There is a memory I have. It is of a friend so dismembered from all that was accepted that she seems almost a breath, but she was important. I remember her face right as the tips of our breasts began to grow. Her face was firm, regular, the Greek classical look I’d been taught to associate with beauty. We were perhaps eleven years old. Somehow even as I saw her face, I saw its promise hollow out with poverty, her teeth begin to sink, but there was such fierce possibility in her eyes.
First I see her, then I see her mother, dark haired from a family of brownish blonds. Her mother, just thirteen years older than us, hovered, waiting for us outside our elementary school. She carried her own hopscotch chain, and the three of us would play. Now I see their home. Tar paper on wooden scaffolding, a junked truck, packs of friendly dogs. April. I say her name.
We shared one gleaming pair of patent leather shoes. My feet outgrew them by the time I had worn them three times. She loved them too, she said, because they came from me.
We were a mismatched pair. The school expected success from me and not from her. It was like the world swept her away from me. The forces that took her out of school were so strong we didn’t even get to say goodbye. One day, we were eleven, best friends, then we went to junior high, and she was gone.
I thought I knew what incest was. It was, I thought, what happened to April and her mother. Foreclosed potential. In my memory adults explained that April had no hope because her family lived outside city limits. Past a line, it seemed, fathers had absolute claim. There was a geography of hopelessness. Somehow I knew how wrong it was. The soles of my feet tingled with its injustice.