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Story by Erin Armstrong (Read author interview) June 24, 2014

art by Karen Prosen

I’m from a nowhere town, with nowhere people thrilled to death about it, and I have to get out before my bones shift under my skin to make me the same way. Under the moon, like some beast, I’ll howl.

How do I get out?

“You just go.” My father says.

I ask my mother what I will have to do if I ever want to come back.

She says, “You’ll have to stop being too big for your britches.”

I catch summer in a jar like a lightning bug and wait for it to flicker out. My friends and I smoke cigarettes all day and drink milky coffee in the burning sun. That’s May to June. We sit on my porch and watch squirrels dance on power lines; contemplate killing birds that sound too happy. June to July we make road trip plans that never come together because we’re lazy and poor. July to August we collect sweat under our knees and talk about how the lake feels like bathwater.

At night, we sit in our local bar and drink the cheapest stuff they got. I like to drink enough to make me smile without it being a lie. Everyone always tells me what a fun drunk I am. That’s no lie right there. I know what fun looks like.

I don’t want to leave.

“So don’t go.” My father says.

I don’t want to leave. But, if I have to, I want to carry all my nobodies behind my ear—whispering into the shell of me—filling me with the soul of me: bumblebees lingering by the dewdrops in the morning, forgotten dried peach juice in the hollow of an arm, wild grown honeysuckle and wisteria, whippoorwill wisdom that makes no sense until it does.

About the Author

Erin Armstrong is a recent graduate of Georgia Regents University and an MFA candidate at CU-Boulder.

About the Artist

Karen Prosen has been taking photographs for about five years now, and although she has newly branched out into various other modalities, photography will always be her most favorite and most natural way of sharing with the world. She believes photography is like being a mirror for someone, and saying, “Did you know that this is the way I see you?” It’s why she loves portraiture—the ability to turn beauty in all its forms around to show the beheld. To Karen, photography is a gift.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Four

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