I am in their house, his house, but the doors are twice my height. I leave our sisters and go upstairs, looking for him. He is using the computer in the kitchen and I sit next to him, on the same chair but barely touching. He shows me how to fight with animated soldiers.
He races up the hill in my backyard and I chase him, trying to release the competitive spirit that he has been coaxing from me all night. He trips over a tree root and slows, I slam into him, we tumble down. He catches himself on his elbows before landing above me, but his leg still comes down on mine and I groan. I look down, trying to disentangle, and I see his pale, pale arms, glowing in the barely-there moonlight.
The moon is above us, and we are silhouetted in its light. I dance down the middle of the street, ignoring the glass shards in my hand, forgetting that I’m leaving tomorrow. I dangle the spicy mint he wants so badly in front of his face before snatching it away as he lunges and I twirl down the street, singing “mine, mine, mine.” He gives up, returning to the sidewalk, but I continue to twirl and joy under the dull moon. Then he is beside me, grabbing me, pulling me over and a car runs by so fast I can barely see it, so close I can almost touch it. He saves me. I still do not give him the mint.
We are back, before it all, in Iona, where the beach is close and the tide closer. My sister hit him earlier, and he didn’t hit her back, because he never hurt anyone, not back then. He has taught me to fight the way I could, has taught me not to flinch from pain by hurling ping-pong ball after ping-pong ball right at me, but would never hit a girl, would never hurt a soul, would always save my life. I trust his goodness. Our families are on the couches, spread out and close together, and we play a card game that is more laughing than thinking. I am wet for the first time. I notice, but I don’t know what it means. When I go to the bathroom later, there is a bloody spot on the inside of his basketball shorts, the ones I wear because my luggage is lost. My mother gives me Motrin and a bulky pad and cleans the shorts and tells me that I am a woman now, and I wear her sweatpants to bed and think but I am still twelve, and I am confused by all this growing up when all I really want is to play another round of cards.
It is snowing, and he is at my house, and we chase and run with a flock of children, throwing snowballs, and I see him break a window but he doesn’t know I saw. When the window is found later, no one ever knows that it was him.
He wrestles his sister who is less than half his size after she calls him weak and emasculated and worthless. He is pushing her, tugging her, pinning her down with the arms that hold him over above within me. She claws at him, writhes, but cannot escape, and he tries to smother her with a pillow. I scream.
I can never be with him, says my mother, because he is angry and only knows how to hit. That’s what comes of having a father like his.
I am sprawled across a couch in my basement, the gangling limbs that I’ve finally come to control and love and cherish stretching all the way from armrest to armrest. He is seated on the other couch, joystick in his hands, voice calm, steering an animated car around and around an animated track, destroying competitor after competitor as he tells me that he and his girlfriend broke up because he got angry and didn’t know what to do, that it just comes out, that now he’s not allowed to drive because his mother saw him hitting his sister. “I don’t know why it happens,” he tells me, looking only at the television. “I can’t control it, can’t see it coming, I just get angry, sometimes.”
He breaks things.
We stand in the lights of the subway car, close together although it is late and the car is empty, falling into each other with each bump and curve and turn and stop. His eyes go transparent, the pale green-blue washed out by the bright bright lights, and I can see through him and into him and he is mine and I love him and I want him but I see he is not safe.
I bike down roads less than a mile from home but they are foreign now. I go faster and faster, fighting to get away, fighting the urge to go to his house and throw rocks at his window and cry that I want him and need him and beg him to hold me. I cannot go there, cannot do that, cannot let him know because even if he loves me, even if he wants me, I should not have him. I pedal, and I cry, and I pray, seriously for the first time in my life, that this hurt can go away, that this love can run its course and leave me because I am too feeble to fight him and to weak to let go. I must not love a boy who is dangerous.
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