This year, senior year, Kat and I share home room. She’s my biennial girlfriend who no longer opens up for me. Maybe too much shade. She’s missing classes and I bring her notes and little Styrofoam cups of tomato soup. In the school cafeteria we hold hands like we’re in a corny Andy Hardy movie from the 40s. Warning: for washed up nerds only.
It’s raining hard.
Today, I bring an umbrella big enough for the two of us to walk home under, big enough for the space between us.
We sit on her couch like two poker-face misfits stiff from the rain. Lately, she tires easily and is losing weight. She looks nothing like the girl in the beach photos in my wallet. In a bikini, that girl was more dangerous than sun. A slim shapely package of love notes written with invisible ink. Perhaps too intimate to be read by her father.
She’s shivering. Even with a terry cloth robe over her knees that if they could talk they would chatter. I tell her to wear a bicycle helmet because so much heat can escape from the head. I’m not sure if it’s true. I heard it on an episode of E.R.
“Only if you do,” she says. Then adds that I’m as weird as her father who lives on pumpkin seeds and dried prunes. “He looks like a dried prune,” she says, scrunching her face. He teaches Marxist philosophy in college. She said that sometimes he wears the same underwear for days. “It’s a class struggle thing,” she instructed me. She trudges to her room and brings out two helmets. One is her dyslexic brother’s.
She claims she has belly pains at night and she knows she’s not pregnant. “Like shouldn’t you be in a hospital? “I ask.
“No, the doctor is giving me all kinds of vitamin shakes and medicated liquids for this. They just need time to work.”
She loves bad boys so we’re watching an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. He’s shooting three guys at once. And I can’t even squeeze the truth from this fading girl, like what’s the diagnosis. And WTF is the prognosis? Or, are you fixable? No, I wouldn’t be that crude.
Outside, the rain is punishing the rooftops, the streets.
She holds up one hand, shows me the ugly black paint on her fingernails. The same color as the black lipstick that she swears she’d never wear.
“It’s black ink from art class, the kind I use for washes. I’m trying to be economical. Saving everything I can. Cuz’ you never know. Too many rainy days, what they add to, and all that crap.”
A dog barks in the distance. Maybe it’s a neighborhood full of stray cats trying to keep safe and dry.
Kat falls asleep. Her arms, unlike before, are hairless. Which doesn’t mean they were ever hairy. I remove my helmet.
Outside, the rain is tapering. Eventually, it won’t be heard at all. Or it might start again.
I take a wet tissue and wipe off her lipstick. I’m not into goth.
She doesn’t wake.
Standing a foot from the couch, I whisper that she’s the only friend I have. Please don’t go anywhere without me. Okay?
Behind her closed eyelids, I imagine her eyes as two tiny spaceships headed to a planet of sunshine at night, a constant never land that you don’t want to wake up from.
On TV, Clint Eastwood places a sombrero on both his head and his deaf mule. They must both sense that it’s gonna rain soon.
Kyle Hemmings has prose and visual art in Sonic Boom, Feral, 805, a Literary Journal, Big Hearted Boy and elsewhere. He loves street photography and 60s garage bands.