It was the 8th grade, it was the year of silver lipstick and shiny green gemstone rings stolen from CVS with my best friend Kate, it was the Sony stereo playing all day while we shot hoops with Jesse and the skater boys—Lenny Kravitz, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Pearl Jam, Backstreet Boys. Sometimes my dad would come outside and throw the football around, instructing Kate and me to make sure to lead with the foot opposite from your throwing hand and follow through, follow through. I listened closely to his instructions, repeating them to myself long after he’d gone back inside to his recliner and his silence and his television and his reruns of M*A*S*H.
It was the year of SpongeBob and Napster, Bill Clinton and Myspace, and it was also the year of Columbine—Kate and I clung to the details of the dark black trench coats when we had to go back to school. They would be our canaries; if we didn’t see them, it would be okay. We stole half-smoked cigarettes from my dad’s ashtray and relit them in the graveyard, the same place we’d meet up with Jesse and the skater boys after all the parents were asleep. One night, Jesse told me I was pretty under the muggy starlight and kissed me against Howard Winkler’s gravestone, a man who’d died two years prior at the age of 58. He’d had a heart attack; he’d owned a chocolate shop downtown. The local paper ran a story about him, and I read it three times through, wondering about correlation vs. causation.
Then it was the year that it got too easy and I got too messy and my parents found Jesse in my basement bedroom, after coming to inspect noises that had been reported by my younger sister. Jesse scurried outside through my private entrance with his pants still around his ankles as my dad barged through the interior door. My mom cried behind him, saying we should have never let her have this room, we should have known. Jesse had left his belt behind and my dad picked it up and swung it around, his fingers tense and curled—as if he hoped to harm some part of Jesse that was left behind. Or as if it were the curve of a football. But my feet were tangled up in the sheets and I’d never get them in the right position now, and when he’d said follow through, follow through, this hadn’t been what he’d meant at all.
Erin Schallmoser (she/her) lives in Bellingham, WA and loves the moon. She’s also a poetry/prose editor and staff contributor at The Aurora Journal, editor-in-chief at Gastropoda, and is still figuring out Twitter @dialogofadream. You can read more at erinschallmoser.com/.
image: MM Kaufman