If.

(Remember geometry class, remember hearts drawn on graph paper and arrows and remember your syllogisms, the infamous if-then statement. You are the kind of girl who dots the i in if with a heart, but then is where you live when you're so deep in your head that no one can touch you. You are sixteen years old, bright but unsociable, lives in head mostly, must learn to give peers a chance and your head is ripe and delicious with fantasy: you can't just taste it. You are nourished by it, you really are.)

(Remember?)

(You forget to define the if.) (This should be a conditional statement - what's the condition? C-.)

1. If.

It might be like day-old chocolate birthday cake for breakfast. It's often better the next day - not too old yet to be stale and not so new as to be flaky. Say he calls you up and takes you out walking and keeps cleverly finding trinkets in the hollows of trees, or making found poetry of bumper sticker slogans.

In the margins you write: (Could be better this way. Easy past nervousness and interesting. Could be a lot of fun.)

2. If.

It could also be like microwaved pizza: soggy past palatability, meaning you really don't want to bother.

(You underline really, twice. You draw scallops around it. The current state of affairs is less than pleasant; it involves a cheerleader and a station wagon.)

(Teacher asks you a question. You tear out the graph paper and start again.)

3. If.

(What's if?)

(The condition is now that all conditions are off. You're not sixteen years old, you're not writing and erasing and writing and erasing your analysis of the situation in the margins of your geometry notebook. The braces are off. Your hair is a little shinier and you lose five pounds. Maybe ten, if you start jogging. You might want to give yourself a different name, like Vanessa. Also, you stop wearing shoes to class and your toenail polish sparkles and never, ever chips. You grow wings - not angel's wings but unobtrusive, blue glittery fairy wings and fly down and lift him out of his misery. Because it is misery. Who wouldn't be miserable without a girl like you? You've gotten straight A's this term, and while you're at it, he has too, because he got his head out of his ass. His nose is slightly less crooked, his saliva a little less sticky. And he gets a better name himself, and he picks it, but you strongly suggest Orion, and - having seen the light and understood that you are right about nearly everything - he acquiesces. You wrote love poems to him in purple ink every evening at bedtime and slip them under the pillow and he never, ever rolls his eyes or makes the wank gesture with either hand. You kiss a whole lot on a cloud, and after this the details are rather unclear, but invigorating.)

Teacher asks another question. You ask for some time to work it out, and you tear out a new sheet of graph paper. You start to write something about it being like edible confetti but the bell rings. You notice the cheerleader, the driver of that infamous station wagon, carrying two pieces of chocolate cake across the cafeteria, and trip her.

She is so coy, this one
leaning against the wall of the club
legs crossed at the ankles, flirtatious glances over her straw

someone said she spoke French
someone said she was a gymnast
someone said she liked guys with glasses