This evening in late June I lie in bed next to your small, fevered, body thinking how the teenagers must all be getting laid. In fields. Abandoned cabins. Near the river in the backs of cars. What else could they possibly be doing on a night like this? Buttercups, red clover, and daisies fill the ditches; fireflies tangle; the air turns sweet with honeysuckle, burnt with rotting wood. Your fever reaches one-hundred-and-five.
The night I graduated I slept in a hayfield with six friends amidst the cocaine buzz of early summer: Crickets. Rivers. Cars. Beer. Fire. Skin. That dangerous, thrilling high. Not once thinking about the farmers—people I now know well—and how it must have made them grimace, or smile: our headlights, shrieking, debauchery and fire ravaging their uncut hay not two-hundred-feet from their farmhouse door.
But isn’t eighteen the age for not thinking about such things? A ticket for oblivion? Cheap, with wine? I brush my palm across your head, learning to gauge the temperature with my hand. Fevered child, butterball of love, who likes to undress at the pond, in the yard, outside dressing room doors. “Mama,” you said the last time, slipping under the TJ Max door, trouble lacing your voice, “I’m taking off my shoes.”
“Mama,” stepping away. “I’m taking off my shirt. It’s off now.” “Mama, my pants,” while I tried to wrestle some jeans on over my thighs, tried to cajole you into coming back to me.
“Mama,” laughing, screeching with joy, “I’m…NAKED!” running down the florescent-lit hall.
Whose child are you? From what wild garden did you descend? You have my grandmother’s face and eyes. Everyone tells me. “My god,” they say, stopping me on the street. “She looks just like her.”
“I know,” I reply, thinking of the dream I had in the weeks after I’d conceived, the dream in which Margaret, my grandma, had come back as a trapeze-flying blond-headed girl. “It’s a she,” I told T that night. “We’re having a girl,” thinking of that wildness, that fear, that unharnessed tongue, riding on a few thin ropes up towards the sky.
Now I brush your lava-hot head with my lips, blow on your beaded lids, and wonder what those teenagers are drinking. Jegermeister? Jack Daniels? Miller Light? Outside the open windows the skies grow auburn with dusk. Leaves flicker. The pines groan. Are they in love? I don’t yet think of the mothers, and whatever it is they’re thinking. Hear that? I don’t yet think of, or think like, the mothers. All I think of is that fevered, reverent pitch. That harrowing fear. The way the world was so god damn open. So open! Anything could happen. Anything. You don’t even know, child. You don’t even know how hot it will get. The chills that will wrack you. How close we all come, at some point, to dying.