I should tell you that I have a Boyfriend, and it’s serious.
I know it’s serious because we try to move his stepmother Darlene out of the house, stack drawers filled with clothes in the backseat of My Boyfriend’s Cavalier.
It’s serious because My Boyfriend’s dad comes home and finds us.
You can beat the shit out of me I don’t care I’m leaving, Darlene screams.
I know it’s serious because My Boyfriend gave me Precious Moments.
And they are.
I should tell you everyone is afraid of My Boyfriend’s dad. When he’s gone, we make fun of how he walks tippy-toed, but when he’s around, it’s different.
My Boyfriend’s singing voice is so beautiful I cry. He wants to hear me sing too, and I do.
I should tell you I’m going to move away with My Boyfriend. I’ve already bought Tupperware.
We detassel corn for My Boyfriend’s dad, the JV wrestling coach. We walk through the fields pulling tassels getting cut and blistered and burnt for five dollars an hour, how I learn what “under the table” means.
My Boyfriend sings to keep me going. He sings “Never Gonna Let You Down,” “My Girl,” Rick Astley. Songs about how we’ll be together forever, how I belong to him.
Mother named me after June Carter Cash. Not her voice—alley cat twang makes my eyes water, Mother says—but the song June wrote that Johnny recorded.
What it should feel like, Mother says, falling in love. Her lips flatten into a line and she pauses before asking if Marci’s coming for dinner.
MARCI v THE WORLD
Marci makes me join Flag Team. I practice routines with her in the parking lot sometimes just to see what she’ll do. She throws her soda at passing cars then flashes her bra to make the peace, she says.
She almost hits Kent Burke’s Camaro. He mouths the C-word at her, smiles sweetly as he passes. Marci shuts her eyes and twirls.
ARE YOU AFRAID I WILL FLY AWAY
Mother’s trying to not show that she’s afraid I will actually move away with My Boyfriend. She brings things home after almost every shift at Wal-Mart: an egg poacher, guest towels, a trash can small enough for the bathroom.
Her discount + sale prices = TOO GOOD TO RESIST, she says, looking at the inventory in the trunk at the end of my bed. She counts what’s there, what’s not, remembers the lists in her head, how I know she loves me.
Marci and I meet Jeremy outside Centennial Pool. He’s a grade older but should be two.
We cross the street to Preservation Park and discover the culvert to the storm drain. The culvert is a round pipe a few feet across that leads to the storm drain’s dank cement room.
By dank cement room, I mean sewer.
Marci crawls in the culvert behind Jeremy on a dare and lets him feel her up under the new Benetton shirt her daddy brought her from Paris. Her daddy is a bigwig at Russell Tool and Manufacturing, but Marci sucks her first two fingers in public. She twirls her hair so hard it falls out.
Trich-o-trill-o-mania, her doctor says. Marci tells people she has trich.
I sit plucking grass by the entrance to the culvert with my knees tucked under my chin. Nobody’s daddy but Marci’s is bringing clothes back from Europe. Town stores don’t carry Benetton. They do, however, carry cropped t-shirts with neon triangles that look like graffiti, and I want one.
The shirts are 32 dollars.
My folks aren’t paying 32 dollars for a t-shirt.
That triangle would lie on me like a stiff, coated tablecloth, Marci’s Benetton stripes already bending nicely around the edges.
I holler into the pipe that I’m leaving.
Reaching between the corn leaves, I pull my first tassel. It slides out with a pop, white like a green onion. I drop it to the ground, wet with dew.
The little black insects that were clumped around the base of the tassel are smushed on my palm.
Jeremy says they are spider mites, and spider mites, he says, crawl up your asshole and lay eggs.
WHEN THE SEA IS CALM
I have to pee in the field, even though the tape from Corporate Office they play on the first day of the season says not to.
Even though I’m afraid of spider mites in my asshole.
Pulling up my shorts, I hear a rustle, a pounding, but when I stand, the field is empty and the tops of the rows are still.
Like the military but with neon colors and flashy tricks, dazzle camouflage.
There’s a lot people don’t know about twirling flags. I love practicing with the band in the summer, sweat, horns and drums too loud to think, the best part. I like the marching, one-two, one-two. Reassuring, your body knowing what to do. One-two, one-two. Three four. My chest tightens when they’re coming, the tricks, my heart like shrink wrap, but the flag lands in my hands. It always comes down. Like a sheet for a trampoline in the backyard, I give, hold tight. Bounce back. Snap to. One-two. ONE-TWO.
My Boyfriend buys me a ring. It is sterling silver stamped with .925 on the inside to show it’s real. My Boyfriend knows this because he bought it at the jewelry store in the mall not the kiosk. There is a leaf on each side of the stone, a leaf with three balls beside it, grapes or something, the silver balls on Christmas cookies that break teeth.
I don’t know how he could afford the ring because he can’t have a job during the school year, wrestling practice plus lifting and meets.
Maybe he got the money from his grandmother. His grandmother is the type of person who would give you 50 bucks for your birthday after burning your favorite stuffed animal in a barrel out back.
Once we stopped to visit his grandmother. She yelled at My Boyfriend and told him not to bring any more whores around.
This is a blood-birthday-money ring.
The stone is amber, which I look up. It’s tree sap that’s hardened, but the best gross thing about amber is the insects, preserved inside it with twigs, seeds, and bubbles for like bazillions of years.
My ring doesn’t have an insect, no fly or beetle, but I can see how people would want something like that. Still and whole and kept the same.
My amber has black particles only, flakes. I like to think they’re the fly’s legs, the beetle’s hindquarters. Pieces of claw and tarsus, thorax and antennae.
I like to think my beetle struggled.
I like to think she worked her way out.
NOTE: The words “Are You Afraid I Will Fly Away” are from the film Saint Joan.
Brandi Homan holds a PhD in English, Creative Writing (Prose), from the University of Denver and is the author of two books of poetry, Bobcat Country and Hard Reds, from Shearsman Books.