by XC Atkins
We walked out unto the narrow wooden pier in the summer dark, one after the other, moon big in the sky. I liked the sound our footsteps made against the creaky planks. As if some mission were underway. Like we were vital to the future of something.
The water slapped against the barnacle covered beams of the pier, glinting in the moonlight like so many flashes of teeth. The walkway ended with a platform. Chairs had been left behind. We sat in them. Beer cans popped open. Cigarettes were lit.
“Look out there.”
Across the Sound, lights blinked. It was as if they were stars not from some far out universe but within reasonable distance. Reachable. Possible. We could hear fish jumping. I’d caught a stingray out here once. I remember being scared by the weight on the line. We couldn’t believe it when it broke the surface.
“I’m glad we were all able to make it out here,” Reggie said.
“Three years in a row. I’m an advocate of tradition,” I said.
“It’s important,” Reggie said.
I nodded, even as I knew there was an expiration date.
We drank our beers. We watched Reggie throw out a net. He caught little fish. They flashed in the dark like slivers of metal. He flipped them back into the water with his thumb, picked up the net, opened it up, recast.
Hours went by. We spoke as if it really were three years ago. We imagined unbelievable worlds full of women who worshipped us. We retold stories we’d already heard a million times and laughed like they were new.
Light beamed on us from behind. We turned around. A car had pulled up back in the driveway. Its engine idled, time made audible. I turned back around in the chair, looking out into the Sound.
“Well,” I said.
“Well,” Reggie echoed.
“See ya later, Lev,” his brother said.
I put the beer can down and stood up and walked down the pier towards the car.
I stepped off the pier and into the sand. A small breeze skimmed over the sand, invisible, making a soft rattle. I watched it swirl at my feet. Tiny tornadoes, capable of making beer bottle caps and fishhooks vanish. The breeze lifted into the leaves of the tree I passed beneath. The car door came open, engine still puttering, and she stepped out.
And then behind me, suddenly, the guys began to shout. I turned around. All of them were up on their feet, moving around excitedly. Reggie must have brought up something from the water. I couldn’t see anything else besides them moving around whatever it was on the deck. I wanted to run back to them.
I paused another moment, maybe waiting for my vision to grow sharper, for something to become more clear. Nothing did. Once again, it was only the engine, and even the breeze had left. I walked up to the car, she waiting there, watching me.