I always knew that I would burn. I knew it even at eleven, standing in the Jehovah Hall
wearing a Pepto-Bismol pink crinoline dress, my fat-knobby knees rubbing that rough fabric, the itch of that crinoline dress and a forced smile. The force upon me like damp fur. I could smell it, the danger of it, God, and the stink of anti-sinner. I was wearing a mask, a forced-slash of a smile carved onto my face, a thick silk sash wrapped around the waist, it was falling, and unfurling. The banner of Jehovah hanging above everyone’s head and a boy stood next to me, shiny, his hair greased slick, black as a seal, his eyes black diamonds, and his mouth red as fire. The banner expanded towards the crowd, pregnant with air, announcing Doers of God’s Word and then deflated as if meeting the crowd was a disappointment, the letters pulled into themselves, skinny and severe. Around us a congregation of black flies buzzed in the heat, the infernal pitch, the repetitive dull pulse that set off the cochlear nerve, pushing against the tympanic membrane, a constant drone “Run,” and “Tear off that dress,” it hummed, and that growing itch grew, as did the urge to scratch. The boy leaned into my ear. The heat, the buzz swirling around me, and the heat emanating from his breath, volcanic, erupting into sound “Let’s go to the pool. Do you have a swimsuit?” and before I could answer he had fished the answer out of my eyes. “It’s ok, we can swim naked,” he said. He swallowed my hand in his, sweaty and sticky, like I’m imagined the fly’s legs might feel when they rubbed them together, recalling their last meal, considering the future of the eggs they’ve laid.