had skulls and crosses, chrome and gold. I had arrowheads, spades, and
bullets. A hundred hexagons, fifty rounds. I had ornaments wrapped in
bandannas: jaguars, eagles, a Mercedes three-point star. Wrapped carefully in a white bandanna was a chrome angel with thin, sleek wings and
a spine arched as if melting in the wind—my prized piece.
I’d open the blinds and let sunlight pour over everything, walking
slowly around as it glimmered there.
I had my pennies—as many years as I’d pulled from wallet change or
the give-a-penny at the BP. I had a 1909 VDB and an 1857 eagle’s head,
rarer and more valuable than the others. I had all I’d taken from Dave’s
customers (except the candy): fluffy pens, staplers, paperweights, and
glass figurines. I still had the porcelain baby’s head, my favorite, with its
tiny pinpoint eyes and grinning lips.
I could stay for hours, drunk on value as I ran my fingers over all I’d
collected, all I’d stolen. All mine. All me. All glowing in the middle of
the floor, as if I’d opened up my chest and let my chromie soul melt onto
Down the hall, Mom’s television would play softly through the walls,
a murmur. The muffled sound of soap-opera voices. Or a movie. Or,
sometimes, only music—the sound of Restless Heart spilling through
the house as I examined my treasure.
I guess we were connected in that way, each of us locked away. Each
of us hiding, chasing. Each of us spreading our stuff out before us just to
feel it. Each of us dreaming and humming words to “When She Cries”
and “The Bluest Eyes in Texas,” songs that still remind me of my mother.
Though, thinking of her now, it’s hard to say what was worse: that I was
okay with her hiding and wishing for escape, the way I had done myself?
Or that I was a kid, and she wasn’t? Or that when the music stopped,
or my brothers stomped into the house, or that bubbling sound of kids
playing echoed in the street, I could—unlike her—gather all I’d spread
and place it carefully back into its box, moving, adjusting, and making
room for all that was left to fill it?
When autumn came, it stripped the neighborhood to a bare, windblown
brown. It was chilly. The vines behind the house swung into the air and
back again, as if the ghosts of ourselves were swinging without us.
I fought Dave after school one day for a reason I don’t remember.
He’d made fun of me or challenged me or wouldn’t let me come over for