|Jan/Feb 2003 • Poetry • Special Feature|
You're a girl and you're twelve and you hitchhike to The Projects to catch a glimpse of a boy you have a crush on: Danny Herald or Harrow or maybe O'Hare. It was hard to hear him on account of the outdoor concert and the pot you smoked. He had mentioned the name of his street, and when you got home you casually asked your mom where that street was, and she flipped out. That's where trash lives. Blacks, even. Why do you want to know? You didn't answer, but you braided your wet hair, fluffed it out dry, and floated it around your bony shoulders like yellow angel fur. You painted your fingernails blue, dabbed Covergirl on your zits, dialed your Ortho Novum to Tuesday and swallowed the white pill, small as a pimple. You don't even have your period yet, but Planned Parenthood told you it was better to be safe. You had sex with more boys than you want to keep track of, boys with long hair and concave bellies and jeans too long for their skinny legs, boys with cigarette breath and roommates. You wander around The Projects, hoping to get that glimpse, a little scared by the could-break-soon chains of barking dogs. A lady about sixty or maybe eighty peeks out her door and asks what you're doing there. You wonder yourself but don't answer. She asks if you could please move some boxes for her, full of very important stuff, stuff from Germany or maybe Cincinnati, stuff from her heritage she wants to keep safe. You wonder why she'd ask you, but you're a girl and twelve and you step in, and her house smells like corn chips. There are only two little boxes, but they're heavy like children's heads are packed inside. Please, the lady says, and points to her gray-flecked formica table that brings you back to something in your childhood, something involving your mom and a pink spoon and something creamy and delicious, but then the lady speaks and you're back, sitting on a green-painted chair, eating a muffin with blueberries hard as buttons, and you've forgotten how to swallow. She's showing you or handing you packets of seeds, carrots and chrysanthemums, and you're not sure what to do so you take them, and she nods and smiles, a front tooth missing, and you don't know how to leave. You never learned. You're twelve and a girl and you choose another muffin. And another.