postcard #3: shelby

 

Shelby

by Jenny Prior

Today I saw Shelby for the first time in twenty-two years. She turned into a person who refuses to betray emotion, who would rather die than react, even with a flutter of an eyelid, or a turn of a hand.

“Really,” she said to everything,, flattening the word and rendering it questionless, raising the corners of her mouth the fraction that is acceptable, that is to code.

Adult Shelby is cold and empty, but Child Shelby remains sweet and pure and locked securely in my mind. I can peruse my collection of her young elements: the blunt blonde bangs, the freckles, the honest blue eyes. That contagious run-on laugh. There’s also a striped shirt I remember, and a round knee above a white sock. Petting Holly’s rabbit, playing office, practice-kissing—I know these images all to be true, and to be Shelby.

Shelby’s brother used to pop his pimples and wipe them on the bathroom mirror. Her sister wanted to be a chef, and one afternoon the dog ran away with her chicken masterpiece. We found these things hysterical.

“I’m simply in love,” Shelby would say, about the music and books and movies and boys that filtered down into our hideout in her basement. I would always agree, because I was in love, too. As we stood awkwardly on the sidewalk and I looked into her hard Adult face, I wondered what experience could make our hearts beat rapidly in unison again. But there isn’t one.

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