My neighbor told me first.
No, that’s not exactly right. My daddy said the word first, but he wasn’t talking to me. He didn’t know my ears could hear. He didn’t know he told me, so I guess it didn’t count.
My neighbor said it straight to my face, right there in the street. It was a fine summer day on Keltwood Cove, the kind of day that nine-year old girls with Donny Osmond posters and Barbie dolls who rode bikes with banana seats and who lived in split-level houses expect every day to be. And then it wasn’t.
I don’t remember whose mother she was, the neighbor who told me. Kim’s or Alan’s, I think. Not Chrissy’s. I don’t remember ever seeing Chrissy’s mom, now that I think about it. I remember mac and cheese and tuna patties and cherry bombs and sleepovers. But I don’t remember who she was.
She seemed concerned, my neighbor. When one reads familiar names in the paper, perhaps there is a tone one adopts. A way to set the mouth. A way to cast the gaze.
Being nine years old, I didn’t know the protocol. I stood in the street and took the blow with eyes wide open. I nodded knowingly and said “I know.” even though I probably didn’t. Not really. There was no mention of it on Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch, so how could I have understood?
My neighbor didn’t know she was a harbinger. An oracle. But she told me first, and then it was true.