Lydia Copeland Gwyn

Someone else found you. First in a bed and then on the floor wrapped in a red and green Christmas comforter. She said you were cold, marble. Each hand curled in the shape of a C. I was on a beach at the time.

It had been years since you and I walked around the bay eating ice cream and dreaming of big states with deserts. We hated the bay. Its water was brown and the shoreline was strewn with washed-out sneakers, jump ropes, tampons, but it was the only thing to walk around in our town, and sometimes there were birds there. Brandts, loons, mergansers. Double-breasted cormorants perched on rotting dock posts with their wings outstretched to dry in the sun.

At the high school stadium—not that long out of high school—you ran at night through the patches of light on the field. You sometimes mistook shadows in the bleachers for men—a lone spectator watching the trace of your circle in grass.

Your mother at the asylum in her beautiful dresses and matching bracelets. Old suitcases still packed from the day she came. Picnics on the grounds and her mute roommate who passed me notes on each visit. What is your last name? What is your mother’s name? Do you have a pet? Your mother and her red lipstick, her summer blanket under the catalpa tree.

You slept in my living room for a while and then in my bedroom. In sleep, I’d hear you up and moving around the apartment. There was a sound you made. The sound coming out of you would rise and rise, like rain turning to steam turning to nothing—always lifting and thinning. I’d lie there in my body without moving and listen to you. You were a mirror loose in its frame. You were blooms of fire slowly melting everything.

When I sleep now, a soft hand comes into my dreams and muffles the memory of you. Each day there is less and less. Less of your lips, your turns of phrase. I have children now who catch salamanders in a creek, who toss railroad spikes into campfires and watch for the orange glow. Someday in some dark place something will remind me, as it does now and then. The curve of a hand around a cup, someone’s half smile. How my husband stands in a room full of people—his body loose and swaying as if there is music, as if he wants to dance.

Lydia Copeland Gwyn’s work has appeared in New World Writing, Glimmer Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elimae. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and daughter.