Sean Prentiss is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave. Prentiss is also the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a creative nonfiction craft anthology. He lives on a small lake in northern Vermont and serves as an assistant professor at Norwich University.
As we sit in Juarez’s zocolo drinking cervesas on this warm winter day, a Mexican street vendor shouts out, I shock you for three dollar. He holds up a homemade wooden box. Electric cables run from the box to chrome handles.
Bones smiles that same smile that has gotten me into trouble so many times before. Beneath the table, she rubs my leg. I could remain forever drunk under this Juarez sun.
Knowing that there’s no way Bones would let me pass up this opportunity, I slap the pesos on the rickety table, almost spilling our cervesas.
The vendor smiles a broken smile and places the chrome handles in our palms. He pantomimes for us—Bones and me—to hold each other’s hand with our free hands. Bones whispers, Shock me, baby.
In three days she’ll be gone (2,000 miles and—this time—for good). But today she runs her palm over my calluses as I snake my fingers through hers—completing our circuit.
The vendor twists a silver knob on his wooden box. Electricity tingles our grip tight until we’re, at least these moments, unbreakable. The vendor twists the knob farther. Our muscles spasm. Another click-click. More spasms. The vendor smiles, wipes his hands on brown pants.
We swallow the pain unable to do anything else, our hands locked to chrome handles, locked to each other’s hand. We’re a circuit of electricity running through us. Like that first day. Like those hard kisses. Like those drunk nights.
The vendor snaps his machine off and our hands peel apart. Bones and I slump to the table (aching or exhausted from all our failings at loving). The vendor walks away toward some other group of gringos, who are maybe also willing to do anything to create memories, anything to keep them circuited together.
Bones, she grabs her Bohemia, pulls it to her lips, and empties it. As I reach for her hand, she smirks and says, Don’t touch. I am electricity.