The Teenagers

We chose never to eat lunch in the school cafeteria. In four years I never set foot in that building. I claimed a spot on the front steps of the high school with the other kids playing dress-up with different personalities.

We ate sandwiches from home carried in brown paper bags, or donuts from the vending machine, or nothing. Hunger was an edge.

Charlie brought a cockroach one day in a matchbox. He’d named him Hank. There was Hank in his matchbox house, antenna quivering in the afternoon light, not in control of when the box would close again. I wonder whatever happened to Hank. Or Charlie.

And what about Siandor, who dressed like Boy George and talked about eating bee pollen? Where, now, could Kathi be? Her parents were both lawyers. Sometimes she took us all out to eat at their club where she would sign for the bill, her father‘s name as good as money.

Once, Kathi and I colored our hair using mousse and food coloring; she was orange, I was blue. When my mother saw my hair, she almost dropped a full bag of groceries. So angry she wanted me out of her house for good, but settled for just withholding dinner as punishment. Temporary mistakes are easily rinsed out at the kitchen sink, nothing permanent.

Time is permanent, it never stops. Time rolls on and over itself. It pulls you apart like taffy; you find yourself far from any starting point, with thinner memories that don’t hold up.

In time you forget faces and feelings. You remember the cockroach and the dirty stone steps and the many ways you were different.

You don’t remember if you were friends at all.

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