Heart Burn by Iona Rule

I remember the smoke that night, how it blew across the heaving hillside that rose like a fist in the dark to where we watched from the far shore, far enough away to be safe, but close enough so we could say “we were there” on Monday morning on the school bus, how we listened to Nirvana and drank warm cider, still believing we were infinite, sitting beside our campfire as we watched the firefighters moving like shadow puppets against the flames, and I remember the taste of crisps and how the vinegar stung the cracks in my lips, and I remember how you traced a love heart caressing the scab on the cut at the base of my thumb, how the log’s splinters nipped my bare thighs but that I wouldn’t have moved away at that moment for anything, continuing the elaborate slow dance courtship that only teens know, and I remember how we drifted away from the rest through the trees, on the pretence of gathering firewood, and how the resultant wolf whistles echoing behind us proved we were fooling no one, and I remember how the moon gleamed like a milk tooth that night through the smoke that hung heavy above us and I remember the feel of moss on my back and the way the birch leaves crackled under our weight, and I remember the mint smell of your hair and the laundry powder cared for scent of your shirt, and I remember the way your curls twisted in my fingers like minnows, and I remember that when it was over how we searched each other for ticks, and the way the rough skin of your fingertips lingered on each blemish, trying to divine whether it was a permanent part of me or something you should remove, and how you kept returning to these moles as if memorising a map to plot your way back, and I remember how I wished on a shooting star that night, that you swore was only a satellite, or space junk in orbit, and how I felt a part of my soul burn hot in my chest and how it fluttered like ash on the wind and landed in your open palm, and I remember how we returned to our gang, sat on our log and watched the hillside burn, and a year later when I unearth my jumper from the bottom drawer as I pack for Uni, and I smell the scent of smoke and heather still clinging to the fibres, the way it clung to my hair for days after, I remember that night and I think of that fragment of soul and realise it is still absent and I wonder do you remember it too.

Iona Rule lives in the Scottish highlands where heather burning is an annual occurrence. Her work can be found in The Phare, Popshot and Perhappened, and some other lit mags not starting with “P”. Follow her on Twitter @theropachwriter.

Image: unsplash.com