Scabbed elbows and knobby knees. Strawberries and clotted cream and yellow evening haze in the summertime. People stayed outside until the evening stretched thin. People stood at the edge of their lawns, hands in their pockets, socializing. More than a howdy. More than a hello. The neighborhood watched our back, kept us safe. Now we stay indoors, connect over synapses that don’t require anything more than taps of our fingers. I don’t understand how the world goes from smooth to tangled in a minute. I don’t understand relational shifts, familiar structures eroding under the passage of time. These moments are pebbles accumulating second by second. Into years. Into a weight that tips the scale until the balance is all wrong. What is right? It’s a mess. We climbed trees without thinking of falling. We sat on the curbs and watched bugs. It was simple. Understandable. Able to fit in our small hands. People said hello. In the summertime, we biked along dirt paths to drink out of cold, frosted glass mugs. Now if we want to get coffee, we call. We plan. Two weeks from today? Great. She’ll probably cancel anyways. My friends weep over broken families. My friends worry about what to eat. My friends shake their heads, cross their arms, and stand next to me without words. We’re young and already wrung dry. We’re young and already carrying unwieldy worlds in our arms. We play the game of shrinking, of becoming small, of being okay, of feeling everything and nothing at all, because hell, if that isn’t what the world taught us.
If I close my eyes, I am sitting on the edge of the sandbox, eating frozen blueberries out of my calloused palms. It’s good. The woods around me are green and quiet, the sand damp from rain, and an ant scuttles through the veins in the fraying wood. My fingers are blue. My lips are blue and I think how beautiful I look with lipstick. I am eight, maybe nine. I don’t know what a calorie is. I don’t know a house being anything less than a home. I don’t know that life doesn’t always fall into place for the good guys, that it’s less good guys and bad guys and more people all bumping into each other, trying to figure this breathing, beating thing out. A tangle of arms and legs and smooth skin. Feathery hair. I have a cowlick and a widow’s peak, round cheeks and freckles splattered like paint across my nose. I am eating blueberries out of a white bag and they are cold and sweet on my tongue.
Surely, life is good, I think.”