We Used To by Lisa Muschinski

We used to call it a fashion show but really it was an excuse to see each other without clothes on. Maybe for comparison’s sake or maybe because we were curious. Maybe for some other reasons. We were 6th grade girls dancing half-naked in front of one another, raiding the Halloween box down in the basement, making use of props, maybe a feather boa or green plastic beads, getting rated on a scale of one to grosssss, get your mind outta the gutter!

At night we’d talk about boys. Boys boys boys like we’d all grow up to marry Luke or Tim or John. Like we were just playing around, right? That’s what they taught us at school, right? One in ten would turn out queer. The rest of us would turn out normal.

When we skinny-dipped in one of our above-ground pools, the moon licking the water silver, we’d accidentally touch one another’s chests, thighs, behinds, resurface and say I didn’t see you there, sorry about that, our eyes pink with chlorine.

The boys would come over and we’d prance around in full-body swimsuits or bikinis if our moms allowed it. We’d snatch glances of each other’s belly buttons and shoulders, wet with sweat or spray from the sprinklers. We’d watch each other flirt with our visitors, watch how we’d flip our hair or run barefoot holding hands with one of them, and we’d feel jealous, we’d feel jealous of one another, or maybe of Luke or Tim or John, it was hard to tell.

Come high school, we all settled into our first real relationships. We’d found our boyfriends, fallen for our future husbands, our Lukes our Tims our Johns, all of us except one, who didn’t seem interested in anyone, let alone the boys we’d grown up around. We didn’t give her a hard time about it, although she wasn’t one of us anymore. She didn’t fit in anymore. She wore baggy clothes and didn’t tie her hair up tight. Didn’t wear make-up either.

Years later and we’re all married, some of us with watermelon bellies which balloon under our summer dresses, some of us with kids clinging to either hand, yelling Mommy, Mommy, pay attention to me! All except one. Still single, but seen out with women, did you hear?

After we tuck our kids in for the night, and our husbands, our Lukes our Tims our Johns, fall asleep with a beer on the nightstand, we look her up on Facebook, we admire her smile, her short cropped hair, her tattoos which snake up her forearm and wrap around her bicep, the tattoos we once found outlandish, but which have grown on us since, and we consider sending her a message, we consider asking her to meet up, but, instead, we set an alarm for 7 am, we fall asleep, we fall asleep thinking of her, wondering, and we dream, we dream of feather boas, of green, pink, purple beads hanging from exposed shoulders, we dream of moonlight, the metallic taste of chlorine, we dream of wet and silky skin.

LISA MUSCHINSKI — Lisa is a Colorado-based writer with words published in SmokeLong Quarterly, HAD, FlashFlood, Bear Creek Gazette, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, and elsewhere. To read more, visit their website (www.lisamuschinski.com/publications) or Twitter (@lisamuschinski).

Art by ETHAN BUNDY — Ethan is a writer, artist, and musician living in Portland, Oregon. You can find more of his stuff at https://themanwhofellinbuffalo.com