I'm in 3rd grade and the girl holding my hand, her name is Amy, she's in 8th. She volunteered from upper school with a group of other students. We are lined up along the wall, in the hallway as if being placed in front of a firing squad. Everyone from my class has to have their own "buddy” who will escort them to and from the school church. "Your buddy will meet you on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning" instructs Sister Mary. The hallway is bright with sun. I have my left shoe off. im touching the cold white floor through a hole in my sock, my big toe pokes through. .. i bet if i ran i could slide 20 feet or more. i have the urge to run but don't. the older girls creep closer through the glowing white light. I can feel myself breathing. I feel the blood inside my skin - pulse.pulse.pulse.
I'm focusing my mental powers. I posses no true point of reference to what is or isn't pleasing to the eye. It is or isnt. im in 3rd grade everything is visual. everything is honest and heart-felt, mostly. Im attracted to peculiar details; a small gap between front teeth, a thin gold chain , a green hair barrette in the shape of a butterfly. The girls all wear the same school uniform; plaid skirt, white blouse, knee socks. I say a silent prayer. she is in front of me. Im lost in the shadow of her. she speaks, i mumble something to my feet. She tells me her name is Amy and takes my hand.
Sister Mary stays behind to grade papers. what i like best about her is she tells our class the most wonderful stories. stories of when she was younger, how difficult it was to become a nun, how she felt all she ever did was sin. she rubbed the beads of her rosary smooth over “thinking bad thoughts” and in repentance she once recited over two hundred Hail Marys in a single day! Her stories often ended with a deep sigh and watery eyes. I was taken in by her world, mesmerized by the rise and fall of sin - so much like mine.. so much like me
"bad thoughts". I wondered where she slept at night, if she ever drove a car, if she shopped for groceries, what was her favorite food and if she had ever listened to my favorite band KISS.
Amy loved the band Kiss. Peter Criss was her favorite because "he played drums like sex". I didnt know what "sex" meant, but is sounded like “bad thoughts” and that instantly excited me. what she asked me right before she took my hand was who my favorite band was. When i mumbled “Kiss.” She screamed "Rock and Roll all Night!!!! "
The church sat just west of the class room building. the sun stings my eyes walking toward cathedral ceilings and stained-glass glitter and shine. A somber Jesus- hangs above the altar, arms out-stretched as if saying "Why?" sometimes it looked more like " come let me give you a hug, you look like you could use one" It was both calming and scary at the same time and i liked this quite a bit.
Amy smelled of band-aids and strawberry shampoo, wore her hair in two braided hoops clipped with barrettes. when she spoke, I liked to look at the small space between her two front teeth.
It seemed like months but it was probably more like a few weeks. Three times a week, the short walk, holding her hand, answering questions she'd ask. Her laugh, her voice, her smile. She'd ask What was my favorite number? color? what girl did i think was prettiest in my class?
On Friday, it's hot, it will be summer vacation soon. no school. no nuns. no church. no Amy. We are walking back to class everyone is ahead of us. When we are alone she grabs me by the shoulders and grips me tight. she leans into my face and kisses me on my mouth. hard and wet and tasting like zebra stripe gum. She says it will be the last time she'd be able walk me, to see me, the school year was over for the 8th graders, two weeks earlier than lower grades. and then something about next year she'd be in another school and she really liked me, if i were older, when i get older..and I was thinking how I liked my mouth feeling so numb and bruised. she looked at me very serious and told me most times in life we never get a kiss goodbye, never even get to say goodbye. "People just"....she paused. "Leave" so this was a good thing but that i shouldn't tell anyone. She took my hand and it was true and true.