Cuppo squinted under his permanent-markered eyebrows, nodding at the girl who was feeding coins into the ice cream machine. "That's the one." Her cottony sweater hung like a robe from her narrow shoulders, and draped down her back until it hit the substantial shelf of her rear. She turned around and unwrapped her fudgesicle.
"Look at that," said Bobby Sausage. The entire brown top disappeared in her mouth. "Those are some skills."
"Practically bovine," added Cuppo, then turned to me and raised his eyebrows.
"You gonna hit it?"
"I don't even know her," I said. She wore layered yellow tank tops and had a pageboy haircut that flipped out under her ears. Backlit by the glow of the Good Humor machine, she looked for a moment like a squash someone had fashioned with a cape.
"What do you need to know?" Bobby said. "She craves your dong." Word had come down from Cuppo's sister, who sat next to her in chorus, that she was interested.
"She's from Oregon," Cuppo said, as we watched her cross the cafeteria to a lone table by the window. He nodded slowly. "West coast."
"What does that even mean?"
He rolled his eyes. "West coast women are the easiest in the country. It's proven. I can give you a study on it. They're downright filthy." Sausage stifled a laugh with his palm. He hadn't grown anything but body hair since the sixth grade and the back of his little hand was covered in it.
"You guys are assholes."
"Hit it and quit it, Myles," said Sausage. "No shame in that."
Look at us, Dad. Can you see us lounging on the benches at the far end of the cafeteria, our hair shaggy and terrible, in tattered sweatshirts and markered Airwalks and worn T-shirts from Phish tours we were too young to have ever attended? Can you see the way we look over our shoulders and divert our eyes and bury our hands in our hoodie pockets? Can you tell we secretly loved fantasy books and video games and that this was the first girl to pierce our male adolescent force fields? Why? Because she noticed us.
Why else? Because we were remarkably late to this game, because it had been played around us since the fifth grade and we'd watched it like foreigners staring through the chain-link at a green and distant land. Without even knowing it, she'd opened the border.
"Go say something," said Cuppo, pushing the back of my shoulder. "Ask her if you can have a lick." With that Sausage finally burst, roaring and slapping his leg and making a scene, and I could see her look up from her table by the windows, alone, and notice us. It seemed mean, and it was, so I walked over to her, hearing Sausage's laughter dissolve behind me, and sat down.
"Can you do me a favor?" I said. She had a cold chunk in her mouth and it took a moment for it to melt.
"I want you to talk to me for a minute, just like this, like we're having a good time and then I want you to slap me in the face."
She waited for the joke. "What?"