For one year while my dad was out of work we lived with my cousins at their house on Lake Lanier, squeezed into a single room with whatever we hadn’t had to toss or sell in the yard sale. Everything in the house smelled of mildew and rat poison, so we spent most of our time in the water or hanging out on the dock with its green plastic carpeting. Once the dog slipped off, panicked, and swam underneath. I followed, the whole world in shadows, closed and still, dragging her out. That was the way the lake was, so dark I couldn’t see past my chest. It swallowed anything that fell in: the watch I bought with babysitting money, the tennis shoes left too close to the edge, the cheap lounge chair caught in a gust. The neighbors even lost a wedding ring and went down with snorkeling masks and flashlights trying to find it. Not me. Whatever the lake took, I let go. So many stories of kids dying out there, run over by boats, lost on plastic floats. Dive down too deep and you wouldn’t make it up again.
In the evenings, in a bed on the floor I shared with my brother, nightmares of the bottles and shoes in the muck at the bottom of the lake, those lost children. I dreamed of floating off on the calm water, then slipping down beneath its surface, the bottom slime in my hair, my fingers turning blue.
At the end of our second summer, my dad found a job and we got an apartment in the city where the closest body of water was a municipal pool. Several years after that my aunt and uncle sold the house and moved downstate. But decades later in this year of drought, the lake makes the evening news. It is drying up, all of the soda cans and bug spray bottles revealed, covered in a thick brown crust. Perhaps now the neighbors will get their ring back, perhaps now you can walk across the cove that was two men deep with water, stepping over the tennis shoes smothered in sludge or the limbs of the lawn chair, ordinary rust in sunlight, a clear view of all that has been lost.
Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Mid-American Review, 32 Poems, Huffington Post, and many other places. Her first book, Words We Might One Day Say, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize for Poetry.