Love Where There Is No Love
Melissa Grunow
Hike down the hill with coolers full of beer and jello shots; tan bodies jiggle beneath thin bathing suits. Wade into water up to thighs, pebbles wedge between toes that squish into wet sand. Hoist into canoes two-by-two; paddle. Push off boulders—icebergs of the shallow water—lean into currents, river bends, cheer and shout “ahoy!” Tie together a barge and pass around a fifth.

Sunscreen sizzles on skin from summer heat. Grip a cool can and pull back the tab; savor the crack as aluminum breaks apart. Bring opening to lips and swallow. Repeat until all cans are depleted, empty containers rolling around in the canoe.

A dragonfly lands;
there’s something about its wings—
The water ripples.

He runs his fingers across skin, and unties the strings, laughing. “Always double-knot,” he says. His hand lingers—back, arms, hips. Fingers interlace. Know his name. Not much else.

Branches overhang
river where canoes pass by.
“Look out!” heads will duck.

Slide forward onto his chest—blame the rocking canoe—mouth lands on mouth. A moment, only a moment. There are forty other people here. And yet this—

 Pull away and regret the haste, the distance. He leans back, props feet onto bent knees. Caress ankle with circling thumb.

Minnows swim below
the surface. Gentle river—
boats joined together.

Drag canoe up onto the beach, and climb the hill. Approach camp, exchange a smile. Unzip the tent and follow him inside. Mouth on mouth, mouth on skin, mouth on heat, eyes linger on eyes. Fingertips trace freckles, head against chest, bodies rise and fall together. Silent, stifled love.

Rain comes on strong and soaks fabric, thunk-thunk-thunk. Water-resistant doesn’t mean water-proof. Puddles collect among the dry pine needles and dead grass.

Leave when it’s dark. He sleeps. Don’t speak again.




Melissa Grunow's

writing has appeared or is forthcoming in New Plains Review, The Quotable, The Dying Goose, The Adroit Journal, Eunoia Review, 94 Creations Literary Journal, and Wilderness House Literary Review, among others. She recently finished writing her first book titled River City: A Memoir in Essays. She lives and writes near Detroit, Michigan.

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