by Monet Moutrie
|We sit sipping on cracked mugs of licorice tea, her and me, two friends from years ago when the world was kept in check by Figaro street; cars humming to and fro and the two of us, sitting at the edge of my lawn watching them race by. Don’t you dare cross that street, my mother told us, and we would nod, taking our purple popsicles in mouth and running out into the cool cut grass.How have you been, you ask, and I smile as I spill an abbreviated telling of my life’s biography. The events I tag are the ones worth mentioning to people like great aunts or old teachers, a future employer perhaps. I don’t tell you that I think of you often when my boyfriend and I lie in bed and he tries to get me off with his eager fingers, searching into those deep spaces that we, you and me, once explored as wide-eyed adventurers.And to think that I once sat with you in that magnolia tree with the bees humming around those opening blooms and our four, insect-pricked legs, swinging down into a sea of waxy foliage. Now we sit in brown and black slacks, our hair pulled back and my lips stained with the slightest color, Perpetual Pink lying in my purse, waiting to be painted on again after I finish this cup. You’re smacking on a piece of gum, and I can see the metal retainer that keeps your bottom row in line, one thin strip of metal pressed against the enamel of those baby girl teeth.
We talk about the time that Wynd chased us with a wooden stick, his wide eyes frightened by his own strength, frightened at the frustration that came out in these bursts of kinetic energy, him waving sticks or hoes in hand and chasing away all the reminders of the woman he really loved. God, that was awful, you say, and I nod, because it had been awful to see the ambulance pull up and take Wynd’s mother to the hospital, to the ward, to wherever she ended up. Together you and I had sat on the curb until my mother came out, her hand pressed against her forehead, dialing my father’s number, speaking to us in hurried whispers, come on girls, come on, we need to go inside.
We crept upstairs into that art room, where my mother kept her paintings of naked women, and we opened our own pads of paper, and I drew pictures of the people and the animals that filled my eyes and dotted my dreams. Squids swimming in an empty sea, a few seashells scattered near the bottom of the ocean floor, and an upturned grin on the face of one particular squid that had just squirted a gallon of invisible ink. You laughed at my drawing but I saw you trace those same bodies on your own paper the next day at school, copying, I thought, and I shook my head in strict disapproval.
Remember when? We press each other with this question; ask our minds to dip back into the buckets of memories we’ve stored away in a coat closet that holds a sole pair of yellow rain boots. Remember when we tied each other up, like prisoners on a pirate ship, and we let our childish cruelty play out in scenes of whipping and other nautical abuse? Oh yes, you nod, oh yes, I remember those days well, and I wonder then if you also felt those pricks of excitement as your hands were bound, as I smothered your bright red mouth with my dirt streaked hands. I see in your eyes a glimmer of times past, and I nod, you felt them too.
Now we try to pretend that our lives are blooming and that each morning offers us a fresh palate that we swipe our brushes across in vivid, colorful strokes. It’s delightful, I say, when you ask about my relationship with Robert, the one man who looks exactly like my father did when he was thirty years old. I couldn’t be happier, I add, just in case you don’t get it the first time around. And you, I press, how are you navigating the world of love and romance? Of deception and lies? I watch as you tumble out words, as you assure me that the sex couldn’t be better, as you detail how he presses you into positions that make you want to scream, make you want to cry. Oh yes, we both are happy women, satisfied women, women with our hair in buns and our lips neatly lined.