ESCAPE ATTEMPT
J River Helms


I’m burying photographs in the front yard flowerbed. The grass is topped with dew & stems are bent toward the pavement. Boy’s dog is shitting next to the mailbox. Across the street our neighbors are having coffee on their porch. They ask how the lilies are doing & I wave & get into my car. In a few minutes Boy is going to wake up surrounded by open photo albums, every page a map of the yard with an X marking.

***

I drive into a tree near Boy’s childhood home. My forehead bleeds when it meets the windshield. The hood sinks into the engine & my body crumples against the ground. The stereo continues to play a mix tape Boy made. After a few moments I’m able to get up. Boy’s engraved Zippo is in my pocket with his initials. I light a map of Florida & toss it through the open window. The wind blows smoke into the trees & their leaves blacken. I unbutton my shirt for air. The road’s quiet. I thumb anywhere that isn’t Boy’s direction.

***

I’m lying in the sand at the edge of another continent. My shirt is folded under my head & my belly is close to blistering. Boy nudges my body with his foot, drops a rubber-banded chunk of photographs on the sand. He sits beside me & disrupts my hair. He doesn’t ask me why we’re here, just says he has a room at a hotel & I can join him. We sit on the bed & look at our photographs. Boy rubs lotion on my sunburn. Dirt from our yard mixes in with sand from the beach. Boy takes a shower & when he comes to bed we watch a foreign film without subtitles. We manage to laugh at the right moments.

***

The day before we go home Boy & I are standing in the ocean. He’s wearing this orange baseball cap he wore when we first met. His lips are against my peeling shoulder & my skin gets caught in his teeth. When we kiss, his hipbones puncture my hands. He tells me there’s a stingray behind me. The water shifts & the sun turns white. Boy asks about the scar on my forehead. I tell him we are sweating each other out like fever. He says I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner.



J River Helms is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama, with work appearing in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, H_NGM_N, and Sixth Finch, among others.