Lisa’s strength was tremendous for a sixth grader, her grit shaped by being one of the youngest girls in a family of 14 kids, most of them boys.When I looked in the mirror that night at home, I was sure I looked different, the way you think you do when you lose your virginity.A mile or two out of town, the road narrows and small creeks knit through pastures shadowed by hills, a working farm or two, a long straight road, and smells of cut hay, muddy cow paths, rotting leaves, or black ice, depending on the time of year. To the left of the porch, you’ll see the end of the road.
I loved him like I would a sorry stuffed animal, one who had lost an eye or whose fur was rubbed raw.
Kelly, a girl who wore her black, perfectly feathered hair like a weapon, was in love with him too.
Ahead, we reach the top of the hill, and there, my old high school.
To the east, snowmobile trails and abutting them, the mill’s decommissioned landfill.
From anywhere in town you can orient yourself to this stack or the ever-present of the mill’s conveyor belts and find your way home, even from a pitch-black walk in the woods.
When mill shutdowns occur for holidays or layoffs, the smokeless stacks resemble the diseased birch trees dying throughout New England.
So it sits there, this once elegant home, shedding its brightness, yellow flecking the half-frozen ground.
Spray-painted in the road near the driveway: “Fuck you, bitch.” The fug of the mill swallows us.
When he and I fought—usually because of her—I’d listen to sad songs on my cassette player over and over until he’d call and I’d forgive him in a pattern of everlasting redemption. He came to my parents’ one Christmas break when I was home from college.
He and my mother caught up while I leaned against the kitchen countertop across the room. He called all boys I dated “Peckerhead” but only if he liked them.