Say When, Say It Louder

By Rachael Peckham

January 14, 2019

Say When, Say It Louder

You pinned me to the basketball court in the middle of gym class while Mrs. Thompson was busy tending to a "situation" in the locker room, or off fetching ice from the cafeteria. Whatever drew her away, you seized the moment, wrestling me beneath the hoop on a fouled lay-up I took no joy in making, with my head pinned to the court and you, spooled across my back. The wood smelled bodily, waxy, like the inside of an ear. I took it in as I did your weight, thinking, wait it out, knowing you’d eventually tire. Wait it out, until you were coaxed to get off, you big Tomboy, punctuated by Thompson’s loud clap.

Even then, you waited a beat. Because you could. Because I thought I was so pretty, but really, I needed to shave that mustache of mine.

For years, I associated your meanness with strength—you, at 5’1” and just shy of a hundred. (I didn’t weigh much more, at 5’6”.) You loved to flex the hard small knot of your bicep, then grab my hand, our fingers locking, and twist my wrist until I yelled for you to stop. Louder. Say it louder.

Much later, as high school graduates on the eve of our college orientation, we left it all behind. We snuggled beneath my comforter, drawing our pillows close enough to smell each other’s breath all night. We didn’t talk about your torture, my dread of gym, but we came close when you said the word jealous and I feigned aloofness, a new tension settling between us, palpable as your fingers squeezing mine, and louder.

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