TE21 Serbian Moments
Like Lips, Like Skins
— She is not! When will you finally see, Leece? Janine isn’t your friend; she uses you, and then she leaves you flat. I scowl; I roll my ball of clay harder until it collapses under the weight of my frustration into an ellipsoid.
in the very same spot, wanting the very same things, and all at once the house feels both familiar and different, like a living presence that’s been anticipating my visit. And like an old rival taking her albums down from the shelf and blowing off the dust to spite my mother’s indifference to the past, time seems to peel away as she leafs through the things that have happened here, and as her face lights up in recollection, I peer at the hatboxes from before the war that were once stacked on the top shelf of the hallway closet, at the gold-rimmed plaster casts of cherubs hanging above my parents’ bed, breathe in the smell of fresh tar as I fly through a summer afternoon thick with children’s conspiracies, roller-skating for the first time on a pitch-black, newly paved Reno Avenue. And as I stare at the kitchen linoleum, studying where the pattern repeats itself, I can almost see the memories rise up and infiltrate my nerves, feel the heat of the sun-baked brick insinuate itself throughmy cotton shorts, sending beads of sweat trickling down behind my knees. Lillie and I are sitting on the front stoop, Lillie on the top step, I two steps below. Lillie looks down at me with a mixture of compassion and contempt. My hand rolls around and around, and as a print of my palm becomes etched into the clay’s soft gray surface, the lines of my future are inscribed like mineral veins in a smooth, round stone, then erased by the impression of the porch cement, rewritten in a gritty and incoherent pattern.
— Is too.
Lillie remains silent. I roll the clay faster, stretching it out into a fat worm that flops up around my fingers in loops. I am forced to reconsider; I change my strategy. Rolling with the fingertips of both hands now, carefully feeling out the bumps, I roll them out slowly, gently, intent upon perfecting my attenuated clay worm, stretching it out as far as it can go until it finally breaks in two. — Janine is my only friend, Lillie. I don’t care if I have to share her.
— Some friend, the way she talks about you behind your back.
— She does not.
— Does too!
— Does not!
— Janine’s no friend.
What I am really thinking: why can’t I come to you when I don’t know who else to turn to? 179
— Is too.
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