We Have Lived in the Castle

What do I remember?

The spine of a proud oak in my backyard next to a shrub with red berries. I’d dig for arrowheads in the dirt, old nails, pennies of a certain decade. 

One Christmas we were told to play outside. We looked on in horror as my mom locked the door. My sisters conferred and decided she meant we had to live like wild things forever. We tried to pitch a house under the slide, a part of the castle my dad had built. Of course, none of us realized we could have lived in the castle. So we collected flat stones to build our walls. I packed cold mud in a wagon as we tried at staying sisters for keeps. 

I worshipped the sun—in Texas, you can pack on another childhood to the one you already have because the days are so long. 

My dad let me pick out the carpet for the porch at the Home Depot once. We chose Astroturf, and he let me help line up the sheets, pin them down, and staple with a flourish.  

One of my biggest fears is that I’m a secret slop. 

When I was a senior in high school, our biology teacher asked us to draw a circle to place our augur dishes on. I free-handed it carelessly and it was perfect. My two lab partners looked at it in awe. Never again could I replicate it, at least, not like that.   

Lately, I’ve been wondering if Chipmunk’s happy. I’m already dreading the day she dies. I try to memorize her—the three pink pads and one brown on a fat little hind leg, the way she curls up her body to hide her length, the days her nose is wet or dry. One day she’ll build a boat out of a shoe box, pack her fish snacks and drift away on a river of snow.  

I read this piece about a girl whose mom wants her to lose weight but out of spite she keeps eating. She gets bigger and bigger. In college, her roommate broils her plain steaks on a hot plate and feeds her lettuce, coffee, cigarettes. She eventually marries a nice guy, until she gains pregnancy weight. She rose like a phoenix only to crash splendidly. The husband wasn’t nice anymore. Worse, he hated her for showing him his own shallowness. The last scene is her sitting on the foot of the stairs and gobbling chocolates. 

My friend and I were hanging out on this hill in Highland Park last summer. Meet me at the place, we’d say, shirking real responsibilities like gangbusters. I’d catch him mid-run on the corner of Negley and Black. The hill was on a lawn with a turret. We weren’t quite sure if we could use it but were too afraid to ask. We sat there on the grass smelling of sunscreen and apartment. 

“I heard someone say today if they couldn’t write they couldn’t live,” I said. 

He turned to face me. “So what does that make us? We’re not writing.”

As the sun began to set, I could see the shadows on his face forming a poetry I didn’t yet understand.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m not dying or anything.” 

Though, of course, both of us were.  

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