excerpt from "We Age and Age, but She's Vivid" by Janine Alyson Young

From the deck, swales of garden—flowering thyme, everbearing strawberries, Swiss chard, pink tomatoes. I want to taste it all. But I’m swept into introductions, planted next to a painter who wants to talk trauma, vaguely, then specifically her own, perhaps forgetting where she is.

I glimpse Sal on the far side, next to the drink table, cracking the cap off sparkling water. I want to watch her when she doesn’t know I’m looking. I want to know if she’s well, or if she’s just pretending again.

Once, Sal convinced me to run away. We were eleven. We’d just read My Side of the Mountain and she decided to camp out in the forest beyond town. I didn’t want her to go alone. When I realized she was serious, we began to stash rations in my closet, silly things like toilet paper and raisin packs, until my mom found out and cried. She was dismayed; it wasn’t my family we wanted to escape, it was Sal’s. After that, Sal felt she had to endure her troubles alone.

“And how did you know Nadine?” the painter asks, touching my arm.

“We grew up together,” I say.

Nadine arrived the next year, new to town. Thirteen. Outside the pool after swim club. Damp hair, cropped shirt, strong arms, almost boyish, bright face. That laugh, pushing from her athlete lungs—kind heart, clear eyes, young body.

Sal and Nadine shared something we hadn’t, and I was envious at first then relieved. We all submerged into teenagehood then resurfaced in different places. I was distracted by lust and parties at my boyfriend’s place in the trailer park.

Nadine had submerged—no, disappeared. Then returned, then disappeared again. In and out of the psych ward, but we didn’t know much about that. We just missed her when she was gone and loved her when she was back.




From The Malahat Review's winter issue #225