I sucked on an e-cigarette ‘til the tip shone blue. A sleek secret sat coolly between my fingertips. The greatest secrets hide themselves. Trees flashed by in blinks as I sped down the highway blowing nicotine clouds into the perfect blue sky. Contrails of satisfaction followed me that day, but the stench of guilt didn’t stick to my skin and clothes. The sun burned a hole through my conscience. The nicotine made me sweat. A biplane divebombed some crops with a chemical rainbow. Even pretty things are deadly. I raced under overpasses toward a meditation in beauty to pull my mind out of eight hours in a classroom. Toward cicada hum and apple blossoms. My summer escape.
My tires spat loose gravel as they climbed the steep driveway, cresting my Eden. I parked next to a barn and tucked a secret into the glove box. No one was around. My lips pouted darkly back at me as I tapped honey and beeswax onto them; my reflection doubled in the black of my sunglasses and the rearview mirror. Reflect the best in you. Summer poured into my car as I gasped in the outside air, dry and hot. I leaned against my car careful no skin touched the surface. The driveway was graveled and covered in fluffy, white tree pollen. Just me, the sun, and a faint cicada song. Sweat dripped into my eye.
My hand shot to my stinging eye and rubbed out the brine. Between eye-stars, I saw his figure wiggle in the heat waves. His footfalls crunched on the pollen covered gravel like summer snow. In his hands, he cupped two makeshift glasses sloshing pink with a careful step. He enveloped himself in me, the glasses thudding heavy on the roof of my car. Our teeth clicked together. A whiskey kiss. I felt his cold, wet hands lift my shirt just above my jeans. My skin hissed on the car door. Pushing him back, I noticed a blade of grass on his forehead. I wiped it away. It seemed he celebrated himself early that day. “Mmm, whiskey,” I said. I stroked his raised stick-and-poke tattoo. “Kentucky’s finest. Taste this,” he handed me the glass. I sipped the cider. “It’s good. Raspberry and something else?” “Pomegranate. Want to go swimming?” The glass sweat down my arm. I grabbed his forearm and wiped the water from the glass across the scales of his snake tattoo. Keep your head above the water.
He gently bit my shoulder. I recoiled. His arms wrapped around my waist and he licked the salt along my jaw. The cider barely quenched my thirst. We walked that way, entwined, along the yellowing path of sunburnt grass. A downtrodden history marked the center lane between overgrown forsythia. Our drinks sloshed shallow in glass. “Wanna race?” I asked. “You’ll lose,” he countered. We howled past the peeling shed, paint flaking into an overgrown window-box, down to the creek bed. Cider splashed our wrists as we gingerly ran through the cover of trees. The sun peeked through at us as we stood at the water’s edge. A waterfall roared our voices useless. He placed his cider in my hand and pushed my sunglasses on top of my head, then lifted his shirt over his. Stepping out of his sneakers, he unbuttoned his shorts and let them fall on the flat rocks under his feet. He reached for my pants and did the same, but with a little more flair, giving them a pronounced push into the ground like they were something needing to be shattered. I stepped out of my shoes and pants, passed the glasses to his empty hands and tossed my sunglasses and shirt into a bush. There’s no turning back. I presented my hands, gesturing him to return the glasses. He complied. I finished both drinks. He scowled. I flashed my teeth.
The water was colder than I expected. We slid on algae covered rocks, moments of balance checked by nature’s forces, until we sank under the surface. We steamed, lava hot, drinking in one another in side-glances. My hand rippled a green glow inches below the water. I floated to see how far the current would carry me. Hands raised me out of the pull into another. His skin warmed mine until he let me float on. The sound of splashing drew my eyes to the waterfall where he sat with the weight of the water crashing on his crown. In three strokes I was there, worshipping at his feet, crashing harder for him than the water on top of his head.
Ryan Norman is a writer from New York living in the Hudson Valley. Inspired by the landscape, he writes what he feels. His work has appeared in From Whispers to Roars,Vamp Cat Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Storgy Magazine and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @RyanMGNorman.
perhappened mag 2020 best small fictions nominee for teeth.