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A Friend of Van's

I remember that summer, tucked away in the woods. Sitting on the tree stump, perched on a rock, wading in the creek. Singing was my favorite. I had my shaky camera. I used to be the talent. But I only just smiled in front of the lens.
Loneliness was my only friend. I had saved up for months. I wanted to fly away like they said I would. I had written down everything I was supposed to do. I hit lighter, lit green, inhaled. I smiled through the thick smoke. Smoke all around me.
Then there was smoke all around us.
You can swallow it, you said. I did and it burned down my throat and it tasted bad but that was okay. I breathed out a wreath of gray air. Ashes turned red and smoldering, a halo of light above your head as the birds sang and sang. And I stared at the orange crackled leaf on the ground, waiting for it to change shapes and colors but it didn’t.
“Who are you?”I asked.
“Your friend,”
“I don’t have friends,”
“Don’t you feel anything?” You asked.
“No,” I said, but I felt everything.
“You shouldn’t lie.”
“Who are you?”
“You’ll get to know me very well,” you said and your eyes were closed and you held the bowl in your hands. “Tastes like the rainbow.”
“That’s mine,” I said.
“Can’t you share?” and you blew smoke rings. The camera was rolling and it sounded like the ocean as moments went on.
Then we started to walk. Where? I don’t know. I didn’t know much back then.
“When will I get to know you?” I asked.
“You have lots of time to get to know me”
“But when will I really know you?”
“You’ll just know.”
And then I started to fall, swayed to an unspoken beat. And the trees were laughing and giggling and shaking their branches. I stepped into mud shaped like animals.
“I think I’ll jump in the creek,” you said. And you did, you jumped into the skyline and dived in like a drill into diamonds.
“Don’t leave me…”
“I’m just here,”
Now the sky was purple. Now the toads wept and the children slept and suddenly I missed my mother. I missed home. “Dorothy taps her red shoes,” I blurted and I don’t know why……and I grabbed on to nothing, but I felt the roughness of your hands and the tip of your skin in my memory. But I couldn’t even remember if you had hands, or skin.
I heard the splash, and the rocks cried out when you landed on them.
“Get off us!” they yelled at you. And I yelled at you, but I was plunging into air and the sun was dried out like a raisin. I pulled the petal off a flower and it bled and bled and I couldn’t stop the ground from shaking, cracking like dried lips.
I saw you in the creek, lying on the poor rocks. You suffocated them. I was only thinking of how I’d never forgive you. I saw heaven in the sky and the ballerina danced like a little lady through the woods and her Daddy was proud of her, and my Daddy was never proud of me...
“Van,” you said from down in the creek.
“Whose that?” I called out, it was dark now.
“I can’t move my legs,”
“Who said that?” I said.
“I did. I did Van. I’m down here. Down here in the creek.”
“Where are your legs?”
“Here Van. I have them. I can’t move them.”
I see your legs dash off into the forest. “Stop!” I screamed at them. I ran after them. The trees had faces. Old faces with wrinkles and divots in bark like my grandmother. She had given me a pinwheel for my birthday.
I ran until my shoelaces untied. I tried to find your sneaky legs. I called out for them, but I didn’t know their names.
Soon it was so dark that I could no longer see my hand in front of my face. I fell to the ground, the ground shook with pleasure, because the ground was cold and I had warmed it up. I smacked Mother Nature’s hands away because I was not for touching and I asked the fairies in the toadstools to help find your legs, but they only just smiled at me. Fairies are toothless, did you know? I fell asleep in this haystack. I never found the needle.
I woke up and you were standing there.
“You’re walking,” I yelled and sat straight up.
“Shh, you’ll wake up the moon. She only lets the sun shine if she’s asleep,” you whispered, “Don’t worry, I found my legs. They were only just playing hide and seek.”
“What do I do now? I don’t know where I am,”
“No one knows where you are, Van,” you start to walk off, into molecules of dust, or you might’ve soaked into time.
“Where are you going?”
“You’ll see me again,”
“How?”
“The same way you’ve seen me this first time.”
“But who are you?”
“I told you, I’m your friend, and from now on, you’re always going to need me.”



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