On April 5, 2007, I was anxious and hot and sweating all the time. That was the year of AP Exams and graduation and whatever hazy world lurked in the near future. That was a Thursday, and so I was likely sitting in AP English Literature or AP Calculus, trying desperately not to fall asleep. I was in love with a boy who was tall and blond and hopelessly heterosexual. I was in love with my best friend. The air was thick except when it was stirred by a breeze that also swirled the kudzu leaves.
I was watching my friends get ready to go to college and thinking that I myself had no particular post-graduation plans. My stomach hurt almost every day because I was both trying to starve myself into a beautiful, lean shape and also because every time I thought of graduation, I also thought of having to take the ACT and AP Exams and also how those two things seemed pointless because I wasn’t also working on college applications. It seemed like such an impossible thing to broach with my parents, and yet my teachers kept wanting to know where they should send my letters of recommendation. I was silent on both fronts, which only made the pain in my stomach worse.
My cousin’s birthday is April 3, so I was probably thinking about going home and pinching-off some of the cake still at my grandmother’s house. I almost certainly was still thinking about the growing distance between my cousin and me, the way we had started out one way and now stood on the brink of divergent lives. There was a time when our mothers dressed us like twins. There was a time when I was taller than he was. But in 2007, he was not only taller but more muscular. Football had transformed him, rendered all the softness of his boyish body into something tougher, meaner. I had grown softer and rounder, my manners going shy and turning inward. So, certainly, I was probably thinking about how we had changed and become not merely different versions of ourselves, but different people entirely.
There was a boy I was having sex with, but I was not in love with him. I was probably also thinking about sucking him off in the narrow trailer in the woods and of the way birds’ shadows sometimes fell across his stomach while I was down there between his legs. It would not have been unusual for me to have been counting the minutes down by feeling my desire swell inside of me, like a thirst or a changing mood slowly taking hold. I didn’t particularly like him, and besides, he was also fucking a girl whose father had raped me, and so I had my reasons for keeping things between us cool.
I don’t have a particularly strong recollection of this day, but I do know which forces were acting upon on it at the time. I know that in April, Alabama is a deep, green sea. The leaves are often damp with fresh rainfall, which comes as a pale, gray mist or a slate torrent. In April, my grandfather had root vegetables out on a table on his back porch, and my grandmother cooked with the backdoor propped open. There was flour in the air, the scent of black pepper and salt. The heat was slow and heavy like honey spread over the world.
In the evening, in April, it is possible to watch birds in the cool, blue dusk, flit back and forth over the road.
Brandon Taylor is the assistant editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. He has received fellowships from both Kimbilio Fiction and Lambda Literary. His work has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Split Lip Magazine, Little Fiction, Literary Hub, Catapult, and elsewhere.
Brandon urges you to learn more about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Visit aclu.org.