Second period science class. Low-lit un-air-conditioned classroom with long black lab tables and metal sinks. We sat in the back, me, Dominic, Leann, Matt and Jeff. Every Friday morning Jeff passed along a sandwich bag of sugar cubes, but they were different from the sugar cubes we’d dropped in our tea the first time we met. That was last Halloween at Jeff’s house. I made hot tea with a pot on the stove because I couldn’t find a kettle. No, these chemistry sugar cubes were different.

Every Friday was Acid Friday. “Until someone dies,” Dominic said once, and everyone took him seriously, even though he wasn’t. He was the serious one, after all. And they laughed nervously, me too, until the week Matt dumped Leann before school, on the sidewalk in front of everybody. “It’s over,” he said. (He’d been seen kissing Jeff’s sister, but no one told Leann that.) I saw her banging a fist into her locker and crying in the yellow-tiled bathroom with its dirty lipstick-smeared mirrors, overflowing trashcans of tampon wrappers and paper towels like cardboard. I saw her blowing her nose all through first period with those paper towels, red in the face.

She took two sugar cubes in chemistry. We saw her in the halls for the rest of the school day, but we were invisible. We offered consoling smiles met with a blank stare, a flutter of the eyelashes. No one liked being told that they weren’t okay, that wasn’t cool, so we kept our distance, even Dominic.

Leann went home and took half a bottle of something and walked down the White Horse Pike a mile or so to Matt’s house. (None of us drove yet, not like we do now, everyone in their dirty flashy beat-up used cars, no.) Back then, sophomore year, we walked.

Leann walked to Matt’s front door, unlocked. She let herself in. He remembers the bathroom door opening and he remembers saying something startled and he remembers the shower curtain ripping open, a punch in the jaw. Then he fell, blood and water, and she fell too, cold tile, a bump on her head, out for days.

I found an Ann Beretta poster for free on South Street and brought it home on the train that weekend. I wrote her a letter on the back of it. “Dear Leann,” an awkward letter that from the first paragraph acknowledged all its awkwardness, and I put it in her mailbox, rolled up.

Jeff stopped bringing the sandwich bag even though no one had died, because something else had died during Leann’s two weeks in the institution.



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Published in: on August 31, 2006 at 4:16 pm  Comments Off on  
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