There is a lake I go to, sometimes. On the long days, she is there and the water is ash on a cigarette left burning for months. Fire and water, heat and ice. Wading around in a burn that goes on and on. I have nothing to say to her, and she never speaks first.
In a place I once almost lived, the cold is a strange number, nowhere near zero. It is a bizarre world, one where numbers seem to be only echoes of what they point to, and everyone is always tan. The girl at the lake would move there, if she ever got out of the water.
In this place by the lake’s shore, there are boys with good voices and boys with hearts of glass, and glasses that are not empty or full. Love feels like a day in a park so green it made you lose your mind. Green is the only colour that never really changes no matter how far you go. I think of whispering this across the water, but don’t. In another life, all I would do is find new names for the colour green, and it would be enough.
I wonder where she learnt to tread water, when her body looks made to sink. She is heavier than anything I have ever seen and there is so much I would like to tell her. That there might be more still, that sometimes water can look more blue than grey, and that the sun makes things green and grow. She never speaks first, and so I swim. Toward her, or away from the shore. Both; neither.
In the lake-world, we speak in glass. We let our words be blown from the water’s fire, syllables shattering before they take shape. The water is a mirror ball. If there were ever waves here, they’d never make it to the shore. I pick the pieces out of my hair, but she only looks on, glittering in a dress made from broken things. We hope our words will wash up like shells in a place less cold, and hot, than here.
In the place with oranges and desert sand and trees like a curse, there is someone waiting for us. She bides her time and takes long drives to somewhere that once felt familiar. She is tan like everyone else in her world, and she squints into the sunshine, because someone once told her they would come. She does not think much about the weather, and her words are only sand and stone and sulphur. In the desert, she looks for water where there is none.
If there was a way out of, back to, forwards from, here, it would be further than any of us could climb. It would be out of the way, around a bend in the road that, like a mirage, like the lake-bed, never really existed at all. It would be green in the sunshine, and on the long days, it would all be grey.
The desert waits, and I swim, and the girl at the lake never speaks first.