To the other shore
You watch two earthworms mating on your way out one night. They're just pressed against each other, unmoving, but you just know that this isn't a weird kind of earthworm combat—it's a weird kind of earthworm mating. It takes you a moment to realize that you're literally watching them copulate, their bodies bridging together life. Although it may be on your driveway under the motion-sensor lights, those lights weren't on before you came out and you're being a little creepy just watching, so you give an earthworm-colored blush and walk to your car.
Remember that one time you yelled at your friend for stepping on ants? Of course not. Your mother insists you did though, that you said they're God's creatures also. If you could only be that articulate now when your mother drags you to the new church. It echoes with opening bibles. But you've always been sensitive, quiet.
And you go for your mother's health, besides. The last thing she quit was alcohol, 25 years ago, and that still haunts her. While you don't understand this about her, she doesn't understand anything about you, like why you go out at night to meet people like you, and so you've settled on this nervous equilibrium. Neither one of you is satisfied with the arrangement. A healthy relationship though, if your unknown father ever taught you anything, is built on this quiet acceptance of unresolved tension.
You're off to the club where Virgil will strut over in her steel-toed boots and sequined gown which you're always surprised to find she rocks with her crew cut and sharp voice; she'll bring you to the bar and tell you about the drag show she hasn't stopped texting you about since two days ago, where, you just had to be there, but, one performance, just, yaaas. You had to be there. Come be real at the club tonight.
The lights are vibrant and rattle your nerves and give you cold sweats, but you step through to the door anyway and the bouncer lets you in. You notice his handgun hugging his hip.
Virgil does, in fact, strut over to you, although she went with her "traditional" look tonight of pink wig and tight dress and 6-inch pumps. That strutting is still a miracle. You enjoy it all the way from the bar and back, when you're with her, and you half wished you did have urges towards her because of the sheer amount of authentic beauty her body swings around. If ever you feel limited by what you are, you've come to understand that it's not when trapped in the Summer damp pews of a parochial church or when your less fragile friends ironically send you #radfem posts, but when you're in the presence of Virgil. The same woman who was called "son" at birth and "thing" at puberty, who had dragged you into the parking lot before the shooting.
It was like watching Divine reincarnate the other night, she starts immediately, and, no T, no shade, he even sounded so much like him it was sickening. Boots! I mean,
You're no longer paying attention. You're not sure what you remember her saying is what was really said since now your eyes are pacing the dance floor, the door, you can see the bouncer's handgun handle anticipating something. If someone comes through the back you can make for the entrance or hide in the bathroom, or you can throw yourself among the pile of bodies and reach the world of the dead by pretending deeply. You have the sense that you can reach the land of the dead by lying parallel to it. You're startled when the bartender lightly touches your shoulder.
Didn't mean to scare you, he says, do you need a drink?
You look for Virgil, but she's gone. You tell the bartender two kamikazes, for you and your friend. He looks sympathetic for a second and walks away. He puts them in front of you, no discernable sympathy left. You toast to nothing, drinking both before leaving for home. You've never crashed when drunk driving and tonight's no different.
Your mom will bring you to church tomorrow for the service, and also to pray for the dead to find peace, and also for the resurrection when those same blessed dead shall walk the earth once more (this you are unconvinced is worth praying for).
Slightly buzzed and with a fuzzy thought semi-coalescing, you stare at a spot on the ground that is emitting a phantom memory. What might have been there you can't remember, but you know it was a bridge of some kind. You can only think of those pictures Virgil showed you of the Gravina Island Bridge, and her disdain for a bridge that bridges nothing. Then you remember that was you, your disdain. She was the one who found it funny, who simply referred to such a failure as a pier to the other shore.
Justin Goodman earned his B.A. in Literature from SUNY Purchase. He is currently the Assistant Fiction Editor at Boston Accent Lit and Assistant Reviews Editor at Newfound. His writing--published, among other places, in Cleaver Magazine, TwoCities Review, and Prairie Schooner--is accessible from justindgoodman.com.