her girlfriend dragged her along behind her, using less force than charm, really, and it didn't take all that much either; it never did. mostly, she found her curiously fascinating and wildly transgressive, though, if you'd asked her, she certainly would not have been able to verbalize her feelings.
she was, after all, only seven.
nothing about her life was normal, though she didn't really know it. she had the aching sense something was wrong, but, mostly, when she wasn't consumed with telling her sister stories to make her sleep, she was obsessed about the messed up state of the universe.
she'd lay on her back in the long grass, especially late at night after dark if they were "camping out," and she'd lie so still she could feel the rotation of the earth beneath her while the stars drifted silently above, the sky so dark and close it felt like a heavy velvet blanket, and she'd panic about the pointlessness and enormity of it all. she remembered that scene from "Little Man Tate," where the small boy freaked out his mother by freaking out over the universe, and she just... understood.
"yeah, little man." and the boy in the movie was a genius. was she a genius too?
every time she fell into her thoughts, she would fall in so deeply that being pulled out of them always felt to her like waking up suddenly.
her girlfriend tugged her arm.
she blinked a few times, and saw that she was in a playground -the only playground in town. then she looked objectively at the girl who was tugging on her sleeve, encouraging her to follow.
she was unremarkable, really -dirty yellow hair chopped off bluntly in that way that Midwestern parents always seem to do to children, a splash of freckles across her plain white face, cut-off shorts, and a general unkempt unruliness.
of course, her true draw lay in her complete and utter disregard for rules or boundaries, no matter who or what laid in her way.
she watched her scramble up to the top of the long slide, the one that had two odd humps that made her stomach feel wondrously sick each time she went flying over one of them.
she had smoked with the girl, flashed alarmed car drivers with the girl, screaming at them "T-I-T!!" without any real comprehension what she was spelling, suffered through lice with the girl, walked into the local bar and demanded a drink (water) with the girl, bullied other children with the girl, and even gotten revenge with the girl -all in a very detached, "I guess this is happening now" kind of way.
it would not be until years later that she fully understood that this girl had not been her friend. she had never told her about her secret child, the yoke around her neck she had been born with that was hers and hers alone to take care of. she had never told her about the sexual abuse, or the beatings, or spoke with her about the drugs, alcohol, and general blasé misogyny of the Midwest. she had never talked with her about racism, and what it meant to be the only person of color not only in the town and in school, but also in the home. she had never revealed to the girl her very secret penchant for hoarding food and shoplifting insignificant things such as gum.
well, they were only seven.
she shrugged, and quickly climbed up to the top of the slide behind the girl, wondering the whole time if this was a false memory, like so many of her other memories; wondering if it was true that it wouldn't be the stolen and destroyed bike that would end them, but actually this time -today, in fact -when the girl insisted they defecate together under a playground picnic table, for no reason in particular like so many of her other ideas, except to just... do it.
she closed her eyes, realizing though she could not remember, that she probably had done it, and the only thing that had really separated them was the mistaken notion that they were truly friends, because children of abuse can never truly have friends -there are too many bruises to hide; too many secrets to be spilled.
they had moved to the country shortly after the incident with the dead child in the ditch; because out in the country, the only ones to hear her cry and her sister scream were the cows.