Today I present a short story that I wrote a good while ago, an artifact from a place in my life now long behind me but still present in a lot of ways. For two years, I lived near the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia; I knew it was long
beloved by poets, artists, and writers, going back to the earliest days of the city, and the more time I spent close to it, the more I came to see why.
The Wissahickon makes you want to try to capture something of it. I tried to do that here, and it became a setting for a theme that seems to be recurring in a lot of my work: two very different people meet each other and the experience is transformative in some respect. It’s also a ghost story, and a story about murder and despair, but mostly I think it’s about the way time bends in beautiful places, and the way they have of hanging on to you.
And the Wanderings of Water
They met by the creek. They kissed by the creek. One hot and sticky day in July, they made love by the creek, out there in the shameless open on a mossy rock with her skirt hitched up around her thighs and his breath panting into the crook of her neck. And when the night fell they lay by the creek, smudged with dirt, leaves in their hair, and he held her hand and talked about their future, about what would come after the summer. She was afraid of being seen but he shushed her and no one came, and no one saw them but the mourning doves and the grackles and the squirrels that crouched in the branches overhead and watched them with black raindrop eyes.
All these things happened. Lying there under the stars and feeling the fluttering rush of her heart, like a hummingbird beating its tiny wings against the inside of her ribcage, she was sure the summer would never end. But it did.