Notes on a Departure
We find the crop circle at the end of June. Mira wants to lie down in its center, so we do and she takes off her shirt, like sunbathing at midnight.
I want them to see me, Mira says, releasing the clasp of her bra. I want to see her too, so much that I turn away when the garment falls from her body, bare skin a beacon. Mira sprawls next to me, her fingers fitting into the spaces between mine with a fearlessness I’ll always envy.
What do you think they wanted? she whispers softly. I turn to look at her and see she’s staring up — desperately, hopefully — and I squeeze her hand twice, which means you.
There are many plausible explanations for Mira’s disappearance. The cops suspect a variety of men, trafficking; they skulk around topless bars, taking long and hungry peeks at the stage under pretense of a search. They look at bodies, for bodies, and I want to tell them Mira isn’t dead. I see her in the sky sometimes, a bright flash of light. But no one ever asks me where she went.
They find a girl’s body in July. She is not Mira, but I go to her funeral anyway and find myself sobbing openly. I’m not crying for this girl; I’m crying for every girl. Maybe I’m crying for myself.
In August they arrest a man in his forties who flashes each milky tooth when he smiles, the last girl’s blood still lining the beds of his fingernails. The police prefer to think Mira’s disappearance has been solved, though they never find her body. They continue to frequent the topless bars. I spend a whole day sitting in the lobby of the police station, wanting to tell them what I know, but there’s still so much I don’t have words for.
Her father holds the memorial in September. Summer is over. In my seat, I keep my eyes low and push the jagged-edged charms of our friendship bracelets together. One for each wrist: two halves of the heart make a whole.
At midnight I return to the place where we found the crop circle. But the field is flattened and not a single star is in the sky. I lie down in its center anyway, where a beam of pale light finds me hours later: a flashlight, maybe.
I pretend it’s something else.