Bad Kids

Alex Samets

They are out back where kids go, out back to do bad, the bad kids do, but it is summer and there are no kids and they are no kids—this is what they did when they were kids, she and the girl, come out back behind the trash bins and do this sort of bad, but then they went out into the world, the world full of wanting, and now that they are back here and they are not kids, she tells the girl, No—it seems the girl is hearing her bad kid voice say, Yes, say, Yeah, say not words, just sounds, but she is not a bad kid back in time, she is here in time and as grown as anyone, and she is saying, No—the girl looks upon the sports fields, fireflies burn and extinguish so that it looks like the sky strung through with stars, so that it looks like they are hanging in space—the girl's face is break-heart familiar, and she wishes she could not words, just sounds, but instead she says, again, No, and the girl's face comes at her through time break-neck fast and the girl stops—the girl has a cigarette in hand, another lit point in a landscape of stars, and the girl's face, which had been up against her neck, turns hot, burns red—the girl says, You want me to stop? she doesn't see it in terms of desire—she looks out across the field and thinks of him, at home, waiting—she could say a lot of bad, bad about the bad he does to her, but instead she says, Here, let me show you—the girl shrinks away from her, the girl's arms drawing into her body as though there is somewhere for them to go—she reaches for the girl's hip and the girl says, No, the girl says, I don't do that anymore—the girl presses her legs closed on the grass—the girl's cigarette is burning all the way down, down to her skin so that if she is not careful—she rolls away and looks at the girl—the girl has grown to look like a boy, grown to look like a kid doing bad behind the trash bins here doing bad behind the trash bins—the girl looks back at her and lowers the cigarette in her hand so that its burning end kisses a parched stalk of grass—the grass sings hotly, smoking—the girl lights another and this one catches, the flames burning close to the ground but spreading fast—the girl swings her bare leg around and uses her sneaker to suffocate the fire—when they were kids, the bad between them made the girl say sweet, sweet no one had ever said to her before, and she couldn't imagine, when the girl did bad and said sweet, the men who would do the same bad better and say the same sweet without the sweetness—the girl looks back and says, Tell me, but there is no sweet in her voice, the girl says, Tell me, but she can hear the girl is really saying his name, each word his name—she shakes her head against the ground—No, she says—she wants to touch the girl—the difference between is the girl has an inside, and if the girl won't let her touch the inside then there is no difference—they are silent—her cheek is cool against the rough earth—the girl is cross-legged, digging at the grass with her shoe—she remembers the girl as a child, lanky, rejecting girlhood—now the girl looks like a boy everywhere but in her hips, which have widened like a woman’s—at home, waiting, his hips are narrow, his palms are wide, but all the hips of him and the palms of him will never know her like the girl does, like the girl did—the girl’s cigarette is down to the filter—the girl extinguishes it in the dirt between grasses, lights another with a match—the girl brings the burning match to the ground and with its last heat, the girl lights another stalk of grass—a flame licks on to another stalk, and another—she sits up, shifting away from the heat—the girl shifts also—the space between them widens and the fire inside it spreads wider too—the flames are spreading outward, yes, but they are also catching each other’s backs, climbing into the night, higher and higher—she and the girl stand up—she waits for the girl to use her sneaker to kill the flames, but already the flames are inextinguishable—already the fire is bigger than the sole of a shoe, bigger than a girl, bigger than the both of them—the air is hot now, hotter than summer, hot like winter nights, dry and aching, the kind of air that burns—she feels the fire in her lungs, on her face—she is choking—she stops watching the fire and watches the girl watching the fire—the fire is sliding, pushing her back away from the girl, racing toward the trash bins—Run, the girl says, but the fire is loud—Run, the girl says again—she takes another step back—the fire is licking up the sides of the trash bins—the trash bins glow, the trash bins wave with heat—and then the fire is up and inside them, the trash alight, the flames reaching taller, the girl’s face is wet and bright in the firelight and the girl lifts up her hand, her cigarette still burning between her fingers. The girl waves at her. Run, the girl says. Run.