Today I drank the oldest lake so that I could recover the parts of myself that are lost to a time before I was ever here on this earth full of lakes. A man poured the oldest lake out of a bottle and into a small metal cup and I touched the cold rim of the cup to my mouth and it smelled deep. When I meet people now, I have the oldest lake inside of me and I feel bad for them because they don’t. They probably don’t have any lakes inside of them, which is hard because it means that whatever is deepest in them is longing to return to the lake it came from, the lake that forgot it, the lake it couldn’t ever forget. Sometimes you don’t know that something inside you is longing for a lake that forgot you until you come face to face with that lake and everything in you asks for a drowning.
The oldest lake had so many children whose children had so many children. You can drink the oldest lake, like I did, and it will feel cold and whole but it’s not like you get to just carry possibility inside of you like that simply because you drank the oldest lake. People thought I drank the oldest lake to remember, but I drank the oldest lake so I could for a moment forget what it is like to be outside of something I can’t comprehend.
No. I drank the oldest lake because it was either drink that or the drink the oldest sea and I’d already drank the oldest sea a few months ago and it didn’t bring me back to you so I drank the oldest lake this time because you and your people come from a place much closer to lakes than to the sea and my people don’t even come from water so I’m sitting here waiting for this lake to bring me back to you or you back to me. I paid eight dollars and twelve cents for a sip of the oldest lake even though the man told me it would turn my mouth bright green. It didn’t. My tongue was imperceptibly altered. I called out to you with the cold, bare space between my lips and the oldest lake inside me shuddered & waved and I knew then that there is no such thing as going home.
Ali Rachel Pearl is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Southern California. She is a writer, scholar, and teacher whose work lives at the intersections of race, gender, and digital culture. Her work appears in Redivider, DIAGRAM, The New York Times, and elsewhere. Most of the year, she lives and teaches in Los Angeles.