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A TEST of TRUE GENIUS:
do you wish you’d thought of it first? does it inspire you to create?
yes and yes.
This last week my walk up to campus has been punctuated by these pretty pointers from a girl in salt lake city. And if there’s anything I like more than letters and love with a hint of crazy, it is the crazy love letter. What could I do but follow through?
This tiny story is a response to one poster’s prompt, as per criteria two in the test above. some of this is fiction. all of it is true.
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Dear ________ ,
One summer before middle school we spent a week at the lake and maybe you remember. It’s a strange space, bleached and broken. Not like the lush lakeshores you’d promised me, nothing like the pictures in my books about Alaska or Michigan or Maine. But it was beautiful.
Your brothers laughing left me on the porch and you followed because you were young and determined to grow old, and I was young and forgiving. I found the floating dock and claimed it as my own; I lived there, I haunted the place, I swam to and around and under it until I stopped to sun-sleep on top of it, and that was a sort of swimming, too. Your dad said there was every possibility I was the changeling child of a water nymph. He quizzed me just in case.
Where were you born?
How do you spell your favorite word?
What is your best friend’s name?
You were wearing only your stupid jean shorts and that feather headdress from the penny store, dressed to rob the dying dinner fire, smearing charcoal in lines across your cheeks like creamy cat whiskers.
It must have been very late that last night because only turquoise lit the hillline and you carried your flashlight poised like a tomahawk above the skinny slope of your right shoulder as I followed you across the beach. I followed you because you’d asked me to and because I wanted to and because you can’t really love a thing without giving it away. We reached the dock and I helped you up and we lay there, quiet.
I’d never been on the lake so late. The sky burned more bright than black and it was as if you lay one drop in the bottom of a bowl or could at the same time cup the entire dome of the earth in your open hands. I felt glorious just to breathe there, immortal, until I started thinking about it, about that star and that one, about this and me and the relative radius of a black hole, about the nights I have missed, am missing, will miss, and does that matter or will it? and what if each star were a story and they are each as complicated and thrilling and injured as your own, and if that is true then how does the universe contain such a mad mess, and then who is there to fix it? And how do I help or when does it stop and why did it begin? and my breath slowed and swelled until I might not have been breathing at all.
You, flat on your back and eyes wide to the stars, said are you there and I, not knowing if I had heard right or if that was a question or even that it was meant for me, touched your wrist.
I guess what I am trying to say is that you are like a lake night, which is to say that you are staggering and impossible and too much and exactly right and also that I love you. I am here.