My best friend from high school emails me, It’s been so ungodly hot. Her horses go unridden and stand under pitch pines, slapping horseflies away with tangled tails. I remember Virginia in the summer, humidity threatening to throttle us. We’re down to three dogs, she writes, because Kylie got hit by a car a few months ago. Another loss in another isolated year.

The morning her email arrives I haven’t seen another person in person for eight days. Living alone and working from home, I’ve memorized every imperfection on the white walls of my apartment. The summer I turned sixteen, she and I swam a mile across Lake Gaston and nearly drowned. It still stands as one of the greatest memories of my teenage years. When I was seventeen, I left for college in the Blue Ridge and our young lives severed. But we come from similar stock, she and I—single mothers, several sisters, cage of county lines and Southern accents, hand-me-downs, spines that still startle at a raised voice, kissing boys on porch swings, animals coming and going. She has six hens now and a rooster named Russell Crow.

She writes about a kitten that got stuck in a neighbor’s car engine. The pulley had ripped the cat’s paw off and she was still stuck in by her muscle meat. I remember us best at sixteen and seventeen, slightly drunk and laughing by bodies of water, the sun spoiling our skin, trying to figure out which of the men in our lives could be trusted. I could write a novel about how you can love someone without trusting them. I had to cut her out with a steak knife.

But who can predict what tragedies will come? I’m tired of naming, replaying, the specific traumas we dealt with back then, and I’ve never been able to map all the forces that were at play. For example, my mother’s collie only killed our chickens when this other dog in the neighborhood came around.

Instead of euthanizing the kitten, my best friend and her husband kept her. So now we have a three-legged cat named Hopscotch. I have attached pictures. She has an easy laugh, my best friend from high school. She buries the lede, Went in for my annual and got a big surprise, I’m about 9 weeks, due in March.

These days, some mornings are so brutal I can’t even say my name to myself.

Went to the ultrasound yesterday.

Other mornings, I can only marvel at the intricacies of survival.

Got to listen to the heart.

Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her second full length collection of poems, The Necessity of Wildfire, was selected by Ada Limón as the winner of the Wren Poetry Prize and will be released in spring 2022 by Blair. In May 2021, Bear Gallery (Fairbanks, Alaska) exhibited Caitlin and Megan Perra’s collaborative project “The Ten-Oh-Two”—poems and visual art on the Porcupine Caribou Herd. She was selected as a participant in the NSF’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. You can find her at 

Photo by Dinty W. Moore