In the darkest part of the woods they’ve been covering up the wells. You don’t want me the way you once did, but you don’t tell me to leave either when I step onto your porch, you don’t shake your head when I ask you to come with me, to match your arms with mine against the metal sheets lidding sockets of moss and stone.
I ask if you remember those stories your grandma used to tell us years ago on this same porch, how along the county line whole towns once got swallowed by water. It was the end of April before the war she said, they carried the dead out of cemeteries and waked the land itself before it drowned. Streamers laced the fire station for one last dance, but the blisters on their feet had barely peeled, the soot from the clearcut burns still flaked in their lungs when they heard the final blast seal the far side of the river, and roads that used to take you to fields and farms and churches sank into a lake instead.
And what about that one summer? Not so long ago we’d stopped sharing ice cream twists, long enough that we weren’t holding hands, we snuck our way into one of the tours. We wanted to see what was still there, the caving mouths of cellar holes, the stone walls snaked and crumbling to the shore like backbones of fossil whales. Though in the end there wasn’t much. There was mostly just all that blue so bright I couldn’t even think what was underneath, just watched the dragonflies sew their iridescent needles back and forth across the wrinkled sheen of it, every now and again a pair of them hooked and dragging in a shape like a valentine.
You had said it made you shiver, the way the water was both a mirror and a depth, flashing, descending, holding everything above and below. I said it sounded like you were talking about love. You said a reservoir was a kind of lie; it would always take the place of something else. We watched a fish break the surface, glisten through the air, fall back. A bald eagle skimmed the trees on the opposite shore, landing somewhere in the green. I searched inside for a place I hadn’t tried to fill with something of yours. Back then, I couldn’t find one.
We step down from your porch, and I ask you to come the back way, past the elementary school’s rusted swings, through a couple cornfields with leaves that whisper and itch against our arms. You let me lead the way when the path tatters off into trees and we come to the darkest part of the woods, the place where poachers dump the insides of deer off-season, where flowers grow rare and thick like tongues or some other flesh; brown dragon, bloodroot, lady’s slipper, trillium. The place where there used to be wells.
I scrape the ground with a stick, and a corrugated seam glints through. We each pick a side and lift, and the sky looks up at us from the ground. I swing my feet over the edge and ask you to wait. I tell you the things I can, like how I want to know what that cold is. What it’s like to go somewhere that’s meant to be gone, and to be there, gone, inside it. And then what it’s like to come back.
Erin Calabria grew up in rural Western Massachusetts and currently lives in Magdeburg, Germany. She studied writing at Marlboro College and radio documentary at the Salt Institute. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Third Point Press, Atlas and Alice, 100 Word Story, and other places. She tweets @Erin_Calabria.