fiction by Eric Rubeo
You and Me were on the playground when Me fell off the monkey bars and onto his right leg and, lying on the pavement, Me wasn’t sure if it was broke or not but it hurt like hell and so he cried, and, although You wanted nothing to do with Me, she ran up the hill and pulled at the duck tail of the recess lady’s shirt and the two came back running, and at the scene the recess lady said “shoo, shoo, move away” because almost the whole fourth grade had formed a small crowd, and then she said “dammit, this is how we lost the swings,” and of course Me heard none of that—he was still crying—but the whole time You stood there saying nothing and that was something,
Which would have made a good story to tell at a graduation party or perhaps a wedding if You and Me had been and stayed friends, but they were not and they did not, and in fact they became enemies, for it was You who had climbed up the ladder to those bars in the first place and tickled Me’s armpit which led to the laugh and subsequent fall, and so you can begin to understand why You and Me were not friends,
But more than that, they were not friends because You told Me he smelled funny and Me spread the rumor of a time You had a number-two accident and where You liked baseball, Me liked dark movies and worst of all, You was good at mathe-fucking-matics,
Which is why it was good, truly good, when Me learned You was leaving and that the time they had left was short; You’s parents had other plans, which involved their careers and New York City, and Me most certainly did not have a hard time with the news even though he kind of liked being enemies with You, kind of liked knowing that there existed another who thought of him frequently and the power her shame gave him,
But then the day came, first of fifth grade, when You did not sit down next to Me in home room, and in that cold and lonely seat, surrounded by his peers, Me felt something funny which made him want to write and so when he went home he wrote You a letter which of course he did not send,
And as the years flew by and Me grew older, he met other girls like Brittany and Beth, and at some point he forgot all about You, forgot how when he couldn’t walk without crutches You carried his brown bag to the lunchroom for him, forgot how even after the cast came off You would beg for forgiveness at least twice a week, forgot how three days before You left, she threw herself off the monkey bars in one last reach for redemption even though Me cried out “don’t!” just before she did,
Except it’s not quite fair to say Me forgot about You because when he was older and packing his things, removing his scent from his parent’s house for good, he found that letter in a bin of old school things and in that moment he thought of You and was sad for what he remembered, and so he drove it to the post office and said “I’m sorry” to the envelope, and when he dropped it in the metal tub and closed the shutter with an unforgiving thunk, he imagined the letter being loaded in a truck and then that truck being driven all the way to New York City where it arrived at a central hub and made its way into the tote bag of a mail carrier who stopped at a homey apartment complex in Lower Manhattan where You’s parents would find it in their mail slot so they could forward it to her, wherever she lived now, so she could open and read what he had written and maybe, if Me was lucky, smile as she remembered, but of course none of this happened—Me never knew her New York address—so when the fantasy ended, he pushed down his right foot hard on the gas and began again the process of moving on.
ERIC RUBEO is a fourth year undergraduate studying Creative Writing, English Literature, and Adolescent English Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the Editorial Intern for the Miami University Press, the (volunteer) Fiction & Poetry Editor of Happy Captive Magazine, and a Writing Consultant at the Howe Center for Writing Excellence.