I remember her.
We were in fourth grade,
she was poor. From a poor family,
more so than mine,
so poor she looked unwashed.
I remember the morning she found
a fifty dollar bill at the bus stop,
and she pulled me to the north side of the room,
far from ears of those sharpening pencils,
from that girl who gave me a black eye,
from the girl told by our teacher to hold it,
who eventually pissed herself and sat in it and cried.
The bill was deep into her palm,
gripped tight and sweaty like a rosary in the hand
of a sinner. Someone had found out
and she had been called a thief,
as if a subterranean purse had capsized toward the sky
beside the black bus wheels,
as if she had seen the dead who had lost it
and did not call out, Hey, you dropped something.
But her face was crippled by lust for validation,
to be believed, not marked with fantasy,
not imagined places it would take her.
Her face was hurt and receding into her skull,
and her skull, unsure what to do with the movement,
told the brain to do something, immediately,
and her shoulders sank to crush her ribcage
as she stared at me.
Not all of me. A fraction of my jaw.
I wanted to tell her I was poor, too,
and I had been. Mother remarried,
and then I was not, but at that moment
I wanted to be it again,
to be new marrow for her ribs,
to force her back to breathing.
When I saw her yesterday, bagging groceries,
nineteen years after that slim incident of friendship
and trust, she saw me. We spoke. We smiled.
We remembered. I had a hole in my shirt,
holes in my jeans, wore three dollar sandals,
had too few items to bag. I wanted to say, see,
I wasn’t lying.