when we were fourteen, we crossed the street whenever we liked , because as floridian said (with traces of her thick puerto rican accent mocking up the suburban speech us all-americans know so well), "pedestrians always have the right of way." as soon as we'd leave the house, we'd crack gum, apply extra makeup at the bus stop (my mother only let me wear light pink lipstick) and push up our bras so it looked like we (sorta) had cleavage. the crossing the street at a brisk pace (never a run, floridina cautioned; we didn't want to look desperate) often made us readjust our chests.
one night, after leaving floridina's mother drinking rum with curlers in her hair, and mine sucking down cigarettes and anti-depressants like we sucked down coca-colas, we met our match. after crossing queens boulevard at a brisk pace, our high heels clacking, we heard the usual horn. we kept walking and he drove slowly down the narrow street. the guy pulled over and waited for us.
"hey, you need a ride?"
"hells, no!" i was taught to be rude when approached. floridina would flirt, and was constantly accepting rides from strangers that i would turn down. i told her coldly when she told me i was being a wussy, "if you want to risk death or rape or whatever, go ahead. i'm walking and taking the bus and taking the train." she shut up and listened to me after that. some girl our age who accepted a ride had her body found in a keyfood parking lot. just thinking about the description of her mutilated body--stab wounds and cigarette burns and god, what they did to her down there--well, i never even thought about taking a ride after that.
"but i'd like to give you a ride. c'mon honey." his teeth glinted gold. floridina looked like she was thinking about it.
"no! we're fine."
he smiled. "aight, well, i'll drive around for a while so i can see y'all run across the street. hey brunette, your titty's been shakin' like nobody's business."
and floridina, who sucked mike marskall off after he dared her to, finally spoke up. "i'm surprised you could see anything, what, with your head being up in your ass."
she turned and walked in the corner store; i followed. i tugged my shirt closer to my neckbone, and watched her buy a coke from the cooler, not even attempting to buy a pack of cigarettes. from my window viewpoint, i could see him staring at the corner store, and finally, pulling away, shaking his head.
after floridina got her soda, she told me, "girl, now you know that there are bigger dangers than crosswalking." and we jaywalked across austin boulevard, laughing hysterically the entire time, giving fingers to whoever honked us, and high-fiving each other when we made it to the other side.