Teenage Beach Party

We’re all whiskey mouthed and nicotine teeth. We’re the smear of flannel bodies, hairspray and limbs twisting inside the birdlike snap of wrists. We’re the fucking-like-fucking-nuts laughing when he swings the kerosene soaked rag above his head, laughing when it flies across the wet bark black sky. Laughing as it slaps against the girl’s leg and sticks, laughing as she’s screaming. The threading of the pint bottle taps against the thin upper ridge of my teeth. Closing my mouth around it, I swallow the heat. My stomach bounces up, up off the high diving board, the whiskey almost comes out, I force it back down (the stomach and the whiskey). Force is a language I understand.

See me now ripping the bottle away from my mouth, gasping out the firevapor of it, laughing, spraying some of it in the direction of the fire. I look around: We’re all doing this. Everyone here.

Then, me: leave me alone, leave me alone, everybody leave me alone on sputtery refrain.

Kelly says You wanna go home and I laugh like a toy with a dying battery and I shove her, hard.

I’m walking like sideways crosshatch chicken scratch. I drop the bottle. The ground tries to swallow my feet, the ground like gravel batter stirring itself. The ground like a failed eye test.

My feet try to clump down on it to make sure it’s still there and of course it isn’t. Then I’m leaving. Me and my breathing step-by-step, the breath always a few ahead of me, a warm cloud of low grade bourbon advancing around me then retreating then advancing. A thing that comforts and scares me.

Kelly’s up beside me, she’s saying You wanna go home again and I hear myself say

Where-what-no-no-I’m going to go somewhere else for a while-it’s too crowded here.  And that girl’s leg is on fire.

Or at least these are mostly the words I intend and I think most of them come out that way. Kelly says Where, Gracey, where are you gonna go, let me take you home. Then, as with other Saturdays, that last word there like a lancet. That single syllabled strike, that low open howl of a word—home. It slices the unsteady sky over my head in that way where again I hear him bend in and whisper keep your mouth shut, my cheek familiar against my Strawberry Shortcake pillowcase, threadbare from the Sweet Dreams portion of childhood. Again I hear the Stoli bottle smash outside against the gravel batter spin of my driveway. Again the molotov flare of seconds I count as he’s coming down our hallway to the door with my name in puff paint letters. He sings his own one-note made up melody into the words Marco Polo over and over and over until his hand is on the door-knob while I’m inside the closet making my legs into bowlines, checking to see if the ground still exists and of course it doesn’t.