Postcards from Camp Lachrymose
The bathroom of the cabin is lit by two things: a dim single bulb and you, beneath it, cutting my hair with nail scissors. In the mirror after diving class, I see how my new jagged bangs tuft upwards like wet feathers on a baby bird. That’s when I earn the Public Breakdown badge. It feels bad to be ugly. I don’t speak to you for a whole afternoon and that feels worse.
Dinner is always made with too much salt and spiny. You have to dig the periwinkles out with a special fork. Afterwards, everybody sits around the campfire and tells sob stories. You lean over and whisper-tell jokes in my ear until we have to walk away and smother our giggles. Late at night, when we’re supposed to be sleeping, you can hear loons calling across the misty lake.
There is one day with no rain, and all us girls crowd the pebbly shore with our towels, hoping the weak sun will warm us. A counselor calls you to the phone. It’s your mother, tear-voiced on the other line — your dog died last night. From my bunk, we watch snails crawl up stalks of eelgrass. I don’t turn away from you, even though you give off an inexplicable heat, like one of those vents in the ocean floor.
There is this one girl who isn’t homesick at all and everyone makes fun of her for being so brave.
In Arts and Crafts, which is after Grief, we make lachrymatories on braided lanyards. You’re supposed to wear them around your neck, for tear-catching purposes. We swap ours immediately, little glass vials crusted with pink glitter glue and seed pearls. Bonded by spit and blood and now this. We never take them off, even for swimming in the brackish water, where (they say) many-suckered tentacles will wrap around your ankle if you don’t wear swimming shoes. We don’t wear our swimming shoes. Nothing can scare us now.
Milo Gallagher is a nonbinary trans writer and artist from the marshlands of South Carolina. They are a graduate of Warren Wilson College, and co-author of the chapbook Heavy Creatures, a collection of poems about cryptids and witches. Their work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, FreezeRay Poetry, and The Grief Diaries.