You will not remember: The girl I’d someday marry had just said yes to my stammered invitation, and my palms were slippery. She smiled, bent to wipe the moisture on the hem of her dress, which at that moment caught on the tip of your cardboard scepter. I could smell the gold spray paint. The queen crowned to your king laughed. She was always cruel to freshmen. Your white teeth also like a cut of painted cardboard, a bright band of victory. My eyes downcast, trying not to crush my girl’s shoes, and when I finally got the nerve to tilt toward her face, she was looking at you. But you might remember: The time you stopped to shake my hand in the grocery store. My palms still sweaty. I started to ask you about the plant closing down and realized it was the same as high school, females fluttering nearby, whispering about your blue-green eyes. I squeezed your cool fingers and took a long look. They look gray to me, and clear and flat as the road out of town.
Hi Baby. It's taken me so much longer than I hoped to get a few words down. Still no phone of my own yet, but finally saved up to get a place. It's only a studio, but one tall-ass window opens up onto a veranda big enough for me to sit in my chair and watch the neighbors’ houses light up as the night falls. Maybe I'll start growing some vines to creep over the railing. Not that it was so bad at my daddy's, but you know how I am. We'd sit up until sunrise playing cards in the kitchen. Still don't talk much, at least not yet, but the silences are more settled. Job's aight. The usual mustachioed psychopath at the helm, and mostly Mexicans instead of Salvadoreños. My Spanish is getting along good. I hope you are too. Sometimes I ride my bike out to sit under the live oaks and daydream about what they've grown up witness to. I thought you'd like to see one. Write to me, please? Even if you're still mad. Please kiss your pretty face in the mirror for me.
Oh lordy, I finally snuck away for a few sweet moments of quiet. I do not exaggerate when I say my sister has given birth to a litter of hyenas. They run wild literally SCREECHING at us, at each other, at the sky, at the water, at their cereal. They get their sticky fingers stuck in my hair. All of my clothes are ruined from red and blue smears of candy spit and I could KILL. I've been hiding in some dark corner of the beach house trying to read my book, or keeping one eye out so the hellions don't dump a cold bucket of seawater on my back while I'm laying out hoping to goddamn relax. My dad is lucky—he can escape to the old bum bar down the beach. (My mom said he met his first wife there. NASTY.) I hope summer school hasn’t murdered you yet because I think I actually am dying to see you ... If your mom is reading this, tell her I say hi.
Carhenge, Alliance, NE
Got in late Sunday. The front door was open just like you said. I’d tell you what she left out for us to eat but I don’t want to make you sad. She says you slept on the fold-out for a whole summer because you were scared of a wasp nest outside your window. (Remember? You were pretty little.) How you did that so long, I sure don’t know. I toss and turn like a fever, and last night had a dream that a severed fist was lodged in my side. Went to Bible study tonight to be on the safe side. She looks okay, but you were right about her cough. She didn’t drive out to see the cars with us yesterday. We sat inside the circle a good hour ’til a rainstorm reared up. Davey said the place made him sorrowful, like it’s a placeholder for something lost. I think that’s why I like it so much. If you can wire another 50, I'll stock her freezer before we hit the road.
Ulleungdo, South Korea
The locals tell a sad myth here—of a little girl petrified into a sharp, jutting rock visible from where we're staying. This after her fisherman father didn't return from a sea voyage.
The seafarers I've met are alive and well, cheery, sunbaked faces. This is an isolated place, and only a few of the shops that cater to tourists have a person or two who speaks a little I can understand (my Korean baby-words are shy and halting), but I managed to find a squid fisherman patient enough to interpret my elaborate hand gestures and air-sketches.
Yesterday somehow convinced him I could help out on his rickety boat, and we went chugging out in the waves. Sun glancing off the sea. He showed me how to wrestle the squid from his nets, some longer than me and cold and pulsing.
Tonight I can’t fall asleep. Tired from a late hike up and down the foggy volcano, but somehow restless. A mournful undertone on the wind. I just opened the blinds and the fisherman is still down in the harbor winding his nets, his deck light greener than the others.