The night her boyfriend left her, I pulled my best friend
from her car and wrestled her for the keys. She would have pressed
the gas and driven past fast food and crape myrtles,
into streetlit barriers on the highway,
to see what she could feel against steel and concrete, see
if she could stop. Only ten percent of lepidopterans
are butterflies, color created in a hardened shell,
the rest of us moths, made for chasing light. I carried her
inside to my bed, remembered how my mother once wrapped
me in a silky cocoon, tucked me in and turned off
the light; how cars passed under my window with glaring
headlight eyes and bared-teeth grills until my father
sent light from the television dancing
across hallway walls. I wanted to capture what glows
and bring it back to her. She hardened back into chrysalis,
folding around herself, hoping to break out again
in a flurry of color and wing.
The first boy who liked me back had a circuit of girls
around him, and he drew me in. In boys’ eyes, I was a lightbulb
who had been turned off all this time until, at seventeen,
I finally flickered on.
My great-grandmother was struck by lightning
seven times throughout her life, so electricity
and filament run through my veins.
I move my hands constantly for habit or friction--
I drew on my jeans, leaving pen marks
on the knees. I wore a dress on my seventeenth
birthday, told myself to keep still, and he smiled.
I was the girl in the black dress at the dance, blonde
hair falling in curls down my back,
girl burning brightly. He asked me to dance,
spun me around, and I was in, naïve little thing.
He bought me a Coke, showed me his friends,
and texted me at night about lying on the roof,
watching the stars. I was a girl of springtime
and sunlight, and one day at the park,
we lay by the slides and I watched his green
eyes darken. I led him to my favorite part
of Valley Creek: the alcove of sagging
plants and cobwebs, but I didn’t kiss him.
During storm and tornado warnings, my family
always huddled in the pantry with candles, waiting for
the old lightbulbs to give way to a power outage,
but my great-grandmother must have walked outside barefoot,
arms spread wide. Incandescent lightbulbs
are less efficient, going out of style, and when he
left for someone brighter, I kneeled in his rain
and whispered: there is light, there is light, there is light.
About the Author: Lauren Jeter graduated with a BFA in Creative Writing and a minor in Literature from Stephen F. Austin State University. Her work has appeared in HUMID and The Blue Route, and she received a nomination for the AWP Intro Journals Contest. She resides with her husband in Stafford, Virginia.