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Wednesday, February 11, 1998
By Paul Ford
Age 15, West Chester, Pennsylvania
You are wearing a brown leather jacket, a charity from your uncle, and your hair hangs too long. You are just fifteen.
After midnight, you often walk to South Campus and wander through the woods; you might walk over the railroad tracks, but people shoot up near the bridge; you sometimes bike around the dark industrial parks. Some nights, you walk by the dorms and imagine a woman inviting you inside. She has brown hair and wears a sweatshirt, and motions with a thin finger.
You check that no one is watching, then climb five stories of stairs, to the open top of the West Chester Municipal Garage. Anonymous in the orange light, you stare up, swallowing as you do, into the unwrapped sky. With your head back, you swallow. Last week, the police accused you of drinking. You told them you weren't. They insisted you were. You offered to walk the line, count backwards from 100.
They considered, nodded without apology, and drove on. Recently, you wrote a poem in your journal:
In my fat stomach, there are angels.
When I grow thin, I will let them out.
Headphones cover year ears, tuned to FM radio, classic rock. It is cold. You take off all of your clothes, and stretch on the asphalt. Pebbles press into your skin. You close your eyes and let the cold sink in.
After a minute, you dress: athletic socks, cheap sneakers, black denim, T-shirt, jacket. You sit and listen. You thought a car might be driving up to park here on the roof, but no car is coming.