afternoon spent on the grass

I can hear them play and I think about the summer in Montana. An entire summer spent in the grass with her. Sitting and hoping and crossing our legs and talking about things we never really imagined we'd be old enough to handle. She had a boyfriend. She had two boyfriends. One was a depressed kid with a baseball hat who drove two hours every weekend to see her, but wouldn't move to be with her. The other was a thirty year old going on twenty-one who had started his own business in a trailer home. I hung out with her in the grass and we talked about the future as if one day it would just land upon us. Some of the things we talked about had nothing to do with boys, but most of the time it was about our love for them. As if talking about it would keep everything in control. We bought flowers for our room and we hung up cheap tapestries from India that we had bought in the ceramics store. The store had stacks of fiestaware that went up five stories high. There was dust on everything in the store. The owner was an Egyptian man and I think his wife was there too, but I can't seem to remember what she would have looked like. He was very small and polite, but he always looked like he was waiting to leave the store and the state itself and return to somewhere else. I liked the section of the store that had clearance stuff, not because it was cheaper, everything was cheap, but because it was piles of things that looked as if someone had just found them underneath a bed or behind a couch. I leafed through pamphlets from the 1950's advertising cherries and strawberry wine. There were cheap Chinese shoes, umbrellas with slogans and insignia from conventions, hotpot holders, toy kitchen utensils, mermaid candle holders and bags of flower seeds long since rotted. Someone must have been buyng this stuff. I didn't know what she was doing. She could have done anything she wanted. She knew about the world and how things worked. She knew how to make people laugh or cry and fall in love with her. Instead, she bounced back and forth between boyfriends, sometimes three at a time. No one was good enough for her, and no one was irreplaceable. She sat opposite me on a bench by the river. It was a sunny day, but we still had our sweatshirts on. She told me how her older sister had been to a plastic surgeon to have a lazer hair removal treatment. I asked her if her sister was scared, but she said that her sister had also had affairs and an abortion and three kids, so no she wasn't scared about the lazer treatment. I looked at her and I compared her to her sister, but she was different. She cared about things too much to keep this charade of nonchalance going. That day we bought icecream and she started to cry when she told me about her boss trying to sleep with her. She said that she had wanted to, but she also didn't want to say no and therefore didn't have a choice. I gave her a hug, but I didn't understand what she meant. I was too young to imagine a situation other than black and white. I looked down on her, because I thought she was so in control. One day when she was gone her boyfriend with the baseball hat came to the apartment. He knocked on the door very loudly, he was mad. I peeked out from the blinds and watched his mad face getting impatient. He knocked again and I let him in. He went into her room and shut the door. He spent two hours in her room while I did my homework and made dinner and ate it. When he came out again, he had been crying. He told me that he was leaving and he was tired of waiting for her to come home. I tried to tell him that I thought that was a good idea. When he had gone I looked in her room. There were hundreds of pictures of them on her wall in a heart shape. All of her photo albums were spread across the floor. I didn't want her to see them like that, so I cleaned them up, except for the ones on the wall because I thought that was really something.

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