There was the guy who held a knife over a flame and then cut-slash-burned his girlfriend’s name into his bicep. The girl who got her tongue pierced but then took out the piercing later that same night before her parents could see it, then got it pierced again a few weeks later, and took that out, and then got it re-pierced, you think, you can’t remember how many ultimate piercing-removal-repiercing cycles she ended up going through. The guy who, rumor had it, burned his arms with bleach, trying to clean up evidence of drug use. The guy who, when you asked him on the last day of school if he had any plans for the summer, said he didn’t really know for sure but he’d probably follow the Grateful Dead around some. You didn’t know that was still a thing. You’ll think about him at the end of the summer, when Jerry Garcia dies. There was the hot girl, of course, and there was the girl who you thought looked a little like the hot girl, was even hotter, in fact, a noticing and recognition of which for some reason you believed yourself to be the only capable. There was the guy who hand-delivered to a teacher who wasn’t one of his own a box that he’d pooped in while wearing a UPS outfit that he’d bought at Goodwill. The guy who loved Nirvana and Faith No More and Slayer and Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg all equally, which more or less everyone soon would, but he was the first, or the first you knew anyway, a range of taste that surprised and confused you but also seemed exciting. There was the girl who got pregnant and dropped out, and there was the girl who got pregnant and kept coming to classes as she got bigger and bigger. There was the white kid who had a rattail that everyone made fun of and the black kid who had a similar single braid of hair from the back of his head that no one made fun of, no one even called it a rattail. The white guy who one time dyed leopard spots into his hair and one time shaved his head and one time had a mohawk and one time shaved SHARP into his hair, which you had to ask your friends what they meant, and they told you “skinheads against racial prejudice.” The black guy who grew out his hair all year, a taller and taller Kid ’n Play-style hi-top fade that he liked to show off measuring with the ruler he’d keep in his back pocket. One day you wore a USA Basketball Dream Team shirt, a groupshot caricature drawing of all the guys on the team, and the guy with the hi-top said “nice shirt” and called you Mullin, and you smiled and said thanks but you weren’t sure if he actually liked the shirt and meant it or if he was making fun; you never wore the shirt again, at least not to school, you only ever wore it at home, to sleep in or do yardwork. The Faith-No-More-and-also-Ice-Cube guy was actually also the girl’s-name-knifed-into-his bicep guy. You can’t remember if he did that because he’d started dating a girl or because they’d broken up. You don’t remember who the girl was. Sometimes you wonder who you were. You’re sure the kid with the hi-top doesn’t remember calling you Mullin, but sometimes you wonder if he remembers you at all. You wonder if that kid ended up following the Dead around that summer of Garcia’s death or not. You wonder how many other people remember and still think about the UPS kid; you wonder if anyone else ever tells that story, all these years later.
Aaron Burch is the author of the memoir/literary analysis Stephen King’s The Body; the short story collection, Backswing; and the novella, How to Predict the Weather. Recent short-shorts, fiction and non, have appeared on Pidgeonholes, XRAY, Rejection Letters, Jellyfish Review, and Bending Genres. He is the Founding Editor of HOBART and he lives in Ann Arbor, MI with his collection of almost every ticket stub from a movie and concert he went to in the 90s and early 00s.
Photography: Frankie Cordoba