By Jess Lee
Megan took a long gulp from her Miller Lite, ending with an “ahhh” as she leaned back onto the edge of the trampoline. We hadn’t quite made it to the crispness of wee hours where the breeze sweeps away the heaviness of the previous day, but instead, the air was still and lingering with the stench of late-Texas spring. The purple bandana wrapped around her head looked almost as dark as her long, black hair in this lighting. I hoisted myself onto the trampoline next to her, my feet dangling towards the dirt.
The sloppy clouds above were a light gray—lighter than the sky, at least—and they were starting to break apart in the same way algae breaks up on a pond’s surface when you poke it with a stick. Behind the clouds, stars peeked curiously down on us.
She set her beer on the trampoline and patted my leg—her hand cold from the can. I smiled and laid back. Megan had come up to my farm for a weekend to visit. My farm was remote—far from anyone or anything besides other farms, which I liked. I wish I’d known Megan when I was a little girl, though. We’d have been friends.
We were out in the pasture visiting with the two creatures that did keep me company: my two donkeys, Bunny and Tee. I slipped off the trampoline, as Megan squatted down with her hands extended trying to coax a reluctant Tee to her.
Megan clicked from between her back teeth and said, “It’s okay, Tee,” Click click.
Petting Bunny, I said, “They don’t really respond to words.” She stood, a knee popping. I reached for Megan’s hand to pull her closer and said, “Create warmth between your hands like this.” I rubbed my hands together vigorously. “Picture everything you’ve ever loved and cared for existing as a ball of warm, amber light between your hands, see?” I held my hands about 6 inches apart, palms facing each other. “It’s warm, right?”
Megan nodded, the shadows from her glasses flickering on her face.
“Keep it warm,” I said, “and make it bright, and then…” I placed my palms on Bunny’s jaws.
“And then what?” Megan asked.
“When you inhale,” I said, “pull all the hurt from her.” I inhaled deeply, pulling out thick, black smoke. It curled around itself like a dying snake. “Then, when you exhale, pour warm, honey love into her.” I exhaled swirling, sulfur light. Bunny’s ears laid back, and her eyes softened.
I inhaled again, held it, exhaled through my teeth, and turned to Megan who was watching intently.
“What is that?” she asked.
“Dunno,” I said, lowering my hands that tingled. “Just trying to see them.”
Megan smiled, turned her gaze towards Tee, and rubbed her hands together.
I said, “Make it warm, remember. Make it bright.”
She nodded, squatted down, and opened her sparking palms towards Tee. Startled, he trotted away and circled behind Bunny and me, flicking his tail.
“Come here,” I said. Megan came close, and I continued, “Close your eyes.” She closed her eyes. “And just,” I paused, “just don’t think so much.”
I rubbed my hands together and then, standing in front of her, slid my hands and the growing light around Megan’s milky jaw to the back of her head—her thick, curly hair tangling between my fingers. “Relax,” I whispered. She shivered, exhaled, and allowed the weight of her skull rest in my hands. The hair on my neck prickled.
I closed my eyes and moved the light between my hands. It crossed through her mind like a glowing figure eight, bouncing off my palms before moving through her again and again. Bright amber and black smoke. I remembered meeting her two years ago on the beach, both of us drunk and happy and covered in sand.
When I opened my eyes, Bunny was on Megan’s left side, Tee on her right. I said, “Don’t open your eyes.” She nodded. I continued, “Reach out your right hand.” She lifted her right hand, the backs of her fingers brushing Tee’s neck. “Do the same with your left.” She did, Bunny snorting.
On her left hand was the engagement ring that was presented to Megan by him late last year. I hadn’t seen her since sometime before she called to say she was engaged and wanted me to be the maid of honor, to which I said yes, imagining she’d be the most beautiful bride. Her ring was impressive—her now fiancé hand crafted it from scrap metal. It sat heavily on her finger and looked dark in this light.
“I’m going to let go,” I said, tears stinging my eyes. She paused and then barely nodded.
The donkeys stayed by Megan, their eyes soft and their ears relaxed. With her eyes still closed, Megan whispered, “I see them.”
Moments later, the smoke vanishing, she opened her eyes with a few blinks. Tears pooled in the corners of them.
“They’ve got pain,” she said.
I asked, “Do they?”
“I think so. They seem…” she trailed off, looking down. I thought that she had finished talking when she continued, “I just want to take the pain away.”
I said, “I know.”
Soon, the donkeys wandered away into the heavy night. Bunny looked back at us, perked her ears and continued into the dark.
“Makes you wonder,” Megan said, leaning against the trampoline and picking up her beer. I leaned next to her. “You know?” she asked.
I said, “Mhm.”
“How much are we saying without realizing?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. We watched the winking stars.
She looked at me and smiled. I laid back on the trampoline. The clouds were gone now, leaving an intimidating infinity of glowing stars.