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In second grade, Joe was pudgy and shy. She took to him right away. Their alliance was a comfort, because they were the two youngest in the class. Surreptitious communication was easy, as their desks were next to each other.

In third grade Joe voted for her to be the one to crown the Blessed Virgin Mary in the May. The statue and she were the same height, but the Virgin was on a pedestal. The winner had to climb two steps to carefully place the crown.

The honor was a privilege awarded the girl with the best grades, etiquette and decorum. Not being certain what that meant, she felt her chance of winning the contest was a long shot. She was relieved when the girl with the red hair got it.

In the fifth-grade Joe offered to carry her books home. It was January. Bundled up, they slogged in silence through six blocks of icy blast, insulated from one another. The snow muted everything, as the wind’s intensity propelled them.

In sight of her front door, he suddenly pitched forward, careened a bit, then landed. The slide and spin seemed to her an  odd choreography. She stood above him. They stared at each other with stunned surprise, then laughter.

Watching from the fogged window, her mother pointed directly at her, and shook a finger. The admonition was not deserved this time she thought, because she had not pushed him as she once might have. He had slipped of his own accord.

She thought there must be some other rule in the lexicon of growing up female, that she had violated. They had been practicing the “boy likes girl” routine while walking home, but she hadn’t realized what that was exactly; a sinking feeling arose.

She expected that her mother’s dictum will go like this: never laugh at another’s foibles, even if they are funny. Remain polite and composed, especially around boys. Turns out, this incident was only the beginning of the tedious task of outgrowing childhood.

One short moment they were buddies having fun together and the next, who knew? Chastised for what, she wasn’t sure. She felt lonely and adrift, as though she had lost something important, and didn’t understand why. She wondered if he felt it too.

They never spoke of it, because they had no language to explain what was happening—only feelings. What became clear to her, was that the carefree friendship they’d had for so long, was coming to an end.


Jean Cassidy   2020

Photo Credit: Unsplash

poetry, wnc writers, writing

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