America's Baby

By Eliza Summerlin
Volume 1//Prose

She walked into the cheese shop wearing her boyfriend’s jeans, a tiny white t-shirt, and red lips. She saw all of us looking and did a little spin. We applauded. That’s Mallory.

She rides a motorcycle when it’s nice out and most of the time she wears her helmet. Her fingers pop through the holes in her worn leather gloves and she’s always accompanied by a weathered red backpack. There’s weed in the left pocket, lip balm in the right.

When you’re around Mallory you never know what time it is and you never care. And whenever you go to coffee or drinks or even just a walk through the park she runs into someone she knows. These people shower her with love; a kiss on the cheek, an inability to let go. I feel this way too. We all do.

At Emma’s birthday party we got drunk, ate shrimp, and sang karaoke. Matt stumbled around the living room until he fell asleep on the floor. Kate put on Sinead O’Connor and we wrecked Mallory’s phone when we dropped her in the kiddie pool. It was the beginning of summer and we were hot and free. After that we watched The Parent Trap in the basement and I curled up against Mallory because it feels good to be that close to someone who makes you feel alive.

On her motorcycle, our helmets tapped every time we slowed. I sat behind her and the wind threatened to tear my shirt as she pushed the needle past 80. I thought about letting go, falling off. I thought about how little was keeping me on her bike. I thought about that Smiths song. I asked Mallory if she liked feeling like she could die. Did it scare her? She said yes to both. She probably won’t remember this conversation because she has a bad memory but I do because I remember everything. Ride or die baby.

I hate weak handshakes and she hates going to bed early. We really don’t look alike but that doesn’t stop our customers from asking us if we are sisters. I think it’s because they see our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and can’t imagine two people so close who are not related. We don’t mind.

These days Mallory appears in my dreams: dancing, drinking, celebrating. I wonder why I am here and she is there and I miss her. I imagine Mal across the room, at work. She has a little dimple below her eye that winks at me when she smiles. I always wink back.