sometimes piercing my skin and letting warm blood trickle across my palm, and your tongue grazing the cut, kissing it better. We are growing, as our classmates are so far away, it seemed, with spurts measured in inches, inches of the distance between your lips and mine.

And lying beneath a sky miraculously full of dots and we speculate about the constellations, the same ones from science class. Remembering the bile rising in my tummy when you told me how you kissed Marcus in the back of the planetarium, my crying in the nurse’s office. I wondered if you knew that I had been watching the way your eyes widened when you saw the Milky Way from afar.

Suddenly, you sit up, the grass rising once again to fill the crease once left, and stare down at me.Our fingers were nearly interlocked as I prop myself on my elbows. You lean in and I smell the watermelon your mother sliced for us still coating your lips and suddenly I am tasting the way this melts into your lip balm. Calloused hands cupping my soft chin and as you pull away, I watch the pink nail polish, chipped and cracked, and the dirt from the hours you spend before your grandfather wakes up. You tending to the garden, gently ensuring every plant receives plentiful water and sunshine.

You are glowing beneath the August moonlight with your neon-colored braces and newly forming acne and I just wanted to feel the way every part of you felt. Infatuated and overcome with this feeling of connectedness and closeness. Our mouths share the space from which we raced to answer questions in math class and eat the fish your father catches in the muddied river.

My breathing is ragged against the soft breeze in the North Carolina oaks as I rise to my feet, afraid that my staring has overstayed a welcome, and a subtle flash of the porch lights in the distance remind us, we must part ways.

Almost illuminated, I follow the familiar path through the woods that cuts between our houses, the carvings in the trees, reminders to find my way. I stop in front of the last maple in the row, and see, for only a moment, splinters of baby pink nail polish, where our initials lay etched in time.