—After Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,”
with thanks to Terrance Hayes
My friend said I wasn’t fat but she was, and we
would go on that way, back and forth. She was my first real
friend, the kind who changes everything. Her mother was so cool,
didn’t shave down there for the country club pool where we
sat beside her. I saw a gleam of her secret, silver hair and was left
dreaming of lime floating in a clear drink. I started saying hi at school
and people smiled back. Smile first, my friend said, and we
were a team. The cheerleaders who would always lurk
by the field, showing off their muscled legs—of late
I’ d hardly noticed them. We talked about art, we
attended science camp in Gulfport. That’s where her mother got struck
by a car the next year. She must have thrown the new baby straight
as a football to save her. Their family was on vacation, and we
found out at Sunday School, waiting for the choir to sing.
She was so good she comforted me. People saying, “It’s just a sin,”
her mom like Snow White under glass, red lipstick, platinum hair we
knew was genetic. You’ll still look young, I said. I think you’re thin.
We’ d skip lunch, drink Sego (“good for your ego”). Last year I drank gin
and called her ex. “She passed,” he drawled, like it was the weather. We
tried powdered donuts with the Sego, sweated to the Beatles and jazz.
Her whole life was beginning. We moved away from there one June,
Mississippi tight-mouthed as a lid on fig preserves. And we—
we white girls—knew nothing. The fire-bombed store, the owner who died
for paying his friends’ poll taxes. Anorexia would be famous soon.