the girl with the weight
February 11, 2002 11:02 AM

They lived across the street. An American family with an unspellable German name. I would go to their house and have peanut butter, something that never existed at home, after school while our mothers worked together.

She was a year older than I.

We danced in my mother's discarded underwear to the first record I ever bought. [Madonna. Like a Virgin. I was seven.] Then mothers still wore things like full slips. My favorite was a long (I suppose knee-length on my mother) pinkish beige thing with not much lace. I fancied it a cross between Madonna and an English Romantic wedding gown.

Not that I knew "English Romantic". But later, when I had the words, I knew what I meant.

That summer Miss America was in Playboy; we heard from the radio as we leapt from the picnic table into the kiddie pool in my yard. We also heard the "Mr. Roboto" song, among others. And I broke my ankle. We couldn't dive off the picnic table after that.

Now I believe that dreams come true
Cause you came when I wished for you

She sucked her fingers. Her index and middle fingers stuck in her mouth straight, like two pencils. Two Freudian non-cigars. Everyone talked about this nervous habit. Parents worried, she slept in mittens sometimes, or with hands coated in bitter salve. We called each other's parents by first names. They insisted.

I have pictures. Now discolored photos of us, her little brother wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat and a lacy underdress that trails under and behind his feet (too long). Her fingers in her mouth, smiling with that pixie haircut. She looks like a pixie in most of the photos, with those delicate little features.

I still have a solid wood doll. From Japan, where they'd been stationed before we met. A gift, making up for my rootedness compared to the world-travelling wonders of my friends. I have still never been abroad.

This just can't be coincidence
The only way that this makes sense is that you're an angel

And her parents were the first I knew to venture into the mysterious territory Divorce. It may have been common enough in movies, but it was far distant from nuclear military families. I knew more Mormons than divorced "broken" families. Mormons were also mysterious, living family lives wholy unlike mine. They were never latchkey children, never worried about losing the key or imagined strange people coming to the door.

We stopped living across the sidewalk. Got real houses, because that's what grownup families do.

And then. Even more amazingly, sometime later her mom was revealed to be the first Lesbian of my acquaintance. To be twelve and know a Lesbian! I had truly lived. Sheltered as I was, I doubt how much I really knew about the nature of lesbians, but I was proud to know one. It made me different, just having touched that.

She still sucked her fingers, but now no one slathered her hands with bitter stuff or covered them with mittens. The family was uncomfortable. Her little brother misbehaved. She kept making excellent grades and sucking her fingers. And then she went to college and grew out of it.

I find myself. Sometimes. When I'm worn and can't show it. Sticking the tip of my index and middle fingers in my mouth and nibbling, just a little.

It was a good idea.

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