Home > It Looks Like This

It Looks Like This
Author: Rafi Mittlefehldt


It looks like this:

Pink, mostly.

Puffs of orange just below.

The fiercest yellow way ahead, far, far ahead.

Red slashed all across.

All of it fading to blue, getting deeper and deeper as you go out.

Underneath all that is the ocean, reflecting it back. All I can hear are the waves and the seagulls, all this calmness surrounded by an eruption of colors, deep strong colors.

I only saw this once in real life. We stayed up late and walked to Mill Point Beach in the middle of the night. There was no light anywhere and we sat, blind, and we said nothing. We didn’t speak for the longest time, just listened to the ocean.

Then the blackness started melting.

This is what it looked like when the sun finally came up. I was so tired, we both were, but we did it anyway.

We only saw it once because there wasn’t much after that, and now we can’t ever go again.

This is what I see when I want to remember the good parts. This is what I see when I think of him, when I let myself think of him.



We moved to Somerdale a little before the start of the school year.

“We” means me and Mom and Dad, and my little sister, Toby, and our dog, Charlie.

Dad has a job with a textbook publisher as a sales rep. The publisher is in New York City, but Dad sells to small bookstores and colleges in our part of the country. His region used to be the Midwest but now it’s the Middle Atlantic.

Dad says they got rid of one of the sales reps to cut costs so they had to change everyone’s regions around to make up for it.

We came to Somerdale from Sheboygan Falls. I miss Wisconsin. But Dad says if we have to live in Virginia, we might as well live near the ocean, and Somerdale’s right on the edge of the beach.

We used to live near Lake Michigan, which is kind of like a small ocean. I used to stare across the lake when we went to the shore to see if I could see Michigan across the water.

I never could because the lake is so wide. It was easy to pretend it was the ocean and we were right on the edge of the country.

And now I guess we are.

Mom and Dad were happy we got to move in the summer because then me and Toby didn’t have to worry about switching schools in the middle of the year.

They told us that when they first said we were moving.

Mom and Dad sat us down in the living room. They said it was a Family Meeting. Sometimes we have Family Meetings but not really that much. Toby and I sat on the small red couch that always feels kind of rough but not too bad, and Mom and Dad were standing and then Dad says, We have something to tell you.

And then they told us we were moving.

Toby said, What about Marla?

Her voice was real flat and low, which is how it sounds when she’s her maddest.

Dad said, I’m sorry, Toby, but we don’t have a choice. You’ll make a new best friend in Virginia.

Toby raised her eyebrows.

She said, Marla’s not my best friend, she’s my BFF. We’re supposed to be best friends forever, not best friends till middle school.

Dad sighed.

Toby said, That’s why it’s called a BFF, not a BFTMS.

Dad said we might not like it much at first but it would be an adventure and we’d like it after a while. That’s when Mom said we got lucky that we were moving in a good season.

I didn’t say anything.

Toby said, I don’t want to move in any season.

I don’t remember a lot before Sheboygan Falls because we had lived there since I was three and Toby was just a baby. We moved there from Milwaukee right after Toby was born.

There’s only one memory from Milwaukee:

Walking in between Mom and Dad in the park near the lake, holding both their hands so that my arms are raised over my head because I’m so small and they’re so big. We are walking along the edge and it’s around dusk.

The sun is really deep orange and it’s coming through some of the buildings and getting in my eyes but it doesn’t bother me. Next to us the water is getting blacker and blacker, but there’s still a sliver of orange that is reflecting the sunset.

I look up at Dad and he’s looking back at me and he’s grinning so wide.

Then he and Mom lift me up together by my arms. My feet leave the ground and it’s like I’m floating, and I laugh and laugh.

That’s all, though.

Everything else is just fuzzy and barely there.

Somerdale wasn’t bad at first.

At first things were just new and everything felt different, and it was a bit weird.

But there was a lot that was the same. The same kind of house and the same kind of town. Just different people. Like when they used to get a new actor to play the same character on a TV show after the old actor quit or something. Different people but basically the same.

No one seemed to notice me at school on the first day, which was fine with me.

I mean we were the new kids, but it was the start of the year and there were a lot of new kids. Also it was the start of freshman year for me so a lot of the kids didn’t know each other anyway if they came from different middle schools. And plus Toby was eleven and just starting middle school, so I bet it was the same with her.

So there wasn’t much to notice. That was fine with me.

At first it was just like that.

I walk Toby to school every day that the weather is good. It usually is, especially at the beginning of the school year. I mean it can be hot sometimes, but there’s also a lot of cool breeze coming in from the ocean.

Dad likes to talk about the cool breeze coming in from the ocean. He says it’s another good reason that we moved, so we can be near the water.

Even though we were living near the water in Wisconsin.

The school is a mile from home and it takes about twenty minutes to walk there.

Toby and I leave at seven o’clock in the morning. We walk a bunch of blocks past other houses that look a lot like ours with dark red bricks and two trees each in their front lawns.

Then we turn onto this one street where the houses are bigger and different colors, with yards and gardens and horseshoe-shaped driveways.

This is where some of the richer people live, but I mean most everyone in Somerdale has money.

After that we turn onto a bridge that goes over this wide creek. The rich people’s backyards face the creek.

Once we get over the bridge we are basically on school property. The school has a lot of land, though, and has a small woods on the side near the creek so we have to walk by that first.

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