Missing

It was the summer an IU student had disappeared

off the sidewalk and been sucked into the night air

of our town. Before leaving for college ourselves,

we beached Camille’s pontoon boat one last time

on Lake Monroe. We hurried down the sandstone

until our chipped crimson toenails teased the water—

that black lapping edge where we shed our clothes

and waded in until our limbs floated up,

buoying our milky torsos in the moonlight.

Later, cocooned in damp sleeping bags, we woke

to howling that grew louder, closer, then morphed

into a yipping frenzy. It wasn’t the wild dogs

but Sav’s question—what if it’s people pretending

to be coyotes—that sent us scrambling back

to the pontoon, unrolled sleeping bags clutched

beneath our arms. The moon bright enough

we didn’t argue about who held the flashlight.

Camille pushed the boat from shore and assigned us

to stump patrol—the lake low that year, the engine

at risk of stalling if we got stuck—so we peered

into the water, wary of any dark shape on that slow-

motored journey. Fingers clammy, we clove-hitched

thick ropes around the dock’s metal bollards,

and we crept into the un-air-conditioned house.

We were careful not to let the screen door crash closed

before we tip-toed across the creaking oak floors

and climbed into Camille’s unmade bed. Our sweaty

limbs a mess of tangled warmth like a pile

of worn-out puppies. I murmured goodnight, my eyes already

shut, then felt someone shift and heard the window

shoved open. The smell of lake-loam drifted in. The humid

air settled on my skin like a summer-weight blanket—

comforting—though that season lingered, mildewed, still burdens

our hometown: a tally of days, years, with no news.