By: Jamie Brisick
Most things that made him feel scared or uncomfortable he threw rocks at. But he did not want to throw rocks at Amy Sachs—blond, pigtails, purple Huffy—he wanted to ride bikes with her, watch cartoons, take a bath. He also wanted to smear chocolate cake on her arm. Better yet, chew up a big bite of chocolate cake and lick from her wrist up to her elbow. It happened. At Jeremy Dash’s birthday party. He still has the scar from the fork she stabbed into his shoulder.
“Put your hand on it,” she said, and he did. “Not there, silly.” She moved his hand to her heart. They’d been eating lunch together everyday for the last two weeks. His mom always packed him a green apple. Amy would shave the skin off with a plastic knife, the way her dad had taught her, then cut it in half. They talked about HR Puffnstuff, Scooby Doo, the fart Mr. Tapie ripped in the middle of class. Sometimes they argued. He was a Nestle Quik man, she’d recently switched over to the new Hershey’s chocolate powder. “Feel it?” she said, pressing his hand against her heart. Her heart was racing. “What is it?” he asked. “One guess.” “Gimme a hint.” She looked out to the handball courts with a dreamy face. A bunch of third graders were playing Smear the Queer. “Starts with an L,” she said. “Rhymes with shove.”
He’d been thinking how wrong it was, licking Amy’s arm with a mouthful of chocolate cake just before it was her turn to whack at the piñata. He’d even mentioned it in confession with Father Driscoll, along with calling Steven a “fucker” and lying to Mom about skateboarding over her flowers. He knocked on the front door. He tried to be humble, earnest, apologetic. Her mother answered. “Hi Mrs. Sachs. Is Amy home?” Amy’s mom wore a bathrobe. Her hair was messy. She took a puff of her cigarette, exhaled. “Amy’s out with her dad,” she said. “But come in, sit with me. I’ve just made a batch of chocolate chip cookies.”
He thought about her on the long bus ride home from school. Staring out the window, he did not see the one-story homes of Escalon Drive, he saw wisps of her blond hair, her chipped purple fingernails, her hand swatting him in the arm as she breaks into laughter. It was a swirl in his belly. It was a kind of gravity.
Her face invited swan dives, her blue eyes made him want to strap on fins, mask, oxygen tank. She was licking a cherry Popsicle. Her tongue was red and shiny. They were in the lunch area, sitting Indian style on the pavement. He reached into his brown paper bag, pulled out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For most of his 11 years he’d been a cut-off-the-crusts kind of kid, but no more. Not since he’d started eating lunch with Amy. She licked, licked, licked, then chomped the tip off the Popsicle. A wild mustang whinnied in South Dakota. A bush elephant whipped its trunk in Tanzania. A swordfish breached in the South Atlantic. He studied her face, her perfect skin. He peeled apart his sandwich. He wanted to tell her something big, something infinite. Instead, he brought the two sides of the sandwich to her cheeks, pressed hard, and planted a kiss on her cherry mouth.
In 8th grade they ditched 5th period and made out under the bleachers, behind the baseball diamond, and in the ceramics kiln. Her scent was forever on his clothes. He brought his fingers to his nose and inhaled deeply. They brushed, flossed, showered daily. She chewed a lot of gum. But if he had it his way they’d have given up all the prescribed hygiene stuff. He wanted to know her deepest essence. He imagined her in a loincloth on the savanna, his Pee-Chee folder a bow, the pens and pencils in his pocket a quiver of arrows.
They were seated side by side in a booth at Shakey’s Pizza. Knees touched. Hands stayed respectfully on the table, though he wanted to touch her thigh, he wanted to park his hand there for at least the rest of the semester, very likely the remainder of high school (they were freshman). A bald man with a thick black mustache delivered their slices, hers vegetarian, his pepperoni. There was a piece that was curling up at the edges, a browned, mouthwatering flying saucer of greasy pork and beef. “That’s the most perfect piece of pepperoni I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” she said, wisps of blond hair dancing with her intoxicating blue eyes. He did not hesitate. He peeled it off with his fingers, held it above her gleaming lips. “The body of Chri–” He did not like to blaspheme. He said the first thing that popped into his mind. “The body of Kris Kristofferson.” She chuckled. “Amen,” she said and stuck out her tongue.
“Want you to be my girl, and we put up with each other’s weirdness, and we just take really good care of each other.” It didn’t sound like him so much as this heightened, ping-ponging, elated, terrified man that had hijacked his nervous system. They were in her room. A paisley scarf covered a lamp. A pair of her panties draped a chair (on purpose?). Fleetwood Mac “Tusk” spun on the record player. She looked up at him, held his eyes. Something whooped in his belly. “You do it,” she said and passed him the magazine, the baggy of Thai stick, and the Zig-Zags. “You roll the best joints.”
It happened in the rear bed of a mustard yellow Toyota truck headed north on PCH. They were headed to a party on the beach at County Line. Brett Marquez drove, Wayne Ross rode shotgun, both sipped beer from Jack in the Box cups. They were cuddled up under a Mexican blanket in the back, blond hair whipping in the wind. There were no stars in the sky, and hardly any moon. It started with making out. Hands blurred into hungry spooning. She wore a leather skirt. He was in his no underwear phase. He wished he could stay forever. She kept looking up to the window to see if they were being watched. O Holy Christ it felt good! But a rogue pothole in the fast lane abruptly put an end to things. He never told Brett or Wayne, not for a couple years at least. She told her best friend, no one else.
He called her the next morning. She was eating three-day-old banana cream pie. On TV, George Jefferson was giving Tom Willis an earful of honky this, cracker that. “You okay?” he asked. “Uh-huh. You?” “I feel different, but totally the same.” “Me too.” “It’s like we were doing it all along.” “I know.” There was a long pause. “Well I just wanted to say hi,” he said. “Hi.” “Meet you on the steps tomorrow?” “Sure.” “Have a good night then.” “You too.” An even longer pause. They could hear each other breathe. “You…you wanna come over later?” he asked.
He lay in bed thinking about her. Blue eyes, blond hair, cherry Chapstick lips, ass like a double scoop of really good vanilla ice cream, that voice that seemed to go straight from his ear to his loins. It was not the dirty, guilt-inducing lust that had dogged him since he was twelve-and-a-half. It was something much deeper. He imagined fucking her, and he imagined his father, grandfather, great grandfather, great great grandfather, etc. all looking on approvingly, a thumbs up here, a ‘Go young man’ there.
“I won’t say it ’cause I said it before but I’m thinking it,” he said to her from across a stony bubble bath, hands caressing each other’s calves. Now they were in12th grade. Their shorthand had made great leaps. Sometimes a grunt or first syllable was all it took. Their parents knew what was going on but they pretended they didn’t. Bedroom windows were never locked. Vans shoe prints climbed the side of her house. Mom didn’t dare look through her wastebasket.
I had very little to do with Amy Sachs in elementary, junior high, and high school. In fact there was no Amy Sachs—there was mostly just a lot of posturing and fear and running like hell when it came to matters of the heart. But thanks to the combination of my father’s extensive archive of family photos, Alamos 2011 Malbec from Trader Joe’s, the inspiration of a gorgeous girl, and the miracle that is social media, I can go back to my school days and reinvent myself as a lance-wielding, red rose-toting lover. I can turn a succession of lonely Monday nights into a serialized, imagined romance on Instagram. Amy can come vividly to life, I can fall deeper and deeper in love with her, and the two of us can wonder how different our lives would be now had any of the above actually happened.