Mountain Lake Estates
Another summer in Pennsylvania where all I did was feed apples to horses, pick wildflowers off the side of the road, and stare at Sean through my sunglasses from across the pool. I was in a detestable mood the day he, blue-eyed and barechested, woke me from a nap by lifting me into his arms.
“Stop giving your mom an attitude,” he said, then threw me in the pool.
And I thought heaven.
That was absolute heaven.
Who knows how many nights I waited up for Chantele to stumble home and tell me how she put two tabs under her tongue, sucked oranges, rode roller coasters, took hikes into the forest with Annie and Pat but mostly Sean, who could keep the flashlight steady with a bottle in his hand.
Sometimes she gave in when I begged to go with them to the creek behind the clubhouse where they’d smoke joints before returning to work: lifeguards. I was the only one not a lifeguard; too young, too antsy for Brooklyn with Dad. Week after week Chantele sat with Sean in the sun, blowing whistles back and forth, telling the same three children not to run.
Monday night wrestling was at our house. Some nights, I’d sit next to him on the couch, knees knocking, my pulse throbbing when he copied a new move. Scent of ivory soap and pine. Stone Cold Stunners sent shivers down my spine.
He’d bike Mink Pond Road without a helmet, without braking, and the old ladies playing gin at tables under umbrellas stopped, watched until he made it safely down. He’d walk in front of me, just in case, when we took shortcuts down the hill and through the playground.
Winters ago, what seems a lifetime now, he broke into our house pill-headed and liquored up. Chantele says he must have been cold, hiding. He looked around. Left Oreos and popcorn on the kitchen floor, emptied bottles of Advil from the vanity, left my childhood diary on my dresser turned to a page with his last name signed after mine: Abriana Jetté-Woods, a small heart dotted above the i.
The summer before, he told me I was getting too skinny. You won’t know what that means unless I describe the ninety-four pounds of bones and blue veins, the bikini bottoms rolled twice over my hips. Too thin to fit into anything. And I wouldn’t listen to anyone, but I let him buy me whole-wheat tuna sandwiches because I knew he’d take a bite.
The last time I saw him he was walking into the woods by himself. Baby-blues dulled, blond hair buzzed down to the scalp. Tattoos spread black up his neck.
A gallon of toxins in him the night they pronounced him dead.
But let me tell you.
One summer, he woke me by lifting me in his arms, and it was heaven, absolute heaven.
In Memory of S.W. 1982-2004
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Abriana Jetté is the editor of the Stay Thirsty Poets anthology series. Her creative work has been published internationally in journals like Poetry New Zealand, The Moth, Plume Poetry Journal, The Seneca Review, and many other places. She teaches for Kean University.