Do places retain a physic imprint? If you returned to a spot where your life had changed, was the memory still tangible?
For Jesimine Powell, the summer of ’85, at Lake Archibald, in Cabin Twelve was one such place. A place of firsts: first love, first kiss, first orgasm from another, first acceptance of self-identity. Twenty years later, she was returning to fulfill a promise.
There were families swimming off the artificial beach. Red canoes and white sailboats projected excited shrieks over the forty-acre lake. The resort still exuded rustic charm, but the owners had bowed to the times and added phones and televisions in every cabin. The trees were taller, the rocks seemed smaller, but the private dock in front of their cabin was still as weather-beaten and warped as she remembered.
“I remember the first time I saw you. I was sitting right here, at the end of the dock. You swam over from number 11 and said ‘Hi, my name’s Emily’. You popped out of the water like a sprite, your turquoise bikini set off your white skin and freckles. I remember when you wrung out your hair, the beads of water made little rainbows in the air. You wanted to know if I could get a tan. Do you remember, Em, how I looked at you, my mouth wide open and pressed my forearm to yours? I said, ‘Girl, does this look like a tan to you? Cause to me, it appears to be dark chocolate’. That’s when you gave me a shit-eating grin and said, ‘Gotcha!’ I was too shy to tell you then, but when my skin touched yours, the spark caused my heart to be lost in a moment.”
Jesimine drew her knees to her chest. The curled pine boards of the dock pinched her bottom through her shorts. She looked to her left and smiled softly.
“Remember that, Em? How our parents were all stiff and formal at first until our dads found out they were both firefighters? They’d be swapping stories and our moms would escape to the kitchen to swap recipes, while we slipped out the back to have one last swim before dinner. You remember when you dared me to go skinny-dipping? I swallowed water I was laughing so hard when you complained my skin gave me an unfair advantage in the dark. ‘I ain’t never had no white girl ever be envious over my black color before’. You got annoyed and rather than splash water like you usually did, you shut me up by kissing me and then swam away as if mutant alligators had migrated to the Adirondacks.”
The calls of ‘suppertime’ echoed around the lake. Boys and girls hauled out, smoke rose from fireplaces and outdoor pits. The smell of roasted meat wafted lazily over the water.
“That night, Em. You remember. Our folks wanted something fancier than burgers and dogs. We stayed in my cabin, number 12, and you got angry with me for overcooking the trout fillets. You called me ‘stupid’, I yelled back I was ‘gonna whup your skinny white girl ass if you didn’t shut your mouth’. You were shaking like a leaf, I thought it was cause you were scared. I remember us both apologizing and you begging not to be spanked in that breathy voice that always pushed my buttons. I did the bravest thing I’d ever done in my life up till then. You said ‘Yes, ma’am’, after I scolded ‘Are you gonna behave, little girl?’ I sat down on the couch and told you, ‘Get over my lap, Emily’. You remember what you said, Em? ‘I’ll let you spank me bare bottomed, Jesimine, if you tell me the truth’.”
“I told you the truth that night, Em, and every night since. I love you. I love your cries as I slowly turn your bottom bright red. I love that cute squeak you make when I fuck you. I love the cotton candy taste deep inside your pink. I love your talented tongue. But most of all, I’ll always love you, Emily.”
Large tears splashed on the gray wood, the saline fluid staining random dark circles.
“Remember, Em, how you always joked you could see our cabin twelve from your office window on the 109th floor of the North Tower? I’m sorry I missed your call. I’m sorry they never found you. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I hope you can see our cabin from heaven.”
The last rays of the setting sun sparkled off the bright floral wreath as it spun out over the calm surface of Lake Archibald in front of Cabin Twelve.