Letting Life Lead
Julia. I’d like to say she hadn’t changed, but the slouched posture, leisurewear, and hair undone was not part of her usual persona. The hulk-sized prosthetic hand was the last thing that drew my attention. We stared at each other.
“Hah, she lives.” Julia’s bored eyes judged my ensemble — electric blue hair and hot pink blouse. “You look like a pop tart — Katy Perry to be precise. Go away.”
She pushed the door shut and I stuck my foot in the way. Movies lied. Never use your foot to stop a door. I yelped and limped on the porch while Julia called me an idiot. “Yeah, well. Since I’m injured you can help me walk it off.”
“I don’t need your pity. Fuck off.”
My crushed toes wouldn’t be silenced, my voice bore the thin, shrill octave of acute pain. “Just walk with me a bit, then you can go back to hermitude.”
“That even a word?”
“It is now.”
“You could invite me in.” I craned my neck to peek and Julia promptly shut the door behind her.
“Aren’t you a little old for that?” she waved her hand up and down. “Shouldn’t you be in mom jeans?”
“Old, yes, but no mom jeans. It’s all about the pockets.” I turned to show said pockets, well-placed to accentuate and not elongate.
A hint of a smile cracked the corners of her mouth before her head dropped and her hair obscured her features. Even as the red heat of attention-induced embarrassment made me sweat, I waved to a curious neighbor who had a matching manicured lawn and equally McMansioned house.
I remembered the day we’d become friends, though it was a traumatic event for my fourteen-year-old self who’d had a particularly aggressive surprise period leak through linen pants. A table of junior boys had noticed and delighted in psychological terror. Teasing was generally part of my daily routine, but this was something else. Julia and I hadn’t interacted since kindergarten. Something that day made her leave her enclave of Love’s Baby Soft at the popular table and saunter over to where I was sitting alone in a corner, trapped by the boys. Their laughter crushed, but I refused to let the tears roll.
Julia leaned over the boy’s table. Their chortles dulled to smug expressions and a leer or two.
“You know,” she said grabbing a packs of ketchup and tearing the corners to squirt them in the center of the table. “When you think about it, if you’ve ever held a girl’s hand, it’s probably the one she used to take out her tampon.” She licked ketchup from her finger and the boys squirmed.
“Fuck off,” they’d said.
Undaunted, Julia smeared the condiment between her hands. “Your moms probably spit-wiped your stupid faces with the same hands she hand washes her bloody underwear. Hell, you’ve passed thirty girls today on the rag and sat in their chairs. Think about that the next time you open your mouths, assholes. Crimson ponies everywhere.” She smacked her hand into the ketchup mound she’d made. They leapt back from the glorious splash as if burned. Julia wiped her red hands on the butt of her white, denim miniskirt.
“Let’s go,” she said handing me her sweater for my waist. “Everyone’s looking a me, not you.”
The Julia I knew was still in here, now, beneath the uncertainty. I wanted to be that moment for her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. I really am. I didn’t know if I should call or text or send a card. Was it too soon or too late?” I rambled. Leaked anxiety made my breathes whoosh through sentences. “What should I say, what would you say, what would be the right answer? I almost baked a casserole. Seriously. You’d probably dump it on my head. Then I thought, maybe you might want someone to stare at something other than your missing hand. That prosthetic, though — how’d they screw that up so bad? Shit, you really crushed my foot. Anyway, It’s just a wig, you know? But I thought, I could do that for you. Be the spectacle. And you know–”
Julia came at me so fast I almost fell backward. She grabbed me in an embrace so tight, I couldn’t speak for the lack of air.
“You’re such a beautiful mess, Meg,” she said, her face buried in my neck.
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