I stand with the well-wishers, watching as her dad’s borrowed Buick slowly pulls away from the chapel, the “Just Married” sign growing smaller as it recedes into the distance. Inside me, a cavern of stone walls slick with my tears. Images flutter in the darkness like bats.
Kelly and I had been best friends since we wore matching Snoopy Band-Aids on knees bloodied from play. This was before knee pads, before helmets, before it was okay for girls to love each other. I was the gawky one, too tall for my age, all elbows and hip bones. Kelly was rounded, soft and full, womanly beyond her years. Innocent sleepovers turned into opportunities to explore each other’s bodies, drifting to sleep a tangle of limbs steeped in the scent of our own world.
In high school, it was I who would develop into the object of unwanted male attention, my body betraying me in curves and mounds I struggled to hide, while Kelly grew only rounder. I assured her repeatedly that I had no interest in returning their advances, but on more than one occasion, she would seek out ways to punish me. Sometimes it was just a silly flirtation with someone to piss me off. But one afternoon, after receiving her message to meet behind the girls’ gym, I saw her full-tongue kissing Alden Perry from chemistry class.
I’d gotten A’s in chemistry, captivated by how just the right combinations can create or destroy.
Kelly found me in the school parking lot, retching into a garbage can. For a brief moment, I thought I could detect a smile. She swore it had only been a ploy to test my affection.
“I saw you in your gym shorts with those boys from the track team. Their eyes were all over you, and you liked it. You know you did,” she said.
“That’s crazy! We were just talking. I wasn’t kissing them. So you’re into guys now? Is that it?”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “It was disgusting. I’m sorry.”
I let her stand in my silence until she began to cry, to beg, to hurt as I had. Only then, did I lock my arms around her like a drowning body to a buoy. “I don’t know what I’d do if you left me, Kelly. I really don’t.”
Rage and pain can distort all reason, until the most heinous of acts can become surprisingly acceptable.
That should have been the end of it, but it turns out Kelly wasn’t quite as disgusted by that kiss as she professed.
It was our graduation. We were still dressed in our caps and gowns when she told me she was pregnant. I did not hear a thing she said after that. I had stepped outside of myself and there I remained.
It’s impressive what can be achieved by mixing potassium chlorate with some simple Vaseline and a few wires.
I watch the end play out now as if on a movie screen. But there are no rolling credits, no swell of music. Just before their car disappears around that bend of dying sycamore trees, Kelly turns and looks back at me. Our eyes lock onto each other for that last precious moment. I wave one more time, and then wait for the explosion.