Other bad words included shut up, ‘aint, nope and butt.
Me & my mom. Circa sometime.
The first time I thought I was pretty I wore 6 full skirts to make them fly up full when I twirled fast. I was who-knows- how-old and loved eating liverwurst straight from the tube with my fingers; sometimes I climbed on top of the counter to steal nibbles of baking chocolate no matter the bitter. Mirrors were magical and I was a princess with long dangley earrings and a pot belly for balance. (Prior to that I was not aware of the possibility of not.)
Other times I thought I was pretty: in the sixth grade when my name was on the list of girls the boys wanted to go with, on the island of Elba, the day I married Bryan in a $39 dress at City Hall.
The first time I cried so hard I hiccupped was when I watched a car in front of me careen into a tree ( I have since learned that cars never just sort of drift lazily into trees) and a boy from my school fell out of the car and then down and died right there on the pavement. I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, is what I said, and to this day I am still disgusted because I don’t know if I really couldn’t breathe or if I just couldn’t breathe because there was another boy there that I liked and he was alive and so was I and not breathing seemed the right and romantic thing to do at the time.
Other times I cried so hard I hiccupped: when my cockatiel flew into the ceiling fan, when Bryan broke up with me, the time the doctors said Zoey’s rash was probably nothing but leukemia should be ruled out nonetheless.
The first time I felt worthless was walking home from Wade Thomas one day with two other girls and they said I couldn’t walk between them and then later one of them loaned the other one money for Jolly Ranchers and they played Centipede shoulder to shoulder while I stood a little bit behind them, sure that my breath smelled as bad as that of the teacher’s aide since it certainly didn’t smell like artificial watermelon sucked flat against the roof of my mouth like a retainer.
Other times I felt worthless: making the Homecoming float Senior year, how I talked shit about Maya only to turn around and see her there, shoulders shaking, the two times I was laid off, anytime I yell at Zoey.
Sweet Jesus. 7th grade.
The first time I French kissed someone was at my first boy-girl party in the 7th grade. His name was Dave and it was 3 minutes in a very dark closet while everyone else waited outside pretending this was the sort of thing they did all the time. Dave’s lips felt blubbery, his tongue fat. He tasted of Doritos and 3 minutes is a very long time to not breathe, a tea party at the bottom of the pool when your body’s natural reaction is to rise to the surface.
Other memorable first kisses: in 8th grade when Bryan walked me home and I leaned back against the chain link fence so he would be taller, the first time Zoey pressed her her teeny rosebud lips against my mouth and meant it.
The first time I knew everything would be okay was sitting on my mom’s lap and playing with her necklace, a flat crystal disk with a palm tree etched into the center. I used to press that crystal between the hollow of her clavicles pretending it was a swimming pool that smelled of Velamints, cigarettes and Paris, the perfume. Somewhere in that same memory is the shade of a kumquat tree, though I’m not quite sure how or even why.
Other times I knew everything would be okay: each year when the leaves skitter and again when the plum trees blossom, when I hear Cat Stevens or Jimmy Cliff, early morning in bed with Bryan and Zoey, when I fall asleep at the beach and can actually feel the earth moving and dancing and spinning, alive, everything temporary.