The Girl in the Woods
The dark of the woods around your house was so nearly perfect at night you imagined it seeped in through the holes in your body and filled in all the empty spaces in your lungs and behind your eyes. In summer, the nearly perfect darkness was dotted with the blinking lights of countless fireflies that you crushed by clapping your hands together, and when enough of their luminescent green essence was smeared on your palms, you rubbed it onto your cheeks and bare chest and stalked silently through the trees, a ghoulishly glowing specter without a shirt.
The girl in the woods who caught a glimpse of you and ran screaming in the other direction was a neighbor you’d loved since you first saw her, years before, riding atop her father’s shoulders. She’d waved at you and your mother as you drove past, and reminded you of a storybook queen, waving at her subjects, riding on the shoulders of a giant. When she screamed, even in the nearly perfect darkness, you knew it was her, because she was the only girl in walking distance of your house and because, even screaming, the sound of her voice
was exactly as dainty and perfect as you’d imagined.
You chased her through the woods by the sound of her panic and the splintered light of the fireflies and you wanted to call out but you didn’t know her name and you couldn’t think of what to say and when she ran headlong into a tree and made the sound a dog makes when kicked in the ribs you stumbled over her body and you knew inside yourself that she was dead, that you’d killed her, and that you’d never know what it was like to kiss a girl or even smell her hair not in secret like in the water fountain line but while she let you do it and even leaned into you a little so you could get a better whiff. But she wasn’t dead. She was breathing, and you were so relieved you gathered her in your arms and helped yourself to what you knew to be strawberry blonde, though you couldn’t see it, you knew its color from memory and you would have known anyway from its smell. These are the thoughts you were thinking when her father came up behind you, in the nearly perfect dark of the woods behind your house, your hands and face and bare chest glowing green with the smeared muck of countless fireflies, holding her dreaming head in your hands and sniffing her hair, and when the bright white of his flashlight closed your eyes you thought, whatever comes, I will not regret this.