I would start high school with a boyfriend”?

Yeah, that was me

for a couple naive days when I was

thirteen years old.

We moved in June four shards of a family, one apartment of burnt orange and avocado green, two bedrooms.

I bought the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album with my babysitting money. The boy across the street had a motorbike he syphoned gas for it every night the trick, he said,

was only to take a little from each car,

that way no one noticed.

He grabbed me once.

Pushed me against a

brick wall, hands greased with experience

arms metal cables

looping around and encasing me.

I fought, tried to kick and failed, his mouth dove for my neck and

I bit him

until I tasted blood.

He backed off, furious cried that human bites were germ-filled, poisonous.

I said I hoped that was true.

That boy tasted gasoline dangerous, but he wasn’t IT.

My sour victory

did not last long.

IT, part 2—trees

We moved to a new

building a few weeks later, I made friends with girls who shared candy-flavored lip gloss and giggly fantasies about Vinnie Barbarino and the Fonz girls who introduced me to IT, the friend of a friend of a friend cuz everyone is your friend when you’re thirteen and alone.

Broken children

can see each other from miles away, the original mutants, X-kids abandoned to their confused scars and rages. I held his hand, enjoyed our silent summer swooping circles of bewilderment. Not romance but comfort, to have a tobacco-smelling boy, older, bigger, stronger boy walk by my side.

Looking back, I think his life was a mess.

Looking back, he still scares me.

Looking back, I wonder how many girls he hurt

and if someone hurt him first or if he was simply a felony-committing shithead.

And then green August, melting-hot days running out the bottom of the hour-glass, school time marching relentlessly toward the children of summer so intent on capturing every free minute, like flowers to be pressed between the pages of a book. We walked down

the hill to the creek, far away from the heat, the trees our shade companions, the babble of water overrunning any need to speak we tossed pebbles in the water everything was so calm that’s what I remember the calm cuz I was safe and happy tossing pebbles in the water next to this tobacco-smelling boy friend,

so when he turned to kiss


my mouth met his with delight, I was new to this kind of kiss and happy to play by the creek with this boy whose hands then wandered fast, too fast, too far like a flash flood overwhelming the startled banks of a creek that never once thought of defense, of damming or the need for a bridge to escape

his hands, arms shoulders back muscle sinew bone

an avalanche of force

the course predetermined one hand on my mouth his body covering smothering mine I took my eyes off the rage in his face and looked up to the green peace of leaves fluttering above, trees witnessing pain shame I crawled into the farthest corner of my mind biding time hiding surviving by outsiding

and when he was done using my body

he stood and zipped his jeans lit a cigarette

and walked away.

IT, part 3—playing chicken with the devil

Lots of boys at our school played chicken the shifting pecking order of coward and stud beating a dark bass note in the cold current of doubt that flowed through their hearts.

One boy lost a game of Russian roulette for real,

a revolver, six chambers, one bullet loaded, then spun so no one knew where it was hiding, the gun went hand to hand to hand, following the snake-smoke path of the bong, laughing, basement smelling of mold and boy farts, cheap beer, and the gun goes click, to the next hand click, to the next hand before the laughter fades, BAM.

It didn’t kill him. He was smart enough to tilt the barrel at an obtuse angle, so the bullet only stole his memories chewed through his charm and blinded him.

He was a quiet, kind fixture in the empty garage

where we smoked between classes, sheltered from the cold, his black hair long to cover the scars, white cane in his hand, old friends standing guard.

Lots of boys at my school played chicken, countless varieties of the game.

The boy who raped me on the rocks by the creek got drunk and lay down

twenty-eight nights later on a dark country road

he played chicken with the devil, daring the car that couldn’t see him to flinch first, to prove him brave and noble.

I didn’t speak up when that boy raped me, instead I scalded myself in the shower and turned me into the ghost of the girl I once was, my biggest fear being that my father,

no stranger to gaming

with the devil,

would kill that boy

and it would be my fault.

But that boy who raped me on the rocks by the creek got drunk and lay down

on a dark night to play chicken with the devil

and he lost.

I begged my father to take me to the funeral. I lied and said that boy was my friend.

He looked at me sharply, my ice-eyed father

my gentle-hearted father, he heard something in my voice

but after one searing glance, he shut down the inquiry

wrote the note

got me out

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