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answering josephine
By Megan O'Reilly

it was the month of april that produced us, a wet spring which josephine described as a moist woman running on earth. i think, for all of us, that was what april was --only that woman was us-- ourselves-- individually, personally, separately. for josephine the woman was dark and coarse with liquid eyes and steel breasts, aggressive and full. for me, the woman did not exist all, but was gone before i awoke and left stiff mousy brown hair in my razor.

i turned sixteen that month and i'd heard that things were supposed to be sweet. in movies, girls turning sixteen wore pink and ate sugar and ice cream, blew out the candles holding their hair back delicately, necks slender in albino pearls. for my birthday i wore wool and saw a play. the play was called Breathing the Benches and it was about a bruised woman who cried and said fuck a lot when it was dark. i thought it was the best thing i'd ever seen.

afterward we climbed a mountain, josephine and i, and the town which seemed small on the street was suddenly the most worthless piece of world. josephine had flowers tucked behind her ear, daises, and i could only see the petals because the bright center was lost in her yellow hair. i took off my doc marten shoes and my feet were dirty and i made designs in the soil with my toes, jordique holding my docs.

you're sixteen, josephine said, glancing at me, giggling.
i know. am i?
i know.
you should be happy. are you happy? she was looking at me closely.

i forgot. i forgot about happiness. is happiness the same as when we were eight and brandon shroeder kissed our cheeks? or is it different, now, i asked.

it's different, i think. now it's when we go shopping and also when we come home and when the shirts fit and make us look slender and even when they're too tight because we've gained weight. happiness is being glad of things like that, even when they you know, suck.

we sat a while and each took a stick and fought with them like swords. i could taste my hair sticking to my mouth insides.

so are you? she asked finally.
that kind of happy?
that kind of happy.

and i thought about the sunset and the people that have favorite bible psalms and boys with big trucks and big hats and dirty linoleum floors and my favorite threadbare socks and the fat around my hips and i said, no.

we stayed on the mountain top until my feet got goosebumps and josephine chapped lips hurt like crazy.

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Document last modified on: 12/30/2002

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