I pour a glass of 7-Up before a date with Jamie. Every time. I don’t eat dinner. I can’t. I tell my parents I’m not hungry. I carry the 7-Up into my bedroom, closing the door.
7-Up is honeysuckle summers, the slant of sun at dusk on hydrangeas, the sweetness from an everlasting day that lingers nowhere special.
I switch on my transistor. Here in New Jersey, the radio picks up rock ‘n’ roll stations in Manhattan. I believe: the third song will predict my future. The fifth song will reveal Jamie’s true feelings toward me. What will the 7th song in the line-up portend?
Pink lipstick. Eyelash curler. Mascara. It’s 6:30 pm. Jamie will ring the doorbell in half an hour, precisely at 7.
If I ate food, I would feel ill. I almost feel that way even now, sick with longing for a boy who cares for me…just not enough.
Doesn’t 7-Up provide all the nourishment I need?
I would run away with Jamie. I would marry him. I would have his children.
He won’t do any of these things. He never will. At least not with me.
Besides, I have no real conception of love or marriage or motherhood. But before these thoughts even rise to the surface of my mind, they evanesce and disappear.
I’m only in ninth grade.
I dab gardenia perfume on my wrists, on the hem of my cotton skirt.
My Scotch Terrier bumps the door. I let him in. He plops on the small blue carpet beside my small blue bed. The fur on his back is sculpted like pressed flowers.
If only I could capture the essence of Jamie in one of the songs before the dial turns. If only I could always see him in the skim of light rippling across the town’s turquoise swimming pool. If only his scent remained on the corsages from proms, which decorate my lamp pole, petals now colored rust. If only I could envision him floating, floating, floating in bubbles of 7-Up.
Maybe these are the only places where I’ll always ever have him.
In winter, walking home from school, I silently wish on early stars just before snowfall.
But now it’s summer. When I walk barefoot, the tar on the street almost burns my soles before night cools the heat—like the mercurial temperature of Jamie’s love.
Later tonight, after the date with Jamie, I will be back in this room. Alone. I’ll open the window. Slide the screen. Watch the moon for signs that never arrive.
Before I snap off the light, I take the last sip. The flat 7-Up sweetens my tongue.
Sue William Silverman
Sue William Silverman’s most recent book, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, won the Gold Star in Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award and the 2021 Clara Johnson Award for Women’s Literature. Other books include Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which was made into a Lifetime movie; the AWP winner Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You; and The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew.