While eating lunch at Wendy’s I find myself seated across the room from a group of young boys, maybe twelve. They are just at that gawky awkward stage; their bodies and voices do not match. Heads seem too large, and one is all knees. They are just loud enough to be heard, the funniest one of the bunch is just adorable and has a retainer. I am glad he is the most talkative because I get to hear him say he will try to lift some “chiggaretch” out of his Dad’s pack.

I have a pang of nostalgia for an earlier time. A time when I knew a little group of very cool guys, and I wanted to hang out at their lunch table, but the other girls always wrecked it by giggling and acting like they had never seen boys before. The guys always drank red pop and ate powdered donuts and drew anarchy symbols on their pantlegs. They made mix tapes which included The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks and The Dead Milkmen. But also the Pogues, and how cool is that? By junior high standards they were nerds, but I was in awe of them, with their black trench coats and feathery pencil drawings of boy warriors with shopping carts. They wore Converse All-stars and always drew on the soles. They spun the most delightful bullshit. I wished myself a boy so I could walk home with them across the railroad tracks, and go back to their houses and listen to college radio and sneak smokes behind the garage, talking about dicks, bullies, acne and building super heroes. In those moments I loathed being a girl. Sprouting breasts seemed to close me off from their world. My anatomy prevented me from that simple freedom of boisterous uninhibited smut, pop culture references and improvisational silliness.

I watch these real time boys and catch them like a photograph, wishing I had a notebook so I could get it all down. Adorable Retainer says something about a teacher who is “like a boil on my ass”, only of course he pronounces it as “ash”. I lean in trying to catch more, without looking like some kind of freak. They get louder when they notice me, trying to gross me out, but instead I am enchanted. I watch them lean in close to each other, pointing out ugly patrons, laughing until they snort and cry. They talk about some kid on the bus they called Special K, the time one of them barfed someplace public. Then what was that the witty one said about the crazy eyes of Vietnam vets? They laugh with their whole bodies, contorting in their seats and moving their arms around to punctuate their sentences.

I bask in the vigor of their unmapped futures, their easy slumping. I hope they can carry this ease along with them. I hope they learn that not all girls are giggly insipid puddles, I hope their group stays tight. I wonder if they know what a treasure they have, how lucky they are to be young with everything still ahead of them. I wonder if they know how much strength they will draw from this moment.

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