"My friends and I, we're really into death," Holly informs me.

We're walking down a suburban street, rented videos in hand, moving fast in the twilight chill. At thirteen just Tony's age when I first met him she's taller than I am, slender, and all in black. Her bare white ankles flash where her black leggings don't quite meet her mom's black slippers.

Holly's shivering. It's colder than it was when we escaped from a grim, underattended Thanksgiving dinner in search of videos. And it's quiet. Everyone in the neighborhood must still be sucking down mashed potatoes and gravy, watching Texas A&M and UT slug it out on ESPN with the sound down low in temporary reverence for the gifts of plenty.

"I can't wait to die. That's what it's all about." She's radiant in her early teen nonchalance. Earlier she'd told me about her friend Jennifer, who'd tried to the pull the plug by swallowing fifty aspirins. I'd let her in on a secret I'd kept for twenty-odd years: my best friend had tried that too, and now Holly's on a roll.

I look at her, but she focuses straight ahead, bopping up the sidewalk toward her house. Her dim profile is sweet, like one of those silhouettes we'd made of ourselves in first grade: pencil outlines traced on black construction paper cut out with blunt scissors.

"You know," I tell her then, "death's probably overrated, just like everything else."

When we get to the front door, she runs in and scampers up the stairs, dropping the videos on the first landing.


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