Short nonfiction that first appeared on Gulf Coast's online journal.
Go ahead. Put the cassette into the player.
You drive the El Camino with the gold phoenix etched on the hood. Two other boys ride with you. Your younger brother and one of his friends.
[His name escapes you now [the friend, not your brother].]
You press the button to forward to the next song.
"Cold as Ice."
[You wouldn't lie about something like that.]
You're going camping at Seven Sacred Pools.
By the way. It's 1982.
By the way. You're seventeen. You and your family live on Maui.
By the way. "Cold as Ice" is in E flat minor. [The key of melancholy.] [Not depression.]
You hate yourself in 1982. [You like boys.] Sometimes you hate yourself so much you punch yourself in the head.
You like Michael, but not sexually. [He's the alpha male on the swim team.]
[You being the omega male.]
Michael makes everyone laugh, especially you. He likes Michael Jackson, but he doesn't like Foreigner.
There are six boys camping [all swimmers], including you and Michael and your younger brother.
Your coach chaperones. You think he's old.
[But he's younger than you are today.] [Which is still old.]
You and the other boys decide to go swimming before dinner.
By the way. You alone decide not to swim through the volcanic tube connecting the last two pools.
By the way. You're deathly afraid of water at night.
[I.e., irrevocably scarred by Jaws.]
You think Michael's pulling a prank.
[But he's actually stuck underwater in the tube.]
All of you think he's pulling a prank.
[If that's any consolation to you.]
[It won't be.]
You watch your coach try to resuscitate Michael.
Resuscitation. [Viz., CPR].
By the way. You think hours pass before the paramedics show up.
By the way. Your coach doesn't stop CPR even after the paramedics show up.
You're horrified by Michael's waxy white body.
You're horrified by the gurgle Michael's throat makes after each of your coach's breaths.
You're horrified by the look of horror on your coach's face.
You disgust yourself because you didn't swim through the tunnel. [You wish you could hit yourself in the face.]
You look at your brother and the other boys.
[Fuck [!] fuck, fuck.]
You go with your coach to pray in a small church. [Your coach lights a candle.]
You're haunted by the haunted look on your coach's face.
By the way. Your swimsuit is still wet.
By the way. You feel guilty for feeling hungry.
You're there when the hearse arrives for Michael's waxy white body.
You get in your El Camino to follow the hearse home.
[You forget "Cold as Ice" is cued to play.]
[That you could see the Milky Way while the song played.]
[While you drove.]