Nonfiction from Despy Boutris

Photo: Cristian Palmer

Two Friends Confront Mortality

We’re treading in the middle of the lake, the water deep enough to drown us. My eyes fix to some point in the distance, beyond the eucalyptus and pines making outlines against the night sky. He lifts his hands to the surface and splashes my face with water and scum. I toss my hair over my shoulder, glare like a territorial bear. He chokes on his laugh, head falling under water.

What are you thinking about? he asks.

I turn to float on my back, feel the cool water around my ankles. My face to the sky, the woman in the moon eyes me, and our toes touch as he sidestrokes beside me. Ears underwater, I listen to the quiet ripples. Death, I say.

He laughs. Say more.

I search the stars, make out what few constellations I know: Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion’s Belt. I say, I’m thinking about how even if we got A-bombed right now and our flesh cooked right off our bones, completely incinerated or vaporized, we still wouldn’t be killed more times than we’re going to die anyway.

He turns toward me. It’s the last night of summer, and that’s what you’re thinking about?

I smile. It’s comforting.

I float in the lake’s chill, thinking about how these callused, summer-worn hands and feet won’t feel anything one day. And then I feel skin graze my foot, feel myself yanked beneath the water. I fight for air, lakewater in my airways. I come up and demand, What was that for?

He shrugs. Just a reminder that we’re alive. He grabs my loose locks of hair, pulls like a water nymph. Come on. Let’s swim.

And we swim.
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Despy Boutris‘s writing has been published in Copper Nickel, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Guest Editor for Palette Poetry and Frontier, and Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.

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