Drowning Lessons


My sister has drowned thirty-seven times. You might think that’s impossible, but believe me, it’s not. It’s the truth. My sister has drowned in rivers, in bathtubs, and in soup bowls. She’s drowned in swimming pools and drinking glasses. She has drowned in mall fountains and in sidewalk puddles and in the birdbath in the back garden—wherever she meets liquid, Sophia will find a way to drown. I’m the guy with a lifetime’s worth of lifeguard duty but no pay. You never really notice how much fluid there is around until you know someone who won’t stop dying in it.

But listen—Sophia isn’t the suicidal type. A lot of people think she is, but they’re wrong. None of her drownings were on purpose. I know that seems hard to believe, given the thirty-seven overwhelming pieces of evidence to the contrary, but every single one has been accidental. Sophia isn’t drawn to water; water is drawn to Sophia. Take, for instance, when we went to the renaissance fair and the Dunk-a-Peasant booth broke into a tidal wave just as Sophia walked by. Or when a fly ball at one of my baseball games knocked her unconscious, causing her to slump facedown into her neon blue Slurpee. These things just happen to her.

Other times, my sister will faint, unprovoked, and sink right into some new wet death. The worst is when she passes out in the shower and whoever finds her has to wrap her naked body up in a towel before reviving her. She doesn’t look twenty years old when she’s collapsed on the tile floor. She looks like a naked mole rat, or like a newborn snake, all slick and mushy.

Right now, Sophia is on the sofa drinking whiskey out of a plastic sippy cup. Last March, a bottle’s worth of wine burst out to reach her, and she had to get twelve stitches along her jaw from the glass shards. Since then, she can only drink out of “safe,” non-breakable cups—plus the cap keeps her mouth and nose protected from the contents as she swigs. It makes parties awkward; she looks like a toddler, suckling booze from a spill-proof lid. As my sister prefers to remain un-infantilized at social gatherings, she always pre-games at home.

I melt into the couch next to her. She’s watching some reality show about Catholic monks. The monks run a tattoo parlor and apiary. One of them is talking about how bees are nature’s tattoo guns. He turns and lifts up his robe to display a large orange honeycomb branded on his thigh, bordered with Latin script.

“I’m not so sure these monks are legit,” I say.

“Mm.” Her eyes remain on the monk, who is now leading the cameraman on a tour of the monastery. Bees waft past the lens in thin grey clouds.

“You need a ride to Quinn’s later?”


“You sure?” I ask. “Mom says it might rain.”

“Whatever,” she says. She takes in another sip of whiskey without flinching.

Sophia has not been particularly communicative as of late.

I leave her in the living room and head upstairs to get ready for Quinn’s party.


There is wanting and then there is wanting, you know? It’s ridiculous that the word want covers so much. Like, wanting a cool car is not the same thing as wanting Quinn. One of those is surface, material. The other kind of want is molecular. It’s more like a tug. Like all these fishing lines are hooking into me and yanking. You can decide to want a car, I think. You can’t decide to want a person. Not in the same way. Just like Sophia couldn’t decide whether or not to end up in Redland Pond this past September. The water just pulled and pulled and what could Sophia do but be dragged along? What can any of us do?

Wanting a car doesn’t mess your whole digestive system up whenever you think about it. Doesn’t make you so anxious (as you wriggle into your coat, as you button your jeans, as you imagine Quinn unbuttoning your jeans, as you can almost feel her dusky burgundy lipstick smudging against your neck) that your whole body revolts in its own, tiny, raging war.

Maybe this is the difference between “want” and “yearn:” Want can be flipped on and off like a fuse. Want can be indulged in or set aside. Yearn is something else. You can hear it in the shape of the word. It sounds like the noise a person might make while lying on their stomach on the rim of a well, and reaching down into it, toward the dark. The little grunt they might emit without even knowing it as they reached and reached down into the belly of the well but never quite caught whatever it was they were reaching for.


Sophia isn’t allowed to drive anymore, so she rides shotgun in my car. The last time my sister was allowed to operate a motor vehicle, she almost drove off a bridge before mom grabbed the steering wheel. After that, our parents sold Sophia’s car on Craigslist. And Sophia’s independence—sold right along with it. We live in a small town, no public transit or anything, so she’s pretty much stuck at home unless I lug her out with me.

Creature. That’s what I named my car—a beat-up Volvo I bought this past June as a seventeenth birthday present to myself, paid for in long-hoarded bar mitzvah money. In AP US History, I learned that the puritans used to name their daughters things like Creature and Fear, and their boys Truelove. I like the idea of cars with monstrous names. I also like the idea of cars named after girls named after monsters. Sophia thinks it’s a stupid name for a car, but she doesn’t get a say in it. I’m the one doing her the favor of driving her around all the time.


After taking a year off post high school, Sophia was supposed to leave for college this fall. Having gotten into a solid university a few hours drive away, she was excited to get out of Guilford. I think she was ready to be somewhere new, somewhere she could walk down the street without every passerby knowing her as “that drowning girl.” But then, the week before she was due to leave, a kid found her facedown in Redland Pond.

Usually it takes just a few minutes to revive Sophia—we’ve all gotten pretty damn efficient at it—but this time, she didn’t come back for almost an hour. Once she did wake up, she stayed loopy and confused for the next few days. Even though she snapped out of it before the week was up, our parents decided that letting her go off to school alone was too much of a risk. Mom made her un-enroll. Since then, Sophia has spent most of her time pissed off and watching reality TV, which she has deemed the only stimulus worthy of her attention.


It’s already well past dark. Quinn lives about fifteen minutes outside town, on a dirt road. Her parents are both lawyers, and they have this big mansion in the woods, plus another place in New York. Most of the time, Quinn’s parents are working in the city, and Quinn is left behind to go to school and watch the house. She’s an only child—why is it that so many rich people have only one kid? Maybe that’s how they stay rich; not spending all their money on college enrollments and ER visits and military grade life jackets.

That’s another thing—our parents make Sophia wear this puffy red life jacket everywhere. I mean everywhere. If they catch her without it on, even in the house, even in bed, they give her this big lecture about responsibility and common sense. She’s sewed all these band patches and stuff on it, and had some of her friends sign it the way you get people to sign a cast, but it still looks… well, ridiculous. Though I mean, I want her to wear it, too. I don’t want her to die.

All the people who signed Sophia’s vest are off at college now. Just their scribbles left behind. Scribbles—and Sophia.

We round Estey Street, past the rows of looming green-grey buildings that were once a pipe organ factory. They’re all empty now. So much of this town is more “what was” than “what is.” Abandoned factories, junked car lots, bridges too rickety to bear weight anymore. We don’t cross bridges anyway, though, not with Sophia in the car. We always take a detour.


The driveway at Quinn’s is packed, so we park down the road by the woods and walk the rest of the way. Overhead, clouds gather, heavy and electric. A lick of anticipation dangling in the air. At the end of the cul-de-sac, the pale glow of the party leaks out into the night. Bass buzzes across the front porch. A few kids lag on the stoop, smoking Pall Malls and passing a joint around. I squint to see if Quinn is among them. She isn’t.

“How much cash do you think I can scam off these idiots?”


That’s the first full sentence Sophia has spoken to me in three days. She tacks a dollar bill to her lifejacket with a safety pin.

“Come on Dalton, haven’t you heard that it’s good luck to pin a dollar on someone who’s come back from the dead?” She winks at me.

“You’re an asshole,” I reply. She bats her eyelashes.

“I heard that if you make it ten bucks, you’re guaranteed ten years of great sex.”

I ignore her.

“Come on,” she nudges. “If you help me spread the rumor, I’ll give you twenty-five percent.”

“Fifty percent,” I say.


I sigh. “Deal.”

We get to the front door, pushing past the smokers out front and stepping into the foyer. I glance around for Quinn—still no sign of her. Already, Sophia’s darted off to make her fortune. There was a time when conversations used to snuff out as she passed through a room, eyes flicking toward her in morbid curiosity. But novelty wears off fast in a town this small. Once people figure you out, they stop caring. She’s like a mascot. All people see is this familiar cartoon of a person, completely ignoring the actual person inside.


I approach the one group of kids who are all staring at my sister, whispering to each other. I don’t know any of them, but one’s wearing a Leland and Gray homecoming pin, which is the high school two towns over. Fresh blood.

“Hey,” I say, “You know it’s good luck to pin a dollar to her life jacket. It’ll help you get laid, or whatever.”

“Bullshit,” says a girl with dyed, powder pink hair and a torn pair of fishnets over her arms.

“Believe what you want,” I say, “But it’s worth a try, right?”

The pink girl hesitates. One of her friends, a punk with thick black eyeliner applied a little too cleanly under each eye, reaches into his pocket. Gropes around for a dollar. I leave. Game, set, match. At least this way, there’ll always be people near Sophia. To keep an eye on her. Just in case.


I work my way toward the back of the foyer. It’s a huge, round room with a crystal chandelier dangling from the lofted ceiling. Ten or twelve looming paintings hang down the full length of the walls. They’re all primed white canvases with a single, measured green stripe running from top to bottom. I asked Quinn about them, once, and she said her artist uncle painted them, that they were supposed to be blades of grass, up close. Standing in the center of the foyer, you feel like an ant—a miniscule creature looking up at the looming grasses, the vaulted ceilings, the walls that go up and up and up, the chandelier shivering with gold light like the sun in late autumn. It’s like that movie Honey I Shrunk The Kids. I don’t like feeling small like that.

“But that’s the point,” Quinn had insisted.

Imagine being so rich that feeling insignificant was an aesthetic novelty. A sensation so foreign, you experimented with it in your interior design. Just for fun.

I make my way up the staircase, which lies curled in the back of the room like a ringlet of dark hair. The mahogany balustrade is waxed and polished enough to see your reflection in the wood. It reminds me of water. I keep my hands off it.


The first time I kissed Quinn, we were drunk, in the woods behind our friend Carl’s house. Carl had stolen a bottle of rum from his parents’ liquor cabinet and we’d finished the whole thing between the three of us. It was late December. The trees were skeletal, the ground frozen and crusted with ice. I don’t remember how it started—the world was hazy, smudged out of focus by the rum, time wiggling back and forth. But I remember the taste of Quinn’s mouth, like woodsmoke and honey, and I remember her weight over me, pressing me into the forest floor. I remember thinking about the root system beneath us, tangling in a thousand hidden capillaries under the soil, and how the leafless branches above us looked like veins, too, and how I could feel the blood moving in my own body, like my pulse and the sky and the ground were all the same thing. And I was going to say this to Quinn, but then she kissed my neck, so all I said instead was “You’re kissing my neck!” which I think I said aloud as a sort of proof. A verification that it was all really happening.


There’s a clump of kids at the top of the stairs, playing Arnold Arnold. It’s a drinking game local to our high school—invented by a kid who graduated six or seven years ago, first name Arnold, last name Arnold. I try to press through but someone grabs my arm. “Dalt, will you play corner? We need a fourth.” It’s Maritime Levine, a girl infamous for ripping another girl’s hoop earring out during a cafeteria brawl. She’s a psycho, but we’re kind of friends. We sit next to each other in French class. I try to shrug past, looking for Quinn down the corridor toward her room, but Maritime pushes a lukewarm can of PBR at me. There are two other players— Maritime’s best friend Ximena (the other half of the Great Hoop Earring Fiasco) and Graham Felling, a theater kid who was obviously roped in. Her grip on my arm tightens. “We’re three checks in, Beloveds round.”

Arnold Arnold is played in five rounds, or “checks”: Strangers, Friends, Beloveds, Graveyard, and Thieves. The overall gameplay involves a series of tasks or dares, which get progressively weirder the deeper into the game you get. You can choose to Accept or Drink—but you only can only choose Drink four times throughout the whole game, so you want to ration them as long as you can. In Strangers, you can ask another player any question you want, and they have to answer or drink. For Friends, you all swap phones, and the other players compose texts to send to random contacts. Either you use up a Drink or let the text be sent. Friends stresses me the hell out, so I’m glad to have been grabbed at check three. Beloveds.

“You wanna start, baby?” Maritime asks me.

“Sure. Ximena?” I put out my hand, palm up. “Do the honors?” She spits into it. It’s strangely cold, like she’s been chewing on an ice cube. Then she puts her hand out and I do the same. We clasp them together. We’ll have to keep our hands like this until the final round. At the end, we’ll each try to get someone at the party to high five our spit hand. Whoever gets high fived first wins the round. The loser drinks. It isn’t the most refined game on the planet.

When we get to Graveyard, Maritime pulls a lighter out of her pocket and flicks the flame alive. It glints off the ruby acrylic of her nails.

“Burn for three,” she says, turning to Graham. His eyes go wide and he shakes his head.

“Drink,” he says, and takes a swig of his beer.

“Coward,” Maritime scoffs.

The Graveyard round is simple, but knocks out a lot of the weaker players. Basically, you can do anything to another player, and they have to stay perfectly still, as if they were dead, like they can’t even feel it.

“I’ll do it.” Sophia’s appeared next to Ximena, sidling into the circle without inivitation. She holds out a closed fist.

If you pick up a challenge someone else turns down, you can gain an extra Drink. Maritime raises an eyebrow, but holds the fire up to my sister’s skin. It slithers along her knuckles, leaving a black, sooty streak. “One. Two. Three.” She doesn’t twitch. It creeps people out, whenever Sophia plays this round. She really acts like she doesn’t feel… well, anything.

“Okayyy…” Ximena frowns. “So are you like, joining the game? ’Cause we already have evens.” She stares my sister down, lips pursed.

Sophia shrugs, taking the hint as she gets back up from the circle. I look at the floor. “Dalton can have my Drink bonus.” She winks at me. “Just keeping an eye on you, sweet pea.” Then she turns, vanishing back into the fray.


Once, Sophia was interviewed for an online paranormal investigations magazine called Otherwhere! I’m not sure how they found out about her, but they sent two reporters over in-person to talk to her. Why they couldn’t have sent the questions through email is beyond me, but I guess they wanted to witness her in person. I remember one of the guys looked super bro-y, wearing a salmon pink polo shirt and a backwards Red Sox cap, which I’ll admit, I didn’t expect. The other had on a baggy blue T-shirt that said Do you know where your kraken is? which, okay, I did expect. They asked her all these questions about being dead, about what she’d seen in those moments before she’d come back.

Halfway into the interview, she told them this story: Our parents took us to the beach in Maine one summer. She was seven and I was four. This was before the drownings started. She’d been playing at the shore and got tugged under a wave. It swallowed her, this leviathan wall of water with her tiny body tucked inside it. She tossed and gulped and paddled, and at last managed get out and drag herself ashore. But while she was being thrown against the surf, her foot had been sliced open, and a fragment of purple wampum shell had lodged itself in her heel. Our mom had tried to fish it out with tweezers, but couldn’t get to it, so the wound healed over with the shard still inside. And ever since… (Sophia leaned in close to the microphone, her voice lowering into a near-growl, the interviewers’ eyes swelling like flying saucers) …that shell has been trying to get back to the ocean. Pulling me back with it.

None of that shit ever happened. We never went to the beach as kids. Not once. It would have been nice if the story were true. What I mean is, it’s nice when things have a reason for happening. When a diagnosis has an explanation attached. Cause and effect. Because if you know the why of a malady, you can make steps toward fixing it. But the fact of it is, we don’t know why this is happening. She drowns and drowns and drowns and there’s no point in any of it.

She lies all the time, these days. I think at a certain point, it just seemed easier that way—after all her friends left town and she realized she wasn’t going anywhere for what could be a long, long time. If nobody really knows you, then no one knows if you’re telling the truth. And if no one knows if you’re telling the truth, you can decide what the truth is, and what it isn’t. You have the control. You write the narrative. Even when the water is rising.


“Copycat?” Maritime asks, already moving on. She offers the lighter up to Ximena.

“Copycat,” Ximena agrees, and Maritime holds the flame under her friend’s palm, one, two three. Ximena hisses.

“My turn,” she says. She shifts toward me, then slips her hand up under my shirt. It’s still hot from the lighter. I shiver. She starts to trail her fingers down my stomach when I see Quinn at the end of the far hall, emerging from her bedroom. She sees me, too. I jerk Ximena away.

“I’m out, I—uh, sorry.” I duck away from the game.

“Wait, you have to drink!” Maritime calls after me as I leave, following Quinn down the hall. On the landing below, I can see Sophia float by the edge of the room. She’s alone, a bouquet of dollar bills clotted to her chest. She leans against the wall beside a green painting and stares into the mass of people. Or maybe beyond them— out the window, where wind knits through the creaking sycamores. She doesn’t have any friends at this party. She doesn’t have any friends in this whole town anymore. A low thunder roll hums over the house, and Sophia’s eyes go glassy. But no rain yet. As long as there’s no rain…

I turn back to the second floor hall. The corridor is thick with more party guests, and Quinn hovers at the far end by the entrance to her room, a thin silver flask in one hand. She’s wearing a long pink jumpsuit with black polka dots, the kind I’m not sure how girls get in and out of. Like maybe they have to be born in a jumpsuit and slowly grow into it with age, the way a turtle would with its shell. Quinn’s cropped, iron-straight hair levitates just over her shoulders. Not a single strand out of place. I once heard you can tell rich people from poor people by how well taken care of their hair looks. I squeeze through the crowd to get closer to her.

“Ey, Dalt!” Carl slaps me on the chest, diving in front of me. He’s built like a bureau, looming and thick, just one of his shoulders meaty enough to block the whole hall from view. When I crane around him, Quinn’s gone. Carl offers me a swig of gin, but I’ve already pushed past him and am making my way toward the bedroom. Through the open door I think I see Quinn’s reflection glide across a mirror—but when I get into the room, she isn’t there.

Everything in her bedroom is the same as it was last time I was here: the red and white pelican quilt pinned on the ceiling, the row of little gold bottles holding dried roses, the velvet loveseat with a wine stain on the arm. I can almost see shadows of the two of us on the cushions, or leafing through the bookshelf, or lifting the needle on the record player. All these versions of ourselves from past days, still imprinted on the space.

I pluck up a silk ribbon, spilled in a coil on the floor. Run it through my hands. A strand of Quinn’s hair shakes loose. When I look up, she’s standing in the doorway.

“I, uh, I didn’t know you were coming,” she says. I shrug. Her hands vanish into her jumpsuit pockets. Poof, a disappearing act.

“Oh—yeah. Here I am. I mean, is that okay? I guess I thought—”

“No, it’s fine. You’re totally welcome.”

“Thanks. I mean—yeah, thanks.” I realize I’m still holding the ribbon. I’ve wrapped it around my thumb tight enough that its turned purple. Quinn glances at it.

“Look, can I talk to you for a second?” My voice doesn’t sound like my voice. It sounds like it’s coming from someone else, and I’m standing a few feet away, eavesdropping.

She nods. She doesn’t move to close the door.

“I haven’t heard from you in a while,” I say. My eyes keep drifting off to the side to watch all the little shadows move around, making out in the corner, tying up their boots, eating friend chicken in bed off of greasy paper plates.

“I’ve been really busy,” she says. She doesn’t elaborate.

“Okay, yeah me too. Super busy.”

“You’ve been okay though?” she asks.

“Yeah, totally. Busy. And good.”

“Good,” she says. We stand there, quiet. Another buzz of thunder passes over the house.

“Listen, Quinn—” I take a step toward her. My pulse thuds against my throat, like some tiny me inside the bigger me is banging on a door, begging to be let the fuck out so it can get out of Dodge before whatever happens next happens.

I reach up. Touch her arm. I can feel her skin, cool, through the sleeve of her jumpsuit.  “I miss you.”

Her eyes fall to the floor.

I wonder if she can sense my heartbeat through my fingertips. Morse code. SOS.

“Oh, Dalton…” She pulls away.


When a person drowns, it’s because the body calls for something it can’t have. That is to say, your body demands that you breathe, even when no oxygen is available. Holding your breath is a conscious choice. The longer you hold it, the higher the carbon dioxide levels in your blood rise, and the desire to breathe intensifies. The desire mounts and mounts until eventually, the desire is so irresistible that you willingly allow water down your airway and into your lungs. You choose this. Every cell in your body insists, This. This is what you need. There is wanting and there is yearning—and then, there is a lung filling with water.


A flash of light shudders through the room, and a few moments later thunder cracks so loud the whole house shakes. I can hear it on the roof. Rain. Sheets of water, aching down from the split lip of the sky, all at once. Sophia…

“I’m sorry, I have to go,” I blurt, then sprint past Quinn, down the hall, down the spiral staircase, through the throngs of kids in the foyer. I can’t find my sister. I call her name, but my voice is swallowed by music and laughter. I call out again, anyway. Carl, giant that he is, looms above the crowd by the entrance to the kitchen. I weave toward him through the bodies, through people dancing, couples kissing each other in the dark.

“Hey man, have you seen my sister?” My heart is beating so hard that my shoulders shake with each pulse.

“Yeah dude, I think she stepped out for a smoke. Like ten minutes ago, I dunno.”

I run. The rain is too loud. Louder than it should be. I’ve never heard a sound that loud. The rest of the party doesn’t seem to notice. How can they not notice?

Rounding the corner, the edge of the counter jams into my side. My breath cannonballs out of me. I keep running. Past the dining room, through the mudroom, out the back door.

“Sophia!” I yell into the storm.

Damn, Dalt, what?”

She’s sitting on the back porch, the tangerine pupil of her cigarette glowing in the dusk. She’s dry as toast. I let my panic flow out, like I’m draining a tub. There’s a broken lawn chair next to her and I slide into it.

“Hey sis.” I catch my breath. “The rain’s pretty when it doesn’t try to fucking kill you, huh?”  I side-eye her. Normally, that’s the sort of remark that would get her to smirk. But she isn’t smiling.

“Dollar for your thoughts?” I nod at the clump of money on her vest.

She takes another couple drags of the cigarette, tosses the butt in a puddle.

“Remember that road trip I took out west for Sara and Marie’s wedding? Like, three summers ago?” she asks.

“Sure, yeah, you and Bo drove out, I remember.”

She dips a toe out into the rain, pulls it back, “We stopped at this museum sort of place, somewhere in New Mexico. Like, an oddities cabinet. Fetuses in jars, Fiji mermaids, that sort of crap. Hoax stuff. Their main display was called The Arctic Woman. They claimed it was like 2,000 years old. They kept it in a separate room, where you couldn’t take pictures, and you had to pay an extra few bucks to get in. In the middle of the room was this big coffin thing, a huge box, with a spotlight on it. And when you go up, you realize it’s a freezer. There’s this woman in there, suspended in a block of ice. Clearly dead or fake or whatever… But still, man, all day, people come to stare at this girl. People stumbling in off the highway, just looking for something to kill time, looking for something different. And she’s just stuck in this fucking ice. Jammed in there, like the Boy in the Bubble. Where no one can get to her. They can see her. But they can’t get to her.”

Sophia reaches to grab another cigarette, but the box is empty.

“I was just thinking about that…” she says.

I pull a crumpled dollar out of my pocket and pin it to her vest.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say, “this party sucks. Hang here, I’ll grab my coat.”

I duck back inside, shoving past a kid puking in the sink. Glancing up the stairs, I can spot Quinn again, talking to a guy I don’t know. She leans close. Mutters into his ear. Untangling my jacket from the pile in the hall, I sling my coat over my shoulder and head back toward the porch. When I return—Sophia isn’t there.


In the distance, just outside the lights of the party, a dark shape is silhouetted against the sky. A girl’s body, swaying back and forth, arms at her sides. She’s standing on her toes, but it looks unnatural, like a ballerina on point. As if the clouds have grabbed hold of her, are forcing her upward. A fish on a hook. Her face is upturned to the sky. Her eyelids peeled back, pupils swollen to turn the whole of her eyes into black lakes. The rain falls directly into them but she doesn’t blink, doesn’t move. When I get closer, I can see my sister’s mouth. It’s craned wide open and full of water. She looks like a park fountain, water up to the brim of her lips, head yanked back, a stream of rain pouring out. I’m only a few feet away now, and it seems like more water is pouring out of her mouth than into it. How can that be? She leans into the wind like a sapling.

Just as I get to her, she falls. I hear a snap, and I can’t tell if she landed on a stick or it came from her ankles. Water still rises from her mouth, streams out her nose and ears. I do what I can to cover her with my body, to shield her from the rain.

This is the part I know well. Push on the center of the chest. Hard and fast, twice per second. Repeat thirty times, then administer Rescue Breath. I tip her on her side so the last of the water leaves her, then put my mouth on hers. One. Two. I pump my own breath into her. The sky blooms again with light. Back to her chest. Twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty. Damp bills tear off under my hands. Two more breaths. Please, come on.

She coughs. A gush rivers out of her, and then, she’s crying. She’s back. I smear the hair out of her face. She looks up at me, mascara carving down her cheeks in dark ravines. She tries to say something, but her voice is too quiet and ragged to hear. I lean in.

“What, Soph?”

“It… it happened again?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah. It happened again.”

“Nobody saw… did they?”

Behind us, the party writhes on. The lights just as bright, the music cutting out through the storm. No one’s outside but us. I should have stayed closer. I shouldn’t have left her alone. If Sophia’s friends had been in town, they would have followed her out. She never would have made it into the rain. Or no, she would never have been here at all, at this stupid fucking high school party, alone. She would never have passed through the throngs like a ghost, unnoticed, untouched, never would have wandered invisibly out the backdoor and into the storm. This party she wasn’t even invited to, that her little brother dragged her to because he felt sorry for her. She wouldn’t have had to die, alone in a storm. Again.

“No,” I tell her. “No. Nobody saw.”




photo of the author, GennaRose NethercottGennaRose Nethercott is the author of The Lumberjack’s Dove, selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series, and Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog: A Story in Cootie Catchers. A born Vermonter, she tours nationally and internationally performing from her works and composing poems-to-order on a manual typewriter with her team, The Traveling Poetry Emporium. Her first novel and a short story collection are forthcoming from Knopf Vintage.