It Might Happen to You (Claire Sasko)

I was offered an invitation. By whom, I didn’t know. I struggle now to make out the shape of her. 

We met for dinner on the bay—a wooden table overlooking the water in mid-coast Maine. To my left, or perhaps two seats to my left, sat my lover, or my former lover. He smoothed the skin on my shoulder. His touch echoed the summer air. 

The table was set. The host lit candles even though the sun shone. The napkins were linen. I slid mine out of a small ceramic holder and laid it across my lap. We ate soft homemade bread and briny oysters, then pasta with mushrooms. We washed the food down with white wine. 

None of us knew each other, but the host said we would want to, or come to want to. We grew excited over the state of the meeting. We wanted to move. To boat. We stood from the table to fetch canoes, dragging their hollowed bodies across the rock and then the sand. The water pulled us toward it. 

We stepped into the boats. It was almost evening, but the light on the bay was bright. Across small blue waves we could see out to the ocean. Paddle, paddle, paddle. We glided across the water. We rocked up and down in our boats. It was pleasant, until we heard a loud sound in the sky. The sound seemed to vibrate the boats. 

Squinting into sunlight and blue sky, we saw the silhouette of a plane, or of two planes. Smoke rose from the small black shapes. We assumed they had collided. In fact, as we watched the sky, the small one dove into the large one again. The larger plane turned to its side and, like a shot bird, fell. It landed in the ocean. Far from us. My first thought was oh. My first feeling was relief. It could have fallen on us. Here we are, exposed in the water, our movement limited. We could not have rowed away from it fast enough. 

We saw the waves. From the site of the fall they grew in concentric circles. The first rose to high-rise heights and flung itself at us, far away at first but fast approaching. I turned around and saw, some fifty feet away, an island with rocks we could climb for shelter. Swim, I said. We jumped from the boats and swam fast, spraying salt water into the air. 

My former lover was fastest. He climbed first. As he left the water the sun struck his skin. He reached his hand toward me. I looked into his eyes. I remembered him as the first man who had shown me kindness. I pulled myself into the air, then extended my hand to the person behind me and lifted her from the water. I did not know her, not yet. I looked at the others climbing ashore, then turned to my former lover. We would have to climb high. We scaled up and up. 

The ledges were porous. The holes in the rocks made it easier to climb. I placed my fingers and toes inside them, following my former lover. A young woman trailed me. I remembered her as the artist who had sold me a bracelet of stones a few years prior; she made them every morning based on the sky and the water and the wind. The stones she gave me came with a piece of paper that had said I hold myself close; I won’t ever let go. 

Keep going, she said now. Keep going up. A thin ledge rose before me—the top. I couldn’t stop now. I needed to make way for everyone else. The last of our group hung low on the rocks. The waves could swallow them. Put your hands here, said the woman who sold me the bracelet, pointing to more holes in the stones. I put my fingers in them and balanced my weight, hoisted myself up. The group followed.

We braced ourselves. The waves were here now. We held our breath. The water, the whoosh. We shut our eyes and let it wash over us. In the open air again, we looked at each other. Like strangers. Like best friends. 

Back on shore. I turned to the people around me, whom I didn’t know well. I wanted to be them, to be with them. Had I swum in the water alone? What was that, I said to them. What was that plane. The small plane had vanished after striking the larger one. Hadn’t it. 

It was a test, they said. It was a missile. It was a missive

Where did it come from, I asked again. 

We might as well swim, they said. As we stepped into the bay again, I took my former lover’s hand in my left hand and the hand of the woman who made me the bracelet in my right. I held myself close to myself and close to them. 

Treading the water, I could sense the ruin below us. Crumbled fuselage and bent wings and warped propellers. Down, all down, as smoke rose. A broken body, vanished into the molecules we swam in and laughed in and bathed in and ate from. 

What was the plane, I asked again. 

It was our mothers and fathers, they said. It’s not a metaphor, they said. It’s real. It happened somewhere, they said. It might happen to you, they said. 

I ducked my head under the water. I could still hear them. 

It’s already happening, they said. It’s already breaking apart.

Who are you, I said. My voice gurgled underwater. I don’t know you, I said. I could barely make out my own words. I pushed to the surface and reached for a hand. I tried to forget them. 


Claire Sasko is finishing her MFA in creative writing at the University of New Hampshire. She reads nonfiction for The Rumpus and previously worked as a staff writer for Philadelphia magazine. 


image: Andrea Damic lives in Sydney, Australia. She has been published in 50-Word Stories and Friday Flash Fiction. You can find her on Twitter @DamicAndrea. One day she hopes to finish and publish her novel. In spare time she takes photos and creates Art.