There’s a boy who comes to my window at night and pulls at my hand and says Come on. The burrow is waiting. Nothing has changed.
I have to tell him that things have changed. That I am not a ringleted nightgowned gauzy girl but a woman, old enough to be his mother. That the girl he is looking for is dust under an evergreen. That her grandchildren are waxy and nibbled in their own mahogany boxes. That the sugar-spun house he knew is now cut up into tiny, dusty flats.
He says he doesn’t care and steps off the sill, goes to the kitchen and starts popping pink and green and parchment yellow marshmallows into his mouth. I give him hot chocolate to match and he doesn’t say thank you.
He starts talking about that place he comes from with its waxy palm fronds and syrupy flowers and punchbowl pools. And the Rainbow Brite girls in the pools who would never dream of pulling him under, he thinks.
I think it’s just because they haven’t had the chance yet. He takes a cluster of feathers from his pocket—medicine orange and egg blue—and tucks them behind my ear with all the suaveness of a trailer park player.
I wonder if the girls in Neverland shave their armpits. If they pop their pimples. I wonder how many of them he has fucked, and how many he has thought about fucking. I wonder how long he has knelt on that rock in the middle of the water, watching the mermaids when they go beneath the surface and rub and flip and slide those shimmering scales up and down.
But I realize he has not done this. He is a child. It’s the girls who have lost sleep imagining. And me. When he leaves I will be the one who reaches under the covers and closes my eyes. And he will come back when I’m gone, maybe when this block, this city, is gone. He’ll keep coming back. For some girl, somewhere.