When I was nine and smoking cigarettes with Susan Berringer outside of her house in Wethersfield, she told me she got me a date with kid called Jimmy. I hadn’t asked for a date, but I agreed to it. She asked me if I had been on a date before. “Yeah,” I said.
It wasn’t entirely true, but another kid called Dameon, who had just transferred into my 4th grade class had passed me a note with yes or no boxes asking me to go out with him. I had checked yes and passed the note back. I hadn’t spoken with him since, but I figured it counted.
Susan’s father drove us to the movies by the Carpet Giant. Susan’s boyfriend and Jimmy were waiting out front. Jimmy had long hair and wore a black leather motorcycle jacket. I followed him into the movie. Right before the end of it he put his arm around me. He left it there for a while like a bag of cement, and then he took it back.
After the movie we walked towards I-91, the highway that cuts between downtown Hartford and the Connecticut River. I wasn’t sure what the plan was. We stopped at the barrier and watched the cars for a minute. “So where do you live,” Jimmy asked me. “I live in Hartford,” I said. “Whoa”, he said. “You go to school there?” “Yeah”, I said.
When we moved to Hartford, the general consensus in Wethersfield was that my mother was risking our lives. In the two years that I had lived there, exactly nothing had happened. Ken Noel had twisted the skin on my arm backwards and forwards at the same time, but nothing more than that.
Susan had blow pops in her pocket and she passed them out. Then she asked me how old I was. She knew how old I was, but I told her anyway. They all laughed. She was 11 then, so I suppose she felt a lifetime older, which made being 9 laughable.
She asked me if I would cross the highway. I looked at the highway and smoked my cigarette.
“Just go to the other side and come back,” she said.
“Okay” I said, and I ran.
“Oh my God,” she screamed at me, “why would you do that?”
“You asked me to” I screamed back. Cars drove past between us.
Susan grabbed onto the barrier and the boys took a step away from her. She laughed to break the tension. They broke a smile.
“Are you going to walk to your house from there or are you coming back?” I was miles from home. I wouldn’t have known how to get there.
I ran back.
“You are an idiot.” Susan said. We started walking back to the parking lot. Jimmy said, “You are pretty brave for a 9 year old. What is your name again?”
“It is Faye.”
“You wanna go out, Faye?”
“No” I said. “That is okay.”
After Susan’s father dropped the boys on the Silas Deane which was nowhere near a neighborhood, and before my mother picked me up, Susan told me I had hurt Jimmy’s feelings.
“How?”, I asked her.
She said, “You are such a nine year old.”
When we got home, my mother made a giant omelette and served it in the pan. I made a rabbit salad on Bibb lettuce with canned halved pears, cottage cheese tails, currant eyes, and almond slivered ears.