See them in their golden hour, a flood of girls high on the ecstasy of the final bell, tumbling onto the city bus, all gawky limbs and Wonderbra cleavage, chewed nails picking at eruptive zits, lips nibbling and eyes scrunching in a doomed attempt not to cry. Girls with plaid skirts tugged unfathomably high above the knee, girls seizing the motion of the bus to throw themselves bodily into their objects of affection, Oops, sorry, guy, didn’t mean to shove my boob in your face, was that a phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me.
Try not to see them, I dare you. Girls, everywhere. Leaning against storefronts, trying so hard to look effortless as they dangle cigarettes and exhale clouds of smoke; tapping phones while shrieking about how Mom is a such a bitch. Girls hitching up skirts by the liquor store, hoping for a handle of vodka if they show enough leg; girls in the makeup aisle, gazing helplessly at the nail polish display like they can hear you silently cheering them on, willing them to scoop those cherry reds into a bag, to succumb to temptation and expectation, to give in.
Give in: Pick a pair of them, lost in each other, a matched set like a vision out of the past. Nobody special, two nobodies. Except that together, they’re radioactive; together, they glow. Nestled into a seat in the back of the bus, arms tangled, foreheads kissing.
Long for the way they drown in each other.
Follow them off the bus and onto the beach, as the one in charge—there’s always one in charge—shakes her curls free. Her makeup is expertly applied, her beet lips excessively large, kissable. The other girl wears no makeup at all, and her hair, bone straight and dyed platinum, flaps in the ocean breeze. Watch them lick soft-serve, pink tongues flicking spiraled cream. Watch them turn cartwheels in the surf, watch them slurp Dorito dust from sticky fingers, watch them split a pair of earbuds and stare up at the clouds, their secret soundtrack carving shapes in the sky.
Try to hold yourself back from rising over them, casting them in aging shadow, warning of millennial futures, the end of days, days like this, warning them to taste each sugary minute, to hold on tight.
Hold back, because you know girls; girls don’t listen. Better, maybe, to knock them out, drag them into the sea. Let this perfect moment be the last, say, Go out on a high note, girls, and push them into the tide. Let them drift off the edge of the earth.
Impossible not to see them, not to remember what it was like, when it was like that. To sit there, shivering, as the sun dips toward the horizon and the wind blows cold over the waves, as the sky blazes red and darkness gathers around the girls, neither of them knowing how little time they have left before the fire goes out.
Remember how good it felt to burn.