The Back Deck

I.

The keg underneath the back deck was dripping dry. "There's more in the cooler." We had the backyard tables, the lawn chairs, the stereo with the mix CDs, a bon fire swallowing the air above our heads and illuminating sloppy conversations. "No, the white one. The beer cooler." The moon was slanted sideways, cockeyed. We readjusted our body language underneath the exonerating stars.

Later I was sitting at the kitchen table staring out of the slider door with my dirty bare feet propped up on a chair with the last of the low-alcohol content beverage my mother provided my seventeen-year-old self positioned carefully between my palms. My dad pulled open the back the door and closed it behind him and commented on the moon. I could see the animated shadows behind him fill the backyard until the air was just electric fire. Fire and movement. Smoke and the smoke people and the languages that are made up in the soft spot between nightfall and shaking hands. "I'm going downstairs for a while, probably going to bed. Did you have a good graduation party?" A commonplace response out of my mouth and my father's one armed shoulder hug. "Proud of you. 'Night."

Electric fire. I get up and go on the back deck and pretend that no one is ever going to have to leave and summer will decide to stick around even though it has other obligations. Summer for twelve months. Summer for so long that everyone will forget what it feels like to be unhappy.

II.

On the back deck the moon looks like a pistol pointed straight at my ribcage. There is nothing but blurry shapes filling the yard because it is night time and everything is silent and buried underneath the weight of the day. My hood is up, my eyes are drawn. I can feel the balls of my elbows bruise against the railing as I try to balance my chin in my palms. "It doesn't have to be complicated," I almost say out loud. "The yard is empty and here I am standing a dozen steps above it all and it doesn't have to be complicated."

It's cold. Tomorrow the scattered cigarette butts from the post-funeral smokers will be frozen to the ground. I know how I must look-Outside alone at the end of January. No coat. A face that looks like the way a clenched fist feels. A trembling girl desperately trying to mimic her father's easy casualness. (Or rigid exhaustion? Weary indifference?) "What about the moon?" I want to ask my dad. "What else is there to say about the moon tonight?" I want someone to come out onto the deck with me just to stand close and breathe evenly and I never want to see another human again. I can almost smell the snow. I even want the backyard shadows to leave and come back when everyone feels as if it's okay to smile again.