Fifth grade, summer of the green one-piece.
I was waiting out in front of the YMCA, downtown
Orlando, and there was a man on a motorcycle
under the portico where Mom picked me up.
I was in the green suit like skin, barefoot
on the hot concrete. Dancing. For the first time
I could see how a man could have been a possible boy.
That was the day I didn’t step away, go back inside.
He had water-blue eyes, a long beard, no shirt,
and jeans I knew to be “bell-bottoms,” but they had
no bells. His body was muscle smooth,
like a horse. Those pants had seams running
down the center of the legs. Useless seams.
I could feel my finger wanting to . . .
Finger! I put it in my mouth. I put a second finger
in, like a baby. He held his helmet in his arm,
like a football. “Hi,” I said. But I meant
Can I ride? I meant around the parking lot. I meant
sit on the bike for one minute. I meant I don’t have
a real mother. (Where was my mother?)
I felt wings grow out of my back from the straps
of the green suit. I stepped toward his motorcycle,
stepped out of my story. I only wanted to prove that
I wasn’t afraid, wasn’t like her. He said, “No, it’s hot!”
Too late. I’d already pressed my knee against the silver pipe.
I heard the fizzle, the spit, felt
the bright pain and the shame. On my kneecap
that afternoon remains: Black heart of scar.
The beginning of the girl in two pieces.