The sun shines through the window across all the stuffed animals Lala left behind in her room. It rained last night. There’s a rabbit sitting outside of my window, staring at me. So skinny I can see its ribs. The ghost of my grandmother comes and visits me every morning around this time, but today it’s just the rabbit. I believe in science, but she comes anyway.
Science says if things move fast enough, they disappear. So we don’t really exist. We’re just moving slow enough to see what’s going on around us.
Part I: Home
Mom is watching TV on the couch, sweating with her stomach hanging over her knees. Tucker must be around somewhere else. I don’t hear him like I usually do when I get home from school. Maybe he’s in the garage. Maybe he’s out with a girl.
It’s hot. Mom has the fan blowing right on her face so no one else can get at it. The AC is broken, it has been since last summer, and all we have is one fan for the whole house. She hogs it all to herself. Except for the one that Tucker uses in the garage, but that one is built into the wall so we can’t move it anywhere else.
We don’t have any cereal left in the cupboard. I make myself a peanut butter sandwich instead. Food doesn’t last as long when it’s this hot. If we leave the bread sitting on the counter for just a week it turns blue-green and moldy. That happened once and mom got so mad at me I thought she might beat me to death, even though it wasn’t my fault.
She said to me, If I put food on the table and you don’t want to eat it then I might as well not put any food on the table at all!
Even though it’s Tucker that puts food on the table. Not her. She collects checks from the courthouse, but they don’t amount to much. She spends them on TV subscriptions and nail polish for her toes that she can barely reach. It’s Tucker who makes money fixing cars in the garage. I usually hear him when I get home. Either he has music playing or the baseball game (he used to play in high school) with the fan going so it’s pretty noisy. Even though Mom complains about the noise she knows we wouldn’t be able to live in this house if it weren’t for the money he makes.
I’ll get a job next year, a real job, and start making money so she won’t be able to say anything to me either. She can just sit with the fan in the living room painting her toenails and I’ll buy my own and never say a word about it.
Hey! What you doing in there? She calls to me while I’m eating my sandwich.
I made a snack!
She coughs for a second into her fist. A wet cough in her chest. Then she says to me, Well bring me a lemonade from the fridge, baby, would you?
It’s cold when I open the refrigerator door and I stand there a second longer before I bring mom a lemonade in the living room.
Sometimes grandma’s ghost just sits at the edge of the windowsill. Rocking back and forth like she would in her rocking chair when she was still alive. She watches me sleep. She’s watching me when I wake up. Sometimes that’s enough.
Part II: Gogo
Gogo was good friends with Millie. Millie and Dee Boy had been together for a long time. I asked Dee Boy to talk to Millie to talk to Gogo for me. Dee Boy laughed and asked why I don’t just talk to her myself.
I gave him a look like he should know why.
Fine, he said. He would.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I laid awake all night thinking about what Millie might say to Gogo. What Gogo might say back to Millie. What Dee Boy might say to me.
The next day Gogo wasn’t in school.
I guess she is home sick, Dee Boy said when I talked to him.
Do you miss her? Millie asked in a voice that told me Dee Boy had, for a second time, betrayed my trust. He was supposed to go incognito: Ask Millie casually to ask Gogo how she felt about me.
I said, No, I don’t miss her. I’m just worried is all.
Millie said, Aw! How cute.
I didn’t pay attention in Chemistry that day.
Part III: A dream during the day
Gogo is wearing a shirt that’s too small for her. It’s none of my business what she wants to wear. It makes me want to look. I try not to. But I look anyway when I think that she can’t see me. She’s not beautiful the way Millie is, but she’s perfect to me. I might think about her later tonight before I go to sleep.
I see you looking at me Frank Maxwell! She says to me. But she isn’t mad.
She smiles. It’s okay if you were.
I’m getting nervous. Really?
You can touch them if you want to. I don’t mind.
They’re soft like pillows. I can feel her nipples get hard like pebbles from the playground through her shirt. There is a sound in her throat, a sort of mmmmmm like the sound microwave makes. Gogo is pillows and pebbles in the kitchen. She has her eyes closed and I’m looking at her chin. I’m getting dizzy. She’s leaning close to me.
After a little while she says, Do you want to kiss me?
But don’t use your tongue.
Because I don’t like it.
I ask her, Can we…?
No, she says and crosses her arms.
Because I want to keep my virginity.
My lips are getting dry. It feels like sand on my mouth. I’m scared if I lick them Gogo will think I’m trying to use my tongue and make me stop. I don’t know when this will happen again or if this will happen again.
But she stops anyway and says, Frankie, your lips are really dry.
I don’t think I want to kiss anymore.
Well can I touch you some more?
I guess so.
I’ll be really nice.
Gogo giggles. You are.
I lower my head. I know.
It’s okay. She says, It’s a good thing. You can tough my legs if you want to.
By my shorts.
She’s wearing short shorts that show off her skin. By now my mouth is so dry that even when I lick my lips it still feels like dust from the street. My heart is beating fast in my chest. I’m so hard in my pants that it hurts. It hurts like someone punched me there. I move my hands from her chest to her thigh though, pretty close to her hip. She makes the microwave mmmmm sound again with her eyes closed.
After a little while she says to me, You can touch me there if you want.
Where? I ask.
Under my shorts.
She nods her head. Take off my shorts first.
I wish I could remember more about anatomy. We looked at pictures of the human anatomy in Biology class. I could name all of the parts of the human body on the test. We learned about the way the body works, what happens when we eat and drink and sleep and… We have sex education class, too, that showed us the right way to put on condoms and what happens when you don’t. It didn’t teach us how to make the world feel good.
Gogo is nodding her head at me, looking at me right in the eye. She has pretty eyes. Dark but they change colors when the lights move.
I look around the park for a second. Hiding behind the bush. The playground on the other side. I don’t see anyone and they wouldn’t see us anyway. People don’t come to this park very much. Only homeless people, people who do drugs, and people who want to do the things we’re doing.
I try to unbutton her shorts. It takes a little while because they’re tight. She helps me take them off. She is wearing underwear that has little flowers on it. It looks like the underwear that Lala used to wear, and I would find them when she would forget to take her wash out of the dryer. It made me uncomfortable.
Gogo says to me, Well?
Aren’t you going to touch me?
I put my hand on the little flowers, the way you would pick an apple from the tree, but Gogo laughs and says, No, Frankie, not like that.
I’m embarrassed but I don’t want her to know. I know my cheeks are red. That happens a lot. My mouth is dry and I think I might explode. I want to touch myself, because I think that might help, but I’m supposed to touch her instead. We learned about spontaneous combustion in Chemistry: There was a man in Utah who burst into flames sitting in his armchair and all that was left of him was a pile of ashes sitting on the carpet. His cat used them for a litter box in front of the TV. That might happen to me now and I’ll just blow away in the wind and disappear forever. And maybe that’s okay today.
Gogo takes my hand and puts it inside her underwear. I can feel her skin softer than anything I’ve ever felt before in my life. It’s hard to breathe. I move my fingers the way Lala played the piano. But then after a little while Gogo giggles again and says, You’re tickling!
She kisses my cheek. It’s okay.
Can I tell you something?
She looks at me. My hand is still in her underwear. I take it out quickly and wipe it on my shirt because my fingers are a little wet from between her legs. She says to me, You can tell me something. It’s okay.
I don’t really know what I’m doing, Gogo.
Gogo smiles. It’s not a mean smile. She says to me, I know.
I’ve watched porn. I try to remember the things that they say in videos, yeah, yeah, fuck yeah, oh yeah, which doesn’t help me now.
I do think I could make you feel good if…
If I could practice.
Gogo smiles at me again, and she asks, You want to practice with me?
She helps me take off my shorts, and then she takes off her underwear and puts them on the side of the blanket. We are hidden by the bush and the blanket Gogo says she took from her cousin, but I’m still worried that someone might see us. She’s almost all the way naked, wearing her weeaboo shirt and nothing else. I only have my socks on. She touches me there and it feels so good it hurts and she slowly pulls me closer to her. I can smell perfume and she smells so good it hurts and I know it doesn’t make any sense, but none of this makes any sense. The world doesn’t make any sense. But I never want it to end…
And then suddenly Officer Melon from 12 Block walks up with his flashlight and says, Hey! What are you kids doing down there?
Gogo gets up so fast she kicks me between the legs. It hurts so bad that I fall to the side and lay like a baby holding my stomach with my arms. There are tears in my eyes. The water drips into the dirt with the snot coming out of my nose. But I’m not really crying. It just hurts so bad I can’t remember anything hurting as bad as this. I can’t move or breathe or anything. Officer Melon is standing over us. I don’t know what Gogo is doing because my eyes are closed. I can hear her trying to put her clothes back on. All I can do is lay on the ground, holding my stomach until the pain goes away…
Moms calls me a miscreant, breathing heavy and drinking her lemonade by the fan. I have to look it up in the dictionary to see what that word means. Tucker just laughs at me. He tells me not to worry. He says, Good for you, and touches my shoulder which makes me feel better.
Part IV: A dream at night
That night when I fall asleep I have a dream:
There’s a chandelier. There’s me in a suit and tie. Looking clean in the fractured light. There’s lobster on the table on tiered platters. I can smell them and perfume.
I try and kiss Gogo but she smashes a bottle over my head. It cuts my skin and I can feel the blood, warm, run down my forehead. I grab her with both hands. I hit her hard as I can across the face. She bleeds too. She runs. I don’t chase her. I fall to the ground. If I’m a bad person then this is a bad world.
I wake up and my head hurts like a got hit and I don’t know from what. Outside it’s raining. I’ve always liked the rain.
Grandma floats in through the window. She isn’t wet, because you can’t feel the rain when you look the way she does. She sits at the edge of the bed, watching me with eyes that don’t have any color.
And so I lay back, hands beneath my head, struck by the calm around me. The rain falling outside. The sound of it against the window. The smell of it in the air. I lay back. I know that this moment is forever. And the next one. And the next one.
And there’s a rock heavy in my stomach, because I think that it was a dream about the future.