i am seven, and in the second grade. my lunch is clenched in my hands and my backpack is bouncing up and down on my back. it goes thump. thump. this is because there is not very much inside. just a few papers.
i am walking beside jay. it is an afternoon, and it is a friday. i am a little cold, and a lot happy. marlene yells at eliza a lot now, for making jay and i walk home by ourselves after school. a mile is much too long to be walking every day at seven years old, she says. it is not the safest neighborhood, she says. i don't mind the walking. at least when it's warm out, i don't mind the walking.
when jay and i reach the house, rose is sitting on the steps, waiting for us. "we will, we will rock you," she shouts. and she throws a rock at jay. it hits him in the left knee, and his eyes open wide in surprise.
"rose," he says, without losing his temper, which is not surprising, because he never does. "you can't go throwing rocks at people." he rubs the spot the rock hit him.
"yeah!" i say, but i am a little bit distracted (which is something i usually am). i sit down on the steps beside rose.
rose scowls. her bushy hair blows in the cold air. "why not?" she demands. "why can't i?" the freckles under her eyes twitch.
"for the same reason you can't eat chili peppers because you think they'll give you a high like cocaine. you just can't."
rose does not like this answer. neither do i. jay always has an explanation. he does not say things like you just can't.
"but why not?" says rose.
"yeah," i say. "why not?"
jay thinks for a moment. i can see him thinking. "well i suppose," says jay, "because people don't like it very much when you do." he scratches his head a little.
"oh," says rose.
"oh," i say.
"let's go inside," says jay. "and it really doesn't matter what people think. unless you're hurting them like you do when you throw rocks."
"oh," says rose again. "does that mean i can still eat chili peppers?"
i close the door behind us and skip to the kitchen. jay and rose follow. "well," says jay, "i think so. but that does not mean you should."
rose sighs a little sigh, like she was expecting this answer and he should know better for saying it. "then it is a good thing i don't do things i should," she says. she opens her fist, and she throws a rock at jay. this time, it hits him on the shoulder.