I open the fridge and curl my fingers around a cold orange. I toss it up in the air and catch it. The vividness of the color and the roundness of it reminds me of something.
I am standing on a red kickball field and an orange ball arcs overhead, appearing for a moment to be the sun. The colors look brighter than usual and I
I shake my head and start to peel my orange.
The little girl I noticed on my first day is at the corner table with paper flowers not yet cut out, speaking solemnly to Bird and Allyson. Her hair is quite wavy, when it’s dry. I wander over near them.
“I’m here because I said I wanted to kill my brother,” she says in her small voice, dark eyes carrying the ghosts of the overhead light. “But I didn’t do it. I didn’t even hurt him. They just sent me here anyway.”
“Well, if you didn’t hurt him,” Bird says, “that’s weird. Why would they put you here?”
“I don’t know,” the little girl says, opening her eyes wide.
She says she’s not going home; that she’s going into foster care after this. I look at her small fingers and the butterfly jacket. The conversation moves to something else and she’s laughing and smiling and I can see her uneven little-kid teeth again. I walk away, carrying my half-eaten orange.
“You want to play cards?” Michaell says.
“I don’t know. What game?”
“I don’t know that one.”
“Well, you always have five cards in your hand, and this is your deck…”
He wins; I’m too slow.
“Well, it takes practice, anyway,” he says.
…and I am walking up a pathway to the playground. The sky is blue. Grass green. A red-headed boy. I thought I’d never seen anything more colorful than it looked that day and I walked around breathing, breathing it in, trying to take it and hold it inside my head before I lost it.
But everything lost me right then.
I remember sitting in the hallway when I was twelve holding the telephone and shaking, pressed against the wall. I didn’t know the number. I hadn’t even thought of that. A picture of blue Windex burning behind my eyes. I still felt the plastic under my fingers. So close.
I hadn’t gotten up for school that morning and my mother was angry. I didn’t get up for school a lot those days. “Who were you going to call?” she said.
“She’s at work.”
“You’re going to school,” she said.
I called that hotline a few weeks ago, but I never did wait for them to pick up. This is a weird and unexpected thing, the wait music of suicide hotlines—which unbelievably does not resemble in any form, by the way, smooth jazz, like I’d been expecting, but instead is some kind of horrifying alt rock that goes up and down in a way that reminds me of an awful circus type of place.
“They probably don’t have anything more to say than the shit everyone tells you,” I tell Michaell and Winona. “You know.”
“Stay positive,” Michaell says in a high voice. He glances out the dayroom window from time to time, sketching a piece of pizza on the paper in front of him.
“What’re you looking at?” Winona says.
“Hm,” Michaell replies.