I remember Meghan was a biter. I’d come home from an afternoon of playing at her house with indentations, like little bridges all over my arms and face. My mom would ask, “Does Meghan bite you?” and I’d only nod back and forth sheepishly, covering the marks with my chubby pink fingers.
I remember one particular play-date with Meghan vividly. After preschool, I crossed the street to her house, hand in hand with my mother. We walked through Meghan’s front yard overgrown with sticker bushes and up the buckling front steps of the soggy porch. My mom rang the doorbell and we waited through the bustling of children and barking dogs for Meghan’s mom, Sandy, to open the door.
“Hi,” she said and without seeming to take a breath, she screamed back to Meghan that I had arrived. Our mothers exchanged pleasantries as I listened for Meghan’s footsteps, fast and light, down the staircase. She arrived flushed and feisty, squirming her way around her mother’s knees and grabbing my hand. “Let’s go upstairs!” she said, and we scampered off together, the matted, dingy rug burning my bare feet.
Her bedroom door, covered in Lisa Frank stickers, was ajar, revealing a flash of flowery walls. Meghan was one of three girls, so it was natural that she and her sisters should have a huge amount of clothes, makeup and dolls strewn about their room. I remember I always felt overwhelmed, being an only child with a sparsely furnished room all to myself, by the shear amount of pink sparkly clutter that obscured the floor.
“I’ll play mommy and you play daddy,” Meghan said, picking up one of her American girl dolls and shoving it into my hands. I complied as I always did with bossy girls, and cradled Felicity like a baby. We spent a minute sitting cross-legged on her floor when she said, “Okay, let’s go home, “ her curt blonde bob bouncing as she jumped up to go downstairs.
Once I’d made it to their den, I saw how she had padded the tiny closet under the stairs with pillows, sleeping bags, and the cushions from their dark green couch. Smiling in pride, she pushed me inside our “house!” and warned me to “be careful of Felicity’s head.“ She followed me in and then shut the door, like the front of a white kitchen cabinet, behind us.
“Okay. Now that we’re home, we can make babies.” I was taken aback. I had very little notion of where babies came from at the age of five, but I suspected that such a goal would be quite unworkable in the present situation. As well, I knew that this mystery was one people didn’t like us kids to talk about. But she insisted, “I know where they come from. I’ll show you.” That she was so adamantly sure of herself, made me adamantly curious.
No sooner had I blinked then she took my arm and bit down, hard. Tears welled up in my eyes and bright red dashes arced up my forearm like a line of fire ants. “There,” she said, “It’ll be a girl.” Then, mouth agape, she went for my other arm. “Ouch!” I whined, using my legs to push away from her. I refused to accept that this was how I came to be born. But maybe it was? Like a snake she lunged at me, insisting that this was what her sister called “sex.”
At last, as she grabbed my long braid in her hands and put it in her mouth, I screamed. Her mother opened the door of the little closet, letting a swatch of light shaped like home plate on a baseball field. I squirmed away, arms dotted with tooth marks and face splotchy with tears. “What happened?” Sandy inquired, touching my head in a gentle way. All I could say was, “home!” as Meghan snarled that I had “no idea how to play daddy!”
Five minutes later the doorbell rang. Behind Meghan’s sticky, scratched front door, stood my mother. Seeing me upset, she knelt and held me close. I buried my face in the locks that curled softly around her temples. Then, with a look of consternation, I lifted up the slippery sleeves of her raincoat, and examined her smooth, perfect arms.