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By Kaitlyn Greenidge
We the only girls who leave our walk. We the only girls that travel.
All the other girls on our walk, they stay. They never move. They start out standing around in a group all together, but only so boys notice them. Those girls, they don’t move. They don’t leave the walk. They stay like planets and they orbit be the corner store, the playground, the broken down benches underneath the willow trees on the walk, the pissy smelling hallway near the project elevators. They move unbending, they not stopping, until a boy come up and break one of em off, knock one of em off course.
Not us. This be who we are—me, my twin sister Dee, Kiki and sometime Liz.
We live in the projects, in Kingsborogh Houses, 4th walk. When we leave the walk, we go the best places. Last week, we go all the way to Rockaway Beach. We ride our train—the A train—to the end. We go there because Kiki say she hot and none of us want to stand in the middle of the playground, underneath the sprinklers all the babies spit in. It Dee idea to go to the beach. Dee do anything for Kiki.
Me and Dee like Kiki for the same reason everyone like Kiki. She little—she maybe the size of a ten year old but she fourteen like us. But she not scrawny. She round like a grown woman, but she don’t know it. She don’t push her butt out or make it swing on purpose when she walk, that just happen without her knowing it.
Kiki like soft, pretty things and glittery things and pink things but she don’t make a big deal out of it. If she see a kitten or a dog in the street she say, “Aww.” She don’t scream and act all crazy like all the other girls do, like even me and Dee do sometime.
Kiki loyal. She known me and Dee since we was two and she never been friends with anybody else. I don’t even think she know that possible. People say Kiki dumb, or delayed, or not right, or too slow, or just retarded and maybe she is all those things but that make me and Dee love her more. And I don’t think Kiki dumb. She just talk and do stuff without thinking first.
Me and Dee, we never say it to each other, but we know to keep Kiki close. Me and Dee, we keep Kiki safe.
So because Kiki want it, because she lying on the bench on our walk, flapping her legs open and close and rolling sweaty cold Vitaminwater bottles all up and down her thighs and sighing about the heat, we look for change upstairs in the house and down on the street. Ain’t nothing in the street but we find enough upstairs for one Metrocard. That for Liz, cuz she not good enough to jump the gate in the subway.
When we get to the beach, Dee kick off her flip-flops and then I do, then Kiki, then Liz. The sand burn the bottoms of our feet so we hop all the way to the water and then it so cold we all grab together while the waves splash all up on us. We walk into the water holding on to each other—me and Dee have our arms around Kiki’s shoulders and Liz is kind of sticking out behind us, holding on to Kiki’s waist. We shuffle real slow through the water until something drop out from under our feet and then we all fall down on to our knees. Dee and Kiki and me start laughing so hard we can’t stop.
The water slap our skin over and over again. The slap feel good. It sting. Underneath our butts the sand move back and forth, back and forth, and then it rush all down our legs and run away. We got salt in our mouths.
We throw water at each other and Dee try to push my head down underneath but that start Liz up, screeching. Dee push my head down underneath, and even down there, underwater, I can still hear Liz’s voice, all warm and buzzing and too close up in my ear—“Stop it Dee, stop it, you’re hurting her, you’re scaring me”—until Dee let me sit back up because it no fun to push my head down under water with Liz screeching like that.
None of us have bathing suits except for Liz. She wore hers underneath her clothes, but when she saw none of us was taking off anything, she kept her shirt and her shorts on too. Me and Dee’s tank tops sticking to our skin in weird places and Kiki bangs slicked straight up in the air and dripping grease down her forehead. Liz got a wet spot on her butt that me and Dee will not shut up about.
We lay out in the sun and let our weird wet spots dry off. We stand up and shake the sand off and get ready to go.
I notice a boy watching us. He all by himself, a few feet away, but he not slick enough to pretend he not looking. He just standing there with his mouth open, watching Kiki brush the sand off the back of her shorts. I see him looking and I put my big, thick arm around Kiki shoulder, hug her close. Dee notice that right away and she look at me and then she see where I looking and she look at the boy. She narrow her eye, just a little. And then she smile wide and she start tickling Kiki, she tickle her right out from under my arm, and then she pretend to wrestle Kiki down to the sand, putting her body over Kiki’s so the boy will look away.
He look down, just for a bit, when Dee jump on Kiki back, but when he lift his head again, he go straight back to looking at Kiki. He got his thin, bony boy shoulders pushed all forward, like he about to do a running start and toss his scrawny body on top of hers.
Finally, I can’t stand it. I call out to him, “What you looking at? I’m asking you, what you looking at? No, I’m asking you, what you looking at?” not even giving him a chance to explain. I yell at him and I yell at him and he pretend it not happening. He know he too small to take me but he don’t want the whole beach to know he not strong enough to beat a girl. So he pretend he don’t hear me and he walk real slow, slinking away. When he almost too far away, he turn back one last time and make a point of looking at Kiki, really staring, letting his head travel up and down, just standing real still. I break toward him and then he know he gone too far and he run away for real.
Me and Dee, no man look at us. We like it that way. We wear Daddy’s old work shorts and we go to the construction supply store on Atlantic Avenue and we buy fluorescent orange gloves in the winter and men’s undershirts by the pack in the summer. Ma try to make us wear grown-up bras but we won’t. We wear sports bras instead. Little Kiki, she wear training bras and so do Liz, but Liz too big and flabby for them—her titties drip down on to her stomach, make her look even more like our 4th grade teacher. When our Ma first see Liz, she say, “You girls be unruly but at least you not plain like that poor one. You big but you not heifers.”
Liz kind of do look like a heifer—she got big cow eyes that get wider and wetter the more you look at her. After that boy run away, I turn and I see her looking at me with those big, cow eyes, not saying nothing, just looking. It make me so angry I want to punch her, punch her in the mouth she not using. So I roll my hand up in a fist and I make to do it, but she don’t roll her hand up back like Dee would do. She don’t say to me, “Fuck off, Tasha” like Dee would do. She don’t even move out the way, even Kiki got the sense to move out the way. No, Liz just stand there, watching my fist come toward her, and maybe she flinch a little. When I see that, my rage get so big it whirl up into nothing and I let my fist drop down and I say, “It ain’t worth it.” Because it really, truly, isn’t worth it to punch a person like Liz.
Liz different. She only come to Kingsborough in the summer, to stay with her grandma in the Senior Tower. Only old people supposed to live in there. If it’s the mean, stuck up guard on duty in her lobby, the one who call people out for no reason, Liz gotta wait all night with us in the playground until that guard shift is over and she can sneak up to sleep.
Liz only live here in the summer. The rest of the year, she live in Maryland in a nice house her mom own, and she go to a school where they don’t have to wear uniforms, where they sit on the ground in a circle, where they let you take the books home. She don’t even know enough to brag about those things, that’s how dumb Liz is. She just say them to you, like doesn’t everyone get those things, doesn’t everyone have those things.
She gave me one of those books once, after I tell her how I think the other girls on our walk be like planets, when I tell her how they orbit. She didn’t say nothing, but I could tell she like that, she like that I know enough to use the word “orbit.”
The next day she give me her book and she say, “Here, I’m done with it. You read it to so we can talk about it.” It be some straight up Harry Potter shit, something about magic and princesses and a dragon, something like that. I like it but I saw the movie first so it wasn’t like I never heard of it before. I read it, but I made sure not to give it back to her. I read it and then I tore every single page out and stuffed them in the space between my mattress and the wall and when Liz ask for it back, I say, “What book?” and I make Dee say “What book?” and Kiki really do say “What book?” cuz she not paying attention.
Even though I hate Liz sometime, she stay with us. She part of us.
So on the beach, I don’t punch Liz and Dee say, “Tasha, stop acting crazy,” and we stand up and we go. We take the bus back from the beach cuz Kiki talk sweet to the driver and he lets us on without making us pay the fare. We sit up front and we look out the window and we watch outside the glass turn from water to green grass to red. We look at all the big tall apartments by the ocean and Kiki say she gonna live at the very top of the tallest one someday and when she do she gonna paint the inside all pink and gold and brown.