Great Underneath

My father and I
visited Fire Island
one junior high school summer.
We stayed at my uncle’s,
but it was just me and Dad there
celebrating that almost-Autumn weekend.

We sat on the bay
where my dad could sunbathe and I
threw pebbles into
the great underneath
and read some book
about some sorcerer king
and his tragic magical war
to destroy some world or another.

The sun was going down
but we stayed out,
stayed put on the bay
soaking in the rays no longer
but rather, the atmosphere, and
in the distance
on the next dock
I saw a girl that I
recognized from years before.

Alison has been in my grammar school
and in most of my classes and I
had been in her thrall
for most of those years.
Something about her freckled soul
had captivated me for… ever.
Her family had a house on the Island
not far from my uncle.
It was how I’d grown to know her,
and grow obsessed with her
in earlier years
but since Sixth Grade Graduation, I
had seen nothing of her.

She lounged across from us and
above the gentle lapping of the bay
she waved.
The very girl I’d dreamed of
through much of my pre-pubescence
was seeking my attention.

I ignored her.
I continued to focus on the book
which somehow
at the moment
seemed more important
that the girl of my early dreams.
“Blood and souls,”
I muttered
while Alison and her friends tried
with increasing energy and volume
to get me to acknowledge them.

“Do you know them?”
My father asked.
“I don’t think so,”
I replied, and gave a desultory wave
in Alison’s direction.

Decades later
I cannot explain why
I didn’t want to share time
with this girl that had occupied
so much of my mental space
for so many years.

Maybe I was embarrassed
by my prior love
or maybe I merely wanted the hours
with my father on that pier.
Perhaps I feared
that all I had invested in that little redhead
would simply dissipate
were I to experience her
in this latest iteration.
Whatever the reason,
I kept to my pier
and left her alone.

She did the same
and finally Alison gave up,
abandoned her post
and returned to her bungalow.
My father and I
eventually skulked back to my uncle’s,
and I knew nothing more of the girl
for years to come
until rumors got back to me
of her very active
and indiscriminate romantic life
in college and beyond.

I would have liked
to know more about those rumors
but I’d lost my chance
to verify them.

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