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Desire Lines (noun) de Ÿ sire lines \ di-ˈzī(-ə)r \ ˈlīnes \: paths and tracks made over time by the wishes and feet of walkers, especially those paths that run contrary to design or planning. Free-will ways.[1]

  Image by John Keane licensed under CC BY 2.0 Image by wetwebwork licensed under CC BY 2.0



1. We are young and we snake through synagogue back hallways. Play truth or dare. Seven minutes in heaven. Stay away from the sanctuary.

2. In our cracked-sidewalk small town, we slip through the swinging gate that leads from the neighbors’ driveway to the beach. We skip along stony bulwarks in off-season autumn air, footprint the cold sand.

3. You cut class and meet me backstage. We press our bodies together, touch each other everywhere, everywhere we can think of, our hands hidden in shadows, faces half-lit by yellow coming through slits in the scrim.

4. Over the old-fashioned phone line, you read to me long and late into the night—song lyrics, poems, fragments on secular humanism—every word taking me farther from where I’m from. By what fate did we find each other? you say. I’ve let you in.

5. You pin me against the paper-thin wood paneling of the summer camp staff quarters, raise my shirt slightly, put your mouth on mine. You don’t ask about my boyfriend back home and I don’t offer. I know you’ve wanted this for a while, you say, and I have, I have; I do nothing to stop you.

6. We are trespassing in the abandoned barn down the road from your parents’ summer place. You’re holding my hand. We finger the brittle pages of a leather-bound book on a desk by a window as the sun sinks. In those preludes to our nights together, everything feels like foreplay.

7. You touch down the two-seater prop on a small strip of runway in middle of nowhere, New Hampshire. We stand, palms shading our eyes, watching a truck rumble by in the distance. Then we flatten the corn stover with our felled bodies, lying alone-together on an empty stretch of land.

8. We steal away for a weekend to that quaint New England town—just the two of us, toothbrushes, sleeping bags, a love forbidden by family and by faith—pile it all in your old blue Volvo station wagon, turn up Sting on the radio, tell no one.

9. We park on the shoulder of the interstate just across the Arkansas line, driftless and road trip-tired, and fuck right in the front seat.

10. We are a sad little story standing on wet sidewalk outside a bar in a strange city—your arms around my waist, my head on your unfamiliar chest, until someone says it’s time to leave, says it’s time to go home.


[1] Robert Macfarlane, @RobGMacfarlane, March 29, 2018 tweet


image: Robert James Russell