When I was young I met a girl
who made me feel I'd never met anyone before. She had blue eyes and when she smiled it made me want to laugh. Her knees were always brown with dirt and her hair mottled and dotted with leaves
. When she asked me questions she'd tilt her head as if to catch the answer just right. I was so shy the first time we met I never asked her name, but wrestled her for a square of pink Bazooka Joe
. And I lost
She couldn't throw a rock as far as I could, and her mother bought her dolls. And though we couldn't understand why she showed me once that underneath our clothes boys were different from girls, and I played daddy and sat for tea in the little plywood house her father built out back.
Her bike had training wheels and streamers on the handle bars. So when we needed to go where it was far I let her sit on the back of my stingray seat, and I'd take her to the stream to fish for carp and sunnies with balls of white bread kneaded onto tiny hooks tied onto kite string, gnarled sticks for poles.
I had a hamster named George and she had a gerbil. We fought about which was stronger till we put them in the same cage one day, and they both just fell asleep. When we told my mom what we'd done she said we were lucky they didn't kill each other. Then she made us peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches, and sent us out to play. We didn't know it was life.
I didn't know why I liked to be with her, or why the feeling was different then playing with the guys. And when we moved away that summer she cried and wouldn't come outside to say goodbye.
All these years and miles have gone like leaves that float by on the river below the bridge. And rings have grown inside each other in the trunks of the trees of Franklin Street. Sometimes when I let things get quiet in my head I remember the feeling of her, and the way she looked with tiny twigs in her hair on all fours pinning me, that smile that made me feel how I could never admit--what I had no word for.
And I wonder where she is, what would have been if I'd stayed in that house in New Jersey, if she would remember me.
How she'd feel if she knew I never forgot her.
And what it means that I didn't.