“From Adam”

We end up at Ryan’s house, because there are six of us, and it is practically summer, and Ryan’s perverted step-dad is rich and always at the hospital cutting people open and his mom lives at the Country Club. Seriously, when people ask what she does she laughs a little and says, “I drink at the Country Club.”

I’ve never been to the Country Club because my folks are not rich. Neither are Geoff’s. But if I lived in Ryan’s house, I’d never leave. Geoff and I approach Ryan’s house like going to a museum even though we’ve never been to one. We’re afraid to touch shit and sit on the furniture, even though Ryan, who was like us before his mom married Dr. Pervert, wants us to get comfortable. He wants us to kick off our shoes, but besides his Converse by the door, there’s little evidence he lives here.

Ryan sees me eying the glassed-in wine cooler. It’s kept at a certain temperature. He seems to know what he’s looking for, and he pulls out a bottle and then gets down two big-bellied glasses. Geoff knows Ryan’s been trying to get in my pants all year, so he grabs the bottle, the fancy Rabbit opener and the glasses when Kim asks Ryan something. We sneak out, through the huge ass, all white living room, tiptoeing like cartoon burglars. Ryan hands me the bottle of wine, worth more than either of our cars probably, opens the patio door, waits for me to walk through and then follows. He’s like that. It’s reason 5, 432 he’s my best friend.

Out here, it’s dark and quiet. We can see the outline of the pool and the water catches what little bit of light comes through the patio doors. Geoff opens and then pours the wine too fast and it glugs and we laugh. It’s a new June, so the air is still soft and cool, and this wine is like a ribbon of silk, spilling down and pooling in my belly. Geoff says, “I hate that fucking kid,” meaning Ryan. Meaning he hates Ryan has all of this, meaning he hates that earlier in the evening he saw Ryan place his hands on my hips. I can’t see his face very well which means he can’t see mine either, but I nod hard enough so he can see it. That ribbon of wine coils in my belly like a snake, and when the bottle is empty, when I’ve had three huge glasses to Geoff’s one, I feel drunk in a new way. In the way the rich must feel drunk. I feel greedy and guilty all at once. My skin feels new and alive and I say to the quiet and to Geoff, in one breath, “Let’s swim.”

Geoff says, “It’s heated.” I watch him rise out of his chair. He’s a head taller than me, wiry like a marathon runner. I’ve known him half of my life. I knew him when I was taller and stronger than he was. Between us there is a question, always rubbing like a snake trying to get out of its old self. Would our skin mind us knowing one another so well? In the way bodies come to really know one another? Because lust has always been something that needed teeth and the capacity to be cruel and Geoff, Geoff can pull a mean face, but he’d rather hurt himself over anyone.

We undress in the dark, quickly, and the air eats me up. My flesh is devoured by goose bumps, and I grab my own arms, but Geoff is running like a kid, all muscle joy and freedom and he jumps in and makes a sound which takes shape in the air as glee even as he’s swallowed by the water. When was Geoff last happy?

I climb the ladder of the low dive, and sluice through water far warmer than the air. I swim under water as far as I can, and it’s like the water was made for me to cut through it. It’s been waiting for me. I surface in the four feet, then front crawl to the corner. I lean back against the wall and look up. The night sky is an explosion of dead light. Geoff walks through the water toward me. Before he reaches me, I can feel the currents his movement sets off.

Water is a funny thing. It’s the one place on earth where we can defy gravity. I dodge him, dive under, come up and call, “Come here.” I swim until I can stand with just my head, neck, and chest out, my feet firmly planted on the bottom. When he is close enough, I reach out. I put my hands on the winged bones of his hips. I step back and he steps forward. It’s a dance. I turn him to the side, and I press his hips firmly, my hands saying, “Stay here.” Then I step behind him. My skin grazes his skin, my belly to his butt. I put my left arm around his shoulders. It is too dark to see the freckles, but I know those busted constellations are there. I put my right arm under his knees, that skin where no one ever touches or kisses, not unless you’re a baby. And Geoff doesn’t say a word, just trusts my body to be kind to his body. And I want to warn him that I’m not like him. I have teeth; small, sharp, cruel looking canines that evolved for tearing and chewing up meat. But the water is here just for me, just for this. I heft him up like an oversized baby, only he doesn’t weigh a thing. Not really. I pretend I don’t know him from Adam. I rock him, and gentle glide him through the water a bit like I’ve seen some moms do at the public pool. Then I kiss him.

About Barbara Harroun

Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. Her most recent work is forthcoming in San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, The Rusty Toque, Black Sun Lit, the Kudzu Quarterly Review, Slipstream, Madrid: Journal of Contemporary Literature, The Circus Book, and freeze frame fiction. Her favorite creative endeavors are her awesome kids, Annaleigh and Jack. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she can be found walking her beloved dog, Banjo, reading, engaging in literacy activism, cooking or running.