Seth drives forty in the slow lane of the lake road, tells me to keep an eye out for turtles who might wander across and be crushed by cars. It’s early on a summer evening, far from dark, but already I can see the moon, a silver fingernail above the horizon.
Twelve days without a drink, and still my head is loud with noise.
There’s one, Seth says. He pulls off the road, gets out. A driver honks past us, flips him the bird. Seth speaks to the turtle like it’s a frightened cat or a young child: Hey, little buddy.
His fingers are long and fine as he grasps the turtle by its shell. I try to imagine his index finger wrapped around the trigger of an MP5.
When he comes back to the car, his sneakers are dark with mud, black as the coffee we drink during group. We sit in a circle and tell stories that scald the tongue. Seth cries when he talks about the kid he killed in Iraq. I talk about the men I’ve fucked, how I tried to wash out the dirt with vodka. I’m smudged with the fingerprints of strangers.
Later, when a shooting star falls into the lake, Seth tells me to make a wish. I shut my eyes and pretend I’m a turtle. On the shoulder of the road, saved from cars by Seth.
He’ll hug me once in a while, but that’s all.
Sarah Freligh is the author of Sort of Gone and A Brief Natural History of an American Girl, winner of the Editor’s Choice Award from Accents Publishing. Recent work has appeared in Verse Daily, Brevity, Rattle, The Sun, burntdistrict and Barn Owl Review. She has received poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation.