“Where you goin’ Sweetheart?” From his barstool at the counter, Bryce nurses his dark amber, his spotted hands cradling thick glass.
“I’m making the delivery to the high school,” I zip up my aviator jacket and wrap my arms beneath the cardboard tower, fifteen boxes high, and flash him my grinnin’ kid grin.
Squinting by the light of the exposed bulb out back, I snap in the passenger seatbelt and roll down the windows an inch. Pepperoni and sausage steam seeps out of square corners and fogs all up. I take Main Street for the English village street lamps and mom and pop signs muted by the tulle fog. Off Wilma, I drive the dirt road that runs down the backside of the elementary school, leaning hard on my brights, and dock on the backside of the stadium. Through the wood slats and the stomping feet of a town the leaking light outlines my breath in the air. A gopher’s divot in the turf catches me; I stumble but don’t fall as my waitress genes kick in. Hot grease invisible sloshes out the edges, races down into the cotton ridges of my right jacket cuff, and consolidates there.
“Thank you Sweetie.” The matron of the snack bar, decked out in home team colors relieves me of my burden.
“See ya’ next Friday,” I chirp, trekking back into the darkness.
I am everybody’s sweetheart, and nobody’s.
High school has passed me by. I slam shut the car door, roll down the windows, but the smell don’t leave the sleeve, and the dark spot remains there for years.
Another business button-up ruined. Up and down the inside of my right hand, overlapping blue and green pools: the work of overhead markers sunk into skin. The three o’clock sun glares off the metal bleachers across the parking lot, blanching out my empty classroom. Plain as day I see it—the white seam on my right wrist lined in green and blue. Spray-n-wash cannot win this battle, but still I delude the stain with water. Mystery calligraphy. Third period I think. And it will happen again, because mapping out the abyss in the hero’s journey for them will always absorb my mind more than cotton does ink.
“Ms. Frase, can I stay in here for a while? Letie’s looking for me—she wants to mess me up. But I don’t want to get suspended again, I want to walk. I’m even passing English,” Angie stands in the doorway, light filling in the spaces in her long dark hair. Her orange hoodie and electric blue eye liner draw me into her deep worry.
I long to brace her up in a bear hug, to touch her shoulder and call her sweetheart, but that would never play.
“Of course you can. Come help me erase the board.”
Felt erasers in hand, sun on our backs, we miss a few marks.