You got to know me by making fun of me. I was different, from New York, and I didn’t understand Florida. I wasn’t sure how it worked. I’d never been on the monkey bars. I’d never had a trapper keeper. I wore Mary Janes to school and everyone else wore sneakers, ones that had circular puffs on the ankles to pump air into their heels. You showed me the ropes but didn’t make it easy. We realized we could be friends because we had the same name, because a boy who had a crush on me used to have a crush on you and you knew how to disarm him. You later beat him up for me, punched him in the stomach and got sent to the principal’s office, and it was then I knew you cared for me, and so I cared for you- the most popular girl in fourth grade- the yellow-headed princess of the playground.
I got glasses when my parents realized I couldn’t read the board at school. My notes didn’t make sense and the teachers agreed it was time. They had already moved me to the front of every room. In math, my teacher gave out crispy M&Ms if we got a problem right. They accumulated in my glasses case and I usually never ate them. The hoarding was my favorite part; knowing I had more than everyone else, knowing they’d eaten them right away and lost their prizes so easily. Only once you noticed and said something, in front of everyone else, about how I was gross for doing this, and told me to eat them all right then and there, about twenty of them, and I got sick because they were so old. I disliked you always, but everyone thought it was love, the purest kind of love, the type of love that knows no bounds.
My mom made me be a scary witch for Halloween when we were ten, something I had no say in, and your parents didn’t give a shit so you got to be Britney Spears, “post-puberty,” and stuffed your training bra with toilet paper and wore headphones to make it look like you had just performed at a show. We saw Britney Spears in concert once, your mom’s company had tickets and we sat in box seats and ate chicken fingers and ice cream sundaes and danced. N’Sync opened. It was the late 90’s. We had the time of our lives. We held hands and shook our butts and hugged and swung each other around and screamed so much we lost our voices. But that Halloween, the boy I liked wanted you and you were mean to him because that’s something you wouldn’t do to me, to us, and he never called you back. I fell that night and no one saw, everyone running ahead to the next house with their pillowcases. I fell in a puddle and my witch’s dress got wet but it was dark so it didn’t matter. It was so dark and we were running around so late.
I used to think God was crying when it rained. I used to think God lived in the forest. I used to think my mom actually knew God, met him once, or that maybe when she had me they had talked, spoken about who I might become. I used to hear my brain growing and had to pop my ears like I was on a plane to get it to stop. I told you about it once and you laughed, smacked your head on the frame of my bed and that made you laugh even more. Who was I to you? Now that it’s over, I’d really like to know.
I have a memory: diving off the diving board at a swimming party at school. The P.E. teachers hosted the pool party that only happened in my mind, but I remember being in a red one-piece, sexy even though we weren’t allowed to be, and all the boys going after us- you in yellow, like always- and we loved it so much. I ascended the ladder to the diving board and jumped, flew through the air, and everyone was watching, amazed at what I could do.
Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She teaches Critical Studies at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, CA. Her work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review, No Tokens, Hobart, Cosmonauts Ave, Fiction Southeast, and more. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her forthcoming collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine to be released by Red Hen Press in October of 2018.