When it was still dark I walked to the lake to see if the moon was out and reflecting on the surface now that it was frozen. Even the edges along the shore were frozen, sealed shut. It hadn’t frozen like that since 1991, someone said. It wasn’t making the queer, ice-shifting sounds anymore, it all went quiet. Now that it was frozen you could throw things on it, and I thought about running across. It was such a bad idea but it was all sealed shut and it seemed like you could. It was such a bad idea it had to be considered, it was right there.
And we drove out onto the lake when I was living near Erie, PA for college. That lake froze over so hard you could drive a bus right across it and not have to worry about a thing.
It was me and Dave and his friend Sean, who worked at the local hospital and stole pills and gave them to us in his car like we were lab rats, a few oranges, some purples…he said the names but they were hard to spell and pronounce, mysterious, like Greek names for plants.
When we drove out onto the lake I could only see a part of Sean’s face from the back seat, a swath angled down from the mirror, glowing. I didn’t like his face, I thought it looked evil. He was a ballet dancer once but now looked chunky; he had a nasally voice I didn’t like and a beard I’ll call fey.
Even though it was freezing cold we rolled the windows down and Sean turned off the headlights; we stuck out our heads and screamed, and once our eyes got used to the dark everything turned a soft blue.
Sean stopped the car and killed the engine but it made me and Dave nervous, all the heat and weight of us sitting there but Sean argued, no—and then we heard a sound like a pop, the dry crack of a rope snapping and imagined the car shifted—and Sean fumbled for his keys, he turned on the lights, and we got right out of there.
It was the last time I rode in Sean’s car. That night, we left Dave on the sofa on the front porch of the fraternity house and it was really cold, and we worried he might die. Chris and I thought we should get him inside but there was no furniture, we moved it all out so we could slam dance but then we got tired and no one came to the party and we just sat around nodding, not saying anything.
The woman who lived on the lake looked like she was in her 60s but really fit, wearing make-up and workout clothes. She asked how long I’d been there looking at the moon, asked if I’d seen it when it was dark, showed me a picture of it on her phone. She said her husband grew up on the lake and one time in the ’70s, they drove a VW bug right across it—and I said no way, that sounds crazy, I don’t believe it.