Our Younger Selves
About the Writer
Dorothy Rice is a San Francisco native, now living in Sacramento with her husband and the youngest of five children. After a 30-year career in environmental protection, Rice retired to pursue a long-delayed passion, writing. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside, at 60. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Still Point Arts Quarterly, Brain, Child Magazine, Brevity online, Hobart, The Louisville Review , and a few others. Her first book, The Reluctant Artist: Joseph Rice, 1918-2011, an art book/memoir about her father, a little known abstract artist active in the 60s and 70s, was published by Shanti Arts in November 2015.
Mother never told me what would happen with my body. My period started when I was eleven, when we lived in Guadalajara. I thought it was my fault. She found the bloodied clothes wadded in the back of the dresser, sighed and said, go ask your sister where the supplies are.
We moved to a small, Northern California town before high school. Beth, my first new friend, had pained gray eyes. She wrote poetry I wished was mine, about clouds being puffs of cotton.
Mom said she was low class.
Beth knew about the first time I had sex. I was on my period. The boy looked away while I wriggled out of my underwear and hid them under my jeans. Is that all it is, he said, when it was over. Another time, he said he was picturing my older sister.
Beth and I drifted apart during high school. At least, I drifted. I didn’t think what she was doing.
When I was away at college, she bumped into my Dad on the bus and gave him her new phone number. I never called. They both had jobs in the city and rode the same bus. Dad got tired of Beth asking about me and gave her my number. When she called, I pretended not to know who she was. Another time, I acted like I couldn’t understand English. I didn’t even know why.
I wish I had returned her calls.
I always assumed Beth was at college too. She was smart. She wanted to be a writer. But her father split senior year. The house got foreclosed. Beth was homeless. Then she got a job with the phone company. I only know all this because I found her on Facebook, forty years later.
I’m so sorry, I said, when we met for lunch.
Me too, she said, though I didn’t know what for.
We hugged, our faces wet. She was different, those gray eyes not so open, so vulnerable. But it was her. You were one I didn’t want to lose, she said.
Beth recalled the time my mother said she had the low-slung ass of a peasant girl, to her face, at thirteen. And how we lied to our parents and spent the night on the houseboat where my boyfriend lived. A friend of his mother’s, old, with a coarse red beard, felt her up.
And down, Beth said. She was fourteen. And how we used to tromp the barren hills across the highway.
I remember one time, she said, the fog was so thick we couldn’t see. You ripped off your shirt and ran up the trail waving your arms, yelling, I’m free, I’m free. You were so crazy. I never forgot.
I only saw her that one time, a four-hour lunch that felt like finding my younger self. When I message her now, she says, yes, yes, we should get together, it was amazing to find you.