Dragonfly

Excerpt from the chapter "Dragonfly."

“He’s been hanging out with me all day,” Dave said with a nod to the dragonfly perched on his shoulder. He was bare-chested and his cut-off jeans hung so low on his skinny hips it was obvious he wasn’t wearing underwear. The sun had gone down an hour earlier. Illumination came from red and yellow party lights dangling from the trees.

We stood in timeless silence: Dave watching the dragonfly, me watching Dave. He was deeply, evenly tanned. It was mid-August, and I figured he must have spent a lot of time outside with his shirt off that summer.

“His wings are generating light,” Dave said, his eyes wide and staring at the bug as it crawled down his arm. “You’re a light generator. Do you see that?”

He didn’t look up from his arm and I couldn’t tell if he was talking to the bug or me. I stepped in and looked closer at the dragonfly. It stopped moving when it reached the spot on Dave’s arm where the clock face would be if he were wearing a wristwatch. He slowly turned to face me and raised his arm so the bug sat between us at eye level. We stood barefoot, only inches apart, and I noticed we were almost exactly the same height. I raised my arm so my fingertips touched Dave’s and my stance matched his.

For some reason, in that moment, I thought of my mom. She’d been dead thirteen years, and I’d mostly stopped thinking about her. When she did come to mind, it felt more like a visitation than a memory. When she entered my mind, it wasn’t a choice I was making, more an act of her will.

So, there she was, suddenly present. I felt her standing in the party crowd Dave and I were on the edge of. My mom had been a gorgeous, outgoing, and popular girl. She was twenty-four when she died, so eternally a hipster, still just the right age to be hanging out at the house party with all the other artists and hippies and punks.

“Let’s go swimming,” Dave said. My thoughts interrupted, I followed him to the pool, forgetting my mom and the dragonfly. He pushed his cut-offs down his body without unbuttoning them. In the not-quite-total darkness, backlit from a yellow floodlight aimed at the water, he stood naked and facing me.

I strained to see his eyes in the shadowy darkness as I pulled off my clothes. Dave took my hand, and we stepped to the pool and jumped. As my feet left the ground, time slowed and energy swirled. With a momentary flash of concern, I pictured the dragonfly resting on Dave’s skin, and then with a wash of relief I imagined it flying away. I visualized my mom, too, flying—no, swimming—through the air like it was water.

My mom and I loved to swim together. When I was small, in the summers after she died, I believed she was alive under the water in my grandparents’ swimming pool. In my mind, the pool connected to the ocean that connected to the Earth’s core that connected to an infinite universe. I’d dream of diving into the pool, deeper and deeper, until I found her. Together, we would swim to a radiant light above the water’s surface.

In my first memories, it’s clear everything is connected and beyond human understanding, like the pool to the ocean to the universe.

Dave and I smacked the cool water and our hands released. With my eyes open in the underwater darkness, I sank until my bare ass bounced on the floor of the pool and then floated back up toward the yellow light glimmering above the water’s surface.

I’ve always had an airplane-about-to-take-a-nosedive understanding of my life and the world around me. Part of that understanding, though, is the airplane doesn’t explode in a fiery crash. Instead, it rights itself just before impact and glides into the swimming pool.

Dreams and visions matter. Relationships and experiences are cosmically intertwined in a flux of time and space. Dave’s dragonfly was generating light. And so was I. He was talking to us both.