Alternate Universe in which I Grow Up in a Small Town

My bones stay still when a man offers me the passenger’s seat of his truck; I accept and I am not even surprised when he brings me there safely, spilling details of my father’s elementary school bowl cut.

My breath stays level when the boy in my bedroom offers me the words “lovely” and “enough.” I accept those too, without crosschecking against white scars that mark each inch of my limbs.

Correction: I do not have scars. The basketball court gave me one across my knee once, but it healed. The blood creeped down my leg and I cried at the sight; the drop that stained the fog-colored pavement reminded me to be more careful. In the alternate universe, I never wish to see myself bleed.

The schoolhouse is built of red brick and no one is afraid that it will fall down with a tiny shift of tectonic plates. We open the bar-less windows in my house when we cook on Thanksgiving. Everything smells like sweet potatoes and tastes like vanilla ice cream. It doesn’t matter if I forget my house key because we have weak locks and I keep a bobby pin clipped to the pocket of my blue jeans.

People have faith in God and other uncertain things, like soulmates or their children.

I fall into the habit of loving puppies and girls with bleached hair without fear of their bite. I learn the word “slut” over popcorn and soda instead of over an empty stomach and a classroom desk. One matinee and one late-night show, a PG-13 film, a drought for bad dreams.

The train tracks are lined with sunflowers instead of suicides and all of my classmates live to graduate high school. We have to be home by dinner.

In my real universe, the small town sits in the bowl of my stomach, carrying borrowed nostalgia up and down five-lane roads, bearing the weight of all these overdue memories.

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