The Good Times

“It’s certified one of the brightest bays in the world,” Steven said, sitting up straighter as the last kayak arrived at the fishing boat. I looked around, thinking that maybe we’d been ripped off. The water that bordered the town we’d grown up in was nothing special. No glow, none of the magic I’d promised Amy. Just a warm, dark Southern bayou and a sense of disappointment in the static night. We’d wasted all of this time for nothing, I thought. 
I stared at Steven’s silvery cross-legged figure in the starlight, hoping he’d see the ugliness on my face. “Now, follow me,” he said. Amy looked back and shrugged.

* * *

Once, long before we knew how far away we were going to be from each other, I leered into our bedroom’s full-length mirror fussing with the buttons on my white dress. I don’t remember where we were going, just that we were late and that I couldn’t button my buttons in the hurry. Amy waited in the living room. I came out, barreling toward the front entrance and saying something like, “Ready. Let’s move.” I opened the door to the misty night, our dorm lobby’s glow kicking up a flurry of moths. I put one foot through the threshold and stopped. Amy hadn’t gotten up from the lobby couch. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She couldn’t get the words out. “I…I….”

“What’s wrong?”

“I think…I…”


“I…I think I’m going bald,” she stammered. I laughed so hard I wasn’t sure which of us cried more. I could tell she felt a bit better, knowing from my reaction that in no way could her fine black hair be construed as balding. She smiled a little. 

This is how we were. She burned with worry in the good times, letting me play the easygoing, laughing one. But when things didn’t go my way, I crumbled. I counted on Amy then, who was always better in crises: taking charge, breathing her reassuring breath, waiting with endless patience for things to finally work themselves out.

* * *

We paddled for another ten or twenty minutes toward another part of the lagoon.
“Here,” Steven shouted. Amy turned the boat while I watched the sky, feeling tired, not caring anymore about the trip or the tour or whatever it was we’d come out here to see. I’d failed—I couldn’t deliver, even in our final days together. I laid back on the boat and considered the implications.

The bay’s effect as we caught up to Steven was subtle at first: slight glimpses of color when Amy’s paddle smacked the sea, displaced droplets crackling like dim fireworks. And then everything lit up at once.

The basin started glowing like some ancient alien light source, blue radiance beneath every boat. I sat up, equal parts horrified and intrigued and guilty and thrilled. Amy and I swirled our paddles to strengthen the glow, splashing each other and sending sparks into the already starry sky. I reached into the water. The bay brightened around my arm. When I pulled it out it was as if someone had poured a living glow stick over me: millions of invisible creatures breathing a very visible neon blue, darting across my dark skin and flashing and flickering and fading back to nothing.

I looked up at Amy in the seat in front of me. I watched her in the brightness, the tiny pods giving away our position in the world. I thought of the first time I noticed how beautiful she really was, of the red dress she wore on Valentine’s Day when we went out to the dollar theater to see Hidden Figures for the third time. I thought of the way she used to let me sleep in her room overnight when I didn’t want to move after a long study session. I thought of how beds felt more comfortable when she was in them. I thought of water that’s as bright blue at night as it is during the day, an equal number of stars both above and below; conscious, now, of the power of this moment, this memory-in-progress, this antidote to the years and distances that lie ahead.

By Zahrah Abdulrauf

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