Most nights we’d play at Vinny Orlandini’s, with its large yard that backed up to the towering weeds and grasses of the fields that separated our suburban block from the parallel one beyond and that had, too, the above-ground pool and deck, the backyard shed, three sprawling oaks, a lamppost for “Homesafe,” several American cars in various states of repair, a picnic table, two hedges, and a telephone pole, as well as the deliciously dangerous advantage of lying adjacent to Old Lady Shay’s yard – the size of a small ballpark – though we thought it doubtful even Yankee fans ever had to deal with someone throwing open a second-story window and telling them to “Get the hell out of my flower garden please before I call the police.”
Some nights we’d range across half the neighborhood, crouched under cars whose hoods were still warm from the day’s heavy heat or holding very still in the branches of some tree whose name you did not care to know, but whose redolent white blossoms you knew from past summers would cover the soft luminescence of your traitorous skin. For it often was your skin that gave you away, lucent beneath an accusing moon, and so we learned to cover it, pulling our blueblack t-shirts down over our knees till their edges came even with our toes, then pulling our hands and arms beneath and between our drawn-up knees. In time we learned also to cover our skin with another’s, drawing them hard against us and hiding our hands beneath their summer clothing, tracing urgently our candescent adolescence as if even then we felt the skin dimming beneath our fingers, flickering in time to the ticking drumbeats of our hearts. Eventually we’d make a break for the lamppost in front of Vinny’s house, ignoring the muted cries behind, trying to evade the sudden beams that startled the night.
Knowing then what we know now, trying to escape the alluvium of this, our current lives when the skin finally fully formed hangs calloused and heavy on the bones, we might have wished it never done, that hard running from light and light through the dark, running in the area between, forever running young and never yet home and never yet safe.