There’s moonlight coming off the water, and my thumb hurts

from where it got burnt from the lighter that I used to light

the candles that we put along the shore, and right now we’re

stringing together sentences in nonsense German that we

think sounds funny, talking about childhood days as if

they’re decades removed, and they are, but not as far

removed as we’d like to pretend, because we’re not that old

just yet, even with the creaking in our joints, and we’re taking

classes, major after major, degree after degree, not sure

where it’s going to wind up, but we’re going there together,

down the line where soil and water meet, leaving these

candles we got at the dollar store, the ones with the wicks

that go bad after only a couple lights, but we light them

anyway, thinking it can make somebody’s day, or rather

night, if they come down and see it the way we see it just

now, in this moment with the lights like stars right down

there in front of us, and we talk all speculative, like dreaming

about possibilities of massive cosmic beings lighting

universes into being, talk about all the ways the world has

changed, on that border between analog and digital,

remembering bicycles strung across the lawn, and that’s the

way you’d tell where all your friends were, then beepers with

numbers in place of letters, 80085 because at that age that

joke was funny every single time you told it, and we ran

down to the basketball hoops that didn’t have nets and set

up trampolines we stole from neighbors’ backyards and

almost got caught that one time, but we just barely made it

out, ditching the things and running out into the woods,

following the trail we heard was made by satanists who

made their offerings in the light of the moon, the moonlight

coming up now, not down but off the water, and our vapor is

traveling out into the night, and we’re listening to Mac

DeMarco off the tinny speakers of your phone, letting

Spotify algorithms take over and dictate what it is we’re

going to listen to for the rest of the night, and before we got

here we went down to Target and played the demo games

they had on display, reclined on their comfy chairs and acted

like we were testing them out whenever a store employee

came by, like we were debating a purchase, as if they’d kick

us out anyway, as if they’d give a shit what we were doing,

and we pulled out Nerf swords and did battle in the middle of

the aisle, fluorescent light above preventing any shadows

from existing anywhere at all, and we started to see all the

things we’d seen when we were younger and could still

imagine that there was a world beyond all of this, a world

where when we grew up we could eat candy whenever we

wanted and have ice cream for breakfast and play video

games all day, as if that was something to look forward to,

times when we’d burn out VHS tapes at friends’ houses,

mess with the tracking to get it looking okay, but it never

really came in clean again, but that didn’t really matter

because we knew those movies by heart anyway, would call

out the lines at all the appropriate moments, sing along to

the songs, and now we have to remind each other to drink

water and get to bed at a normal time and eat greens every

once in a while, maybe buy some fruit the next time you go

to the store, and we leave messages unread and reply when

we’re emotionally able, stretching sentences into moments

that we know will never come again, and we’re scrolling

through feeds and sharing and wandering down streets so

we can be alone together, and it’s a hollow beauty, and

there’s moonlight coming off of everything everywhere, out

in the woods, or down by the water, or walking through

downtown late at night, because we feel like if we can be out

on the street at 2 in the morning it’s almost like we’ll never

grow old, and we’re trying not to sound like back-in-my-day

grandpas, but that’s what it’s coming to, speaking to the new

generation, warning them about the ones that came before

us, shielding them so they can get shit done, exchanging our

scant wisdom for their vocab, and we try not to get too

embarrassed when they laugh at our mispronunciation, try

to ignore the creeping thought that we’re becoming the

lame old people even though we’re not even 30 yet, and now

we’re kissing down by the water, one after another, taking

turns because that seems like the right thing to do at this

particular moment, and we’ve got whiskey in our bellies, and

our vapor is still floating out into the atmosphere, and we

like to think that it’ll collide with the clouds way up there

even though we know it won’t, and none of us know what

we’re going to do tomorrow, I mean we have jobs, some of

us go to school, we do what we have to, but we don’t know

what we’ll do, you know, and you put your fingers to your lips

after we kiss as if to touch is to solidify, and I watch the way

your cheeks warm up even in the cool night, shining bright

under the moon, and there’s got to be meaning in some of

this even if it’s so hard to find meaning in all the rest, and this

hollow beauty isn’t so hollow anymore, and we don’t know

what all this is yet, but we’re just going to go with it for now.


Nicholas Olson  is a writer from Chicago now living in North Carolina. He was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s 2016 Very Short Fiction Award, his work was included in Crack the Spine’s sixteenth print anthology, and he’s been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, decomP, and other fine places. Read more at

September 22, 2018

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