Angie Watson sits waiting for me on the front porch of her mother’s Mexican-style home. I’m leaning against my bike, a black ten-speed that my mother discovered at a yard sale last weekend. Angie jogs out to the street to greet me in her clunky green boots. She’s wearing a jean skirt and a baggy sweatshirt. No bra. She’s eating glops of potato salad from a green plastic container, and I am trying, and failing, to maintain eye contact because she isn’t wearing a bra. Her boobs are small, but that’s not important to me.
“Want some?” She waves a spoonful of potato salad under my nose. “It’s tasty.”
“I’m sort of hungry,” I tell her.
“When I was five, I poked my eye with a fork–it was gross.” Angie looks at me with this deadly serious expression. “Isn’t that the saddest tragedy you’ve ever heard? Don’t you feel sorry for me?”
“Sort of,” I say. “I guess it hurt.”
“Sure it did,” Angie says, touching my arm. “But I’m a survivor, Lewis Mason.”
We amble back to the shed in her sprawling backyard. Angie yanks her red bike over a riding mower, and we leave. I like her bike. It’s at least thirty years old, with a metal basket and a bell.
We drift all about Arcadia Springs, stopping for a Dr Pepper break at the Hop-in. Springtime has returned to our town; cars flash by with windows open wide to let out the music and stale air. We glide downhill through Wasena Park beside the Mechunk River. On this muggy day, families gather in pools of shade to open picnic baskets and shoot hoops. Horseshoes clang and dogs bark. Angie hums along with the soul music pumping out from a line of just-waxed cars. The song is called Betcha By Golly Wow. Angie strains to hit the high notes. Her face gets all scrunched up and serious from the effort.
We stop to rest beside a ruined swing set. Angie cradles her hand around the nape of my neck for a second.
“Aren’t my hands cold?” she asks. “I swear, I’m part reptile.”
I can smell Angie’s shampoo and her perfume, musky and sweet at the same time. I lean in closer to that smell. We’re both sweating a little bit. I keep staring at Angie’s boobs under her damp T-shirt. She catches me staring, and she lets me stare, for a moment.
In spring, the Mechunk River is the color of a slightly used basketball, and these families around us seem happy with the day, normal families with big dogs and towheaded youngsters fighting over toys and cupcake icing.
I follow Angie up the steep, curving mountain road that opens to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sunlight fades, and we give up near the top of the hill and walk our bikes the rest of the way. Angie talks about her gym teacher, a psycho, a sadist, the biggest, meanest bitch in America. Clouds block the moon, but we see a few stars and, I think, Venus. Angie sings an old Todd Rundgren song that we both like, and I sing off-key beside her. We walk close to each other, touching some. This is almost a perfect night. Behind us, our city lights up to fight the darkness. They’re playing minor league baseball tonight at Howsley Field. Truckers roar down the highway with their high beams on. Farther up the road, parked at all the lookout points, couples make out in shiny cars and smashed-up trucks. In one car, a cherry red Camaro, a woman’s bare legs poke out the passenger side window. She’s laughing real loud and kicking her legs like someone swimming underwater and upside down.
–“Like Swimming” was originally published in Pindeldyboz. It appears here by permission of the author.