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Some girls say, a part of me was missing until HE came into my life lalala…but that’s not how it was with me and Will. It was more like, the law of the jungle, or something; I bet lion kings and lion queens know each other the way Will and I did. 

It was Eli who told me about Will. They were friends but they were complete opposites.  Eli was smart, but mostly, he was nice. He thought being nice made other people wanna be nice too, but he should’ve known that wasn’t true from the way his wife treated him. She’d say the most awful things then look at him like she was daring him to do something. Of course, Eli being Eli, he never did, just grinned and shrugged and gave you a look like, well what are ya gonna do…she was a bitch but I think part of it was, she was tired of him being so nice all the time. Every now and then I feel a little bad about Eli, but we did try to warn him; Eli was smart, but he wasn't very quick.

Eli used to say stuff like, "poverty's a crime" or maybe it was that "property is theft"-thing …I forget now how it goes, but it was something about the poor and sick and their place in societylalala.  Eli liked helping people. He thought everyone liked helping people, and that everyone wanted to help them the same way he did. Eli looked at everything that way, like, he thought I was sweet just because I acted sweet—figuring out what to be is harder for girls, I think.

I don't mean, what to be when you grow up, or for a living. I mean…like when I was a kid, little girls wore dresses and little boys wore jeans, and little girls couldn't dig in the dirt for buried treasure like little boys could. It didn’t make any sense and it made me mad until I figured out that no one cared if I really was sugar ‘n’ spice ‘n’ everything nice inside, as long as I acted sweet; I could wear a dress and look pretty on the outside and be mean as hell inside, and no one knew or wanted to know. And that was almost as good as buried treasure. 

Of course, that buried treasure thing is how people figured out they could walk all over Eli, too. I used to tell him, you let people get away with murder.

But from the night of Eli’s party, that night I first saw Will—I knew him like girl lions do, and he knew me like boy lions do.  And I knew I would never have to explain dresses ‘n’ dirt ‘n’ stuff, to Will.

***

The women at Eli’s party were all feminist-types and the men were all sensitive-types, and the men were all nodding and agreeing with any stupid thing any woman said just so maybe they could sleep with one of those women later. I hate most of that women's lib crap because after I'd figured out about the dresses and dirt and stuff, I knew being liberated is kind of a personal matter; I mean, if you’re really liberated you don’t go around announcing you’re liberated or worry all the time about someone not giving you your rights.  I was looking at them all herded together and standing in a pack, the women all looking for a sensitive man who agreed with everything they said, and the men all looking for one of those feminist types to keep them in line, even though they wouldn't go outside the lines if their life depended on it. And all of them could talk all night about high-minded crap that didn't mean anything once it was dark and they were alone.  

So I was listening to all of ‘em go on and on about how men still oppress women and that it was built into the culturelalala. I was thinking about asking ‘em something like, who’s your favorite Stooge, or maybe asking, which is better The Addams Family or The Munsters. I knew they’d say The Addams Family,  and then I was gonna tell ‘em The Munsters was a better show because they were working-class monsters and the Addams Family were aristocrats, just to say something smart-aleck. But that’s when I saw Will.

From the back of the room he cut right through the pack, he didn't say "excuse me" or anything, just walked right past them to the front of the room where this purple loveseat was pushed up to the wall. Will looked dead at me and patted the empty space next to him like “Come—sit beside me, now.” His head never moved and his eyes never left my face, and I hopped up there beside him like a well-trained puppy.  The rest of ‘em swung their heads from Will to Eli then back again to Will like a flock of long-necked birds in a jury box and no one said a word. But I knew what they were thinking.

They were thinking, Will, you're such a pig, in this day and age you can't treat women that way.  Women want men who are sensitive, who listen or at least act like they listen, who think about the world and everybody in it, about people who are hungry and sick and poor and about how we can help them.  Women like that stuff and if they think you do too, you got a chance—but you gotta go slow and act like you care about whatever the hell they’re yappin’ about. That's how it works these days, you can't just hold out your hand like it's all about you…they'll just think you're a pig, Will.

But Will knew better.  Will knew everything only worked if boy lions did what boy lions do and girl lions did what girl lions do. It didn't work if you tried to trade places because the places weren't the same. When Will put out his hand and I took my seat beside him, it wasn’t because a part of me was missing; it was because beside him, was rightfully my place.

Well then the long-necked jury looked at Eli like, so the pig is your friend, eh; Eli's eyes got big and white and round, like he wanted to say, “No ! I’m nice, I’m always nice, and I treat women good, I treat everybody good. That's not me, that’s Will.”  And it might have made a difference later if he’d actually said that, or if he'd said anything.  But all Eli could do was stand there with a big sheepy grin, so what are ya gonna dolalala, law of the jungle.

***

A month or so after that party, Eli’s wife started cheating on him. I don’t mean like a fling, I mean it was like she was in heat. When she filed for a divorce Eli moaned and cried like a wounded cat, and Will and I tried to warn him, you can't expect people not to hurt you or harm you just because you're good and nice all the time. But he wasn’t getting any better, and sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy lion or a girl lion.  Sometimes all that matters is whether you’re a lion.

So we loaded up the car and headed out past town. I was wearing my little red dress that was Will’s favorite, I told him, it’s the perfect dress to wear for burying treasure, and we could not stop laughing.  

We rode out on the sunset, radio turned up all the way.

By the time the moon was high, we didn’t hear a peep from the trunk anymore.

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