There was electricity when you came into the burger joint where I was working my first job in Los Angeles. I wore a ridiculous paper hat and penny loafers. My white apron pocket was stuffed with crumpled ones and the stubs of yellow pencils.
There was electricity when you told me I had a “little peanut head.”
I was a redhead, but it wasn’t natural. The label on the box from the drugstore read, “Shiny Copper Penny.”
You brought me coffee to trade for French fries. One day you brought me flowers.
There was electricity.
The helmet you loaned me on that first motorcycle trip was too big for my peanut head and I thought “if something happens, I probably won’t be safe.”
“But nothing will happen,” you said.
You called me “Pumpkin,” and told me to wrap my arms around your waist. We zoomed east through unfamiliar neighborhoods and across a bridge over the Los Angeles River. I don’t think I’d realized there was a river before this night. Now, as I make my circles of kid drop-offs and pick-ups, I cross this same bridge again and again. I sometimes think of that first early evening motorcycle ride. I think of the way the street lamps were swelling to with an aluminum brightness.
You were riding this motorcycle when the van hit you. You were thrown from the bike and hit the pavement so hard nearly every part of you broke. You read the police report to me from the hospital.
“It says here, I’m dead, Pumpkin.”
When I saw you again, your left arm and leg were encased in plaster and part of your head was shaved. It took effort to get you into my car. It took more effort to help you scale the long cement stairway to my apartment.
There was no question that it would be a sleepover. Too much work was involved for only a dinner.
I slept on your left side, with the sturdy casts between us.