Sunday, March 31

The Feminist I First Fell For

WE HAD OUR gang and the road down along had theirs and the road that swerved from that had their own gang, too. Every gang was just children and were good at different things and walking through another gang’s territory put you on edge. It was very silly but it was how we spent our summers. One time a neighbouring gang came along and said they could skate better than us, they antagonised us on our land so we chased them. I hated that gang; they were good-looking and they thought they were everything. One of them was always running his mouth so I skated after him and I caught him, no problem. He fell on to the hot green grass and turned over at me, raised his hands and started to cry. I wanted to put my skates into his teeth and knock them all out because I didn’t like him so much. Anyway, I just stood there and he skated off crying and I wondered if his mother would show up and scold us. We were victorious, though, so we sat in the shade and laughed.
I don’t know where she came from but she was there and she was a she, a girl, and we were suspicious of girls. She was a year younger than my brother. Her name was Melissa. She had freckles that holidayed on her nose during summer. She just wanted to hang around us, to be in our gang, so we let her because she was a girl and we had equal opportunity quotas to meet. Her mother cut her jeans off just above the knees. Her hair was red sunbleached red and it wasn’t really red at all but it was this shade of red orange blonde that no one’s ever laid eyes on before. It was inappropriate of me to be attracted to her – childlike attraction that is surely a sign of weakness – so I tried to stop. She hung around in our gang. Some days she was there, some days she wasn’t. She seemed to wander the village tirelessly, though I always liked it when she chose our gang. She had no loyalties. I liked that, too.
One day my mother packed me and my brother off to a day-out organised by a community centre. We spent the day with snakes and such and she was there so my brother and I said ‘hello’. All the other kids were from other schools and other gangs so my brother and I hung around her. She was so beautiful and good to be around.
She was always laughing from beneath her freckles.
No one knew where she came from. I asked other people – ‘That girl, Melissa, do you know where she comes from?’ ‘Nah, do you?’ ‘Nah.’ No one knew. She was carried in on the wind and she blew out with it as well.
She joined in on all of our games. One day we set out into the forest to find sticks for a swordfight. She defeated everyone. Our sticks lay on the ground, in pieces, sorry bits of amputated tree, patches of bark splintered off, and she triumphant and grinning and laughing and rubbing our noses in it. When we crawled into the black waters of a swamp none of us expected her to follow but she did and she said – ‘Wow, this water stinks of shit!’ And we all laughed because the water did smell of shit and none of us had thought to say it.
She’d disappear and you wouldn’t see her for some time and then she’d show up again. That was how she did business. Our gang would be sitting on the Green – a patch of grass we had claimed as our own and everyone around knew that it was ours – and there she’d be. We would all take it in turns to say – ‘Hey, Melissa.’ And she’d say – ‘Hey’ back and then she’d ask – ‘So what you lot doing today?’
Very often I wonder – seventeen years later – what happened to her and where she is now. I would like to see what she looks like (I hope she hasn’t dyed her hair or shaved the hair on her thighs) and to see how much the world has beat her up, if it ever even caught her with a jab.

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