I remember red hair and a brown paper bag filled with peanuts. I remember Patty D--- sitting across the street, "an urchin," my mom said. She shelled peanuts like it was a holy calling. She shared with me, as long as I could keep up. I remember we shared a bath and she shit in the water on purpose. I wondered how to politely avoid the shit flakes floating in the water. Her grin, freckle-filled, tears only when her mother appeared. Preachers’ wife. Serious as a heart attack. Her children ending up dealing drugs, using drugs, cutting, abusing.
I remember Patty pissing on the slide before me. The shining metal, wet streaked and pungent, taunting rainbow. I never refused dares. I slid, smelling of hot metal piss all day.
I remember feeding the rabbit, and after it bit my finger (how many times could I hear the “must have thought your finger was a carrot” line?) my mother took me for yet another tetanus shot. I grew up on tetanus shots and lemonade. Patty held my hand and told me a story and when I asked, “when are they going to give me the shot?” everyone laughed because they had already done it. We were five then.
I remember telling someone that I cry when I shit. I thought this was normal. I thought everyone cried at bodily functions, those betrayals that deem us human. I thought tears have to come out sometime, why not then?
I remember the slashes on Patty’s arms; longways like she meant it; sideways like she didn’t. I remember the first time cutting myself because maybe she wouldn’t have to cut herself. It didn’t work of course. We were eleven or twelve then. I was supposed to be a good influence on her in the midst of night time fumbles with green glow in the dark clock faces, hitching rides for blow jobs, trading promises for Greyhound bus rides.
I am twelve. He is twenty-eight. He says I am mature. Soft flannel against hardened trucker body. I am southern. I am supposed to submit. I am wondering why Patty is in the back of the Greyhound instead of with me. We are twelve. She said she’d teach me what I needed to do to survive. I am not sure she succeeded. I am not sure I survived.
Cindy Cunningham writes poetry and, apparently now, nonfiction. Occasionally she tweets: @MusingsofDrC and occasionally posts things on her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cunninghamsarmy. She finds it extremely hard to edit only for ten minutes, but, hey, it was a dare, right?