You feel the call coming for days, across the eastern seaboard.
Pressure building to the South: texts with alarming frequency, fear
in every vowel. When it finally comes, it pulses with need and panic.
You're on the next plane.
You arrive too late to change anything, if anything could be changed.
"Do you want to talk about it?" you ask him in the car, but he doesn't.
He takes you to a bar that used to be gay. Now it's filled with boys
from the base nearby, who offer you their vapes like sacrament.
He tells you not to drink from the tap. There's something in the water.
It killed his mom, his aunts, his neighbors. It settled in their bones
and breasts and brains and drank them up. You drink from bottles
that jog your front teeth when you sip too quick.
A boy offers you his number, his hands, his time.
You demur, citing a man up north, and he says that man is lucky
before pulling your friend into the bathroom, returning mussed.
You see it now: still a gay bar, but twisted back to keep secrets.
He's too drunk to drive. He drives anyway. Over your objections,
he picks up a hitchhiker in blue shorts by the city center. Tight ass,
screw loose. In the morning you see he took a picture from the backseat
and wrote a caption about how easy it would have been to kill you.
There's something in the water. You see it in the fight at the Waffle House,
in the eyes of the sheriff, who calls him boy.
You see it at the house party of well-coiffed white women,
widows all. You see it in him.
Before you leave, you tell him to come back soon. To stop self-destructing.
You say it again a year later in Central Park, after scattering her ashes.
You can lead him to the water, and you can tell him it's clean, but
he won't believe it, not until he installs the filter himself.
This poem was inspired by a short trip I took last Spring. Wilmington is beautiful but has a lot of problems. Its people do, too. Most everyone I met seemed sick in one way or another - if not physically, then mentally or spiritually.
There really is something in the water, by the way. It's PFAs, forever chemicals that have been dumped into the area's water supply by DuPont for decades.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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