I have so much to tell you. I know myself better and I have learned so much. I have so much to tell you and I can’t wait. But we have to pick a starting point, because I don’t really know how you and I began, or when.
I still remember the swing-set at Darlington Lower School’s campus in Rome, Georgia. Four or six little plastic black seats (four–no, six?). Chain-link, cold metal. Cedar chips. Sometimes your skin would get pinched in the metal links as you heaved forward and backward, the laces on your Keds coming undone. Red tunnels. A tree stump. Mashed up dirt, water, and rocks became a magic potion in a knot within the root system of an old, old oak tree.
I still remember jumping from one of those swings, landing funny, and slicing my hand open on a cedar chip bleeding like a tomato.
I remember not wanting to tell anyone out of embarrassment.
I remember feeling that same flushed-cheek humiliation when my older sister told everyone I was in love with Penny. Penny was my sister’s best friend. I definitely was in love with Penny, though. She was just like, a dream. My dream girl.
My sister Margot is two years older than me and makes sure to remind me of this whenever she can, even though I am several inches taller than she is. But then she just throws it in my face that she’s got more friends than I do so I just leave it.
My parents are never home. They’re always off with their junkie art friends buying shit in Paris or sometimes they go to premieres in L.A. or galas in Atlanta or exhibits in Nashville.
I still remember the first time I tried the “heart-cut” Valiums. Penny and I laid under a tree in a field just past the woods surrounding the golf course. It was fall. The air was static-like and the sun was egg-yolk yellow through the amber, dying leaves. The shadows from the tree limbs grew and groaned slate gray on top of wispy, hollow grasses. I could feel my skin against hers but at the same time, I kind of couldn’t. She told me her mom abused her when she was young, and we talked about running away together. I wanted to tell her why I wanted to run away, too, but I didn’t.
I still remember the sound the Venetian blinds made on early school day mornings as I’d open them to allow the first rays of daylight into my bedroom, all the colors of the waking world beginning to stretch their heavenly coral and lavender arms, the last of the stars fading from the cerulean sky. Swish, click.
I still remember Ms. Cox’s red hair, smooth pale skin as she bandaged my hand in the kindergarten room at her desk and I tried to not cry like a little bitch (but did cry) in front of her.
I still remember Penny telling me how to pronounce her full name. Pen-ell-opie. Pink lips. White teeth.
I still remember the last time I saw her.
I still remember that awful billboard on I27, taunting passersby cruising west: This Space is Available.
Everybody just wants, wants, wants.
This Space is Available.
I am still that kid, embarrassed to show anyone I hurt, I’m bleeding. I guess over the years I’ve learned that.