I borrowed my dad’s tool set because it looked cooler than the ones we had in class. I turned each screw as hard as I could and swung the door panel a million and half times to make sure it was loose enough to open but tight enough that no baby birds would fall out. I painted it robin egg blue and posted it proudly in our backyard. It didn’t take long for the bluebirds to find it and for me to become fascinated with their homemaking progress. Twigs turned to nests, nests to eggs, eggs to waiting impatiently for squeaky mouths to feed. But it turned out that I didn’t have to wait long because the neighborhood boys came along and threw every last one against a tree for sport.
And that was the day I learned the difference between love and apathy.
I used to ride on the school bus when I was young but it had been a while since I’d been on one when you and I found seats next to each other, accidentally on purpose, making our way to our first concert together. There were loud hot voices pressing in around us but when I looked into your green apple eyes, I only heard your laugh and the way your breath caught when I leaned forward to touch your hair. All my little girl life, I knew princes won the girl by storming the castle and chasing dragons. But no one ever told me you can fall in love with the boy on the kid graffitied brown leather seat next to you.
You were sitting in my father’s place at the kitchen table when I came up behind and snuck my arms around your shoulders. Judging by my mom’s sudden laughter at your shocked face, it must have been the first time you’d ever been held in such a way. And I hold you still.
Sunday evenings we’d come home from church, where we’d spent more time passing notes than listening about Jesus. I’d eat toast to save time before curfew and you’d let me pick what show to watch because you’d spend it watching me anyways.
It was always hot as hell in that tin roof trailer so we’d set off in your little rusted Honda that had all our love and drive over the state line for cheap gas and dollar ice cream. It was nothing, but it felt like everything.
I still managed to win, like I always do, even after that riot of a round where I got the letters mixed up and in a fit of giggles answered “fish” for all twelve categories. You both still swear to this day that I was drunk but it would take a lot more than one glass of sangria to knock me over, boys.
The commercial breaks were spaced apart with just the right amount of time that I could set the stove by their beginning and produce the most perfectly baked cookies which sat on the couch between us, cold milk glass balancing on the cushion. We had a knack for predicting who would sing their way into the next round, hardly ever wrong.
But that was best in the old apartment, never since.