this is the summer their divorce will be finalized. i’ll have two minor surgeries that same july and remember he isn’t there for either of us. later that same summer, i’ll attend my first unchaperoned music concert at riverside theme park with my best friend, jessie contino. her father will stay in the park but leave us to watch montell jordan open for jaime walters alone and i’ll never forget how it feels to be a drop in a sea of people listening to someone else’s dream come true. my coarse hair is shoulder length and not quite curly, it has a wave at the front that everyone calls ‘a lick’ but to me it feels like the tip of the ocean just before everything runs dry. in a couple of weeks i will begin my freshman year at a high school that is connected to the middle school i attended and sits a quarter mile up the road from the elementary school we all went to too. i sign up for the cross-country team and girl’s soccer, not because i’m athletic but because i think i’m social; it will take another two decades for me to discern that i’m not, at least not in the ways that matter to a fourteen-year-old girl. i find my place with the girl’s basketball team, well not my place exactly but rather a place to stand with the other girls while we sneak our newport lights before practice every day. by christmas, i’ll have decided i’m in love, even as it’s obvious, i’m not. my first boyfriend’s name is jim and back then he lives in a sprawling house with an in-ground pool and adjoining jacuzzi. the property is well cared for and gigantic, it sits on the outskirts of town, jim’s older brother anthony and their geriatric father tony live there too. at seventeen, jim is an insecure angry type who drinks too much. he’s a kid, like me just three years older and he drinks with the vigor and the demons of a fifty-five-year-old man. jim’s dad is a hemophiliac and one winter evening after visiting his ailing father in the hospital, jim will nod off behind the wheel of his father’s girlfriend marie’s car, while she and i are both in it. he will wake before irrevocable catastrophe hits but i’ll never be able to close my eyes in the backseat or the front seat of a car again.
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