The Summer Judy Fell Out of Window and My Hair Turned White
When we were small we used to leap down the stairs, taking the steps two by two. We interrupted, talked over, spoke in singsong or staccato depending on what the situation required— our voices louder than bombs. We wore puffy flight jackets, men’s sweatshirts, baggy jeans and sneakers we found in dollar bins that pinched our feet. Better to be bigger, we thought. Better to take up more surface area before we were accustomed to geometry, before protractors and the definition of circumference. Before we were faulted for all the space we occupied. Before we learned we were worthy of space at all.
What did the situation require?
Who had the wrench for the johnny pump? Who was willing to create an ocean in the street? There’s was always someone who had tools, slim men with cigarettes tucked behind their ear. Boys who sipped 40s from brown paper bags. Women who stomped down the stairs in sandals, tiny arms wedded to their legs; mommy, can I get a… Women who stood over hot stoves adding garlic to the rice, shouting look at the rain on my face while we huddled around the one fan in the house. And then the water blew and sprayed the streets of the muck and the sadness, the cheese doodles and hypodermic needles.
For a moment, we were clean. Shiny gold babies with that cashmere skin before it was used, battled and burned. We were safe until we spoke, until the uncles lifted us onto their laps, sipping their Bacardi, drawling in our ears while The Delfonics crooned Hey! Love. We were safe until someone cranked up the music and the sky darkened to a bruise, all purple, blue and black — the color of a woman’s face before the monthly checks were cashed and there was only a finger left of liquid in the bottle.
Then one of us would smash the empty bottle in the street and we’d stomp on the shards because if you looked at the glass in the water, in the light, it would shimmer like the diamonds we saw draped around the necks of rich people on TV.
The situation required was to close the door and mind your business. Ignore the thumping on the floorboards and the banging on the walls. Ignore it all.