The pillar stands in the middle of town square, a monument to dead soldiers. I sit beneath it and wait for Alesia, staring at the huge plaque of names. Alesia is late. Probably had to lie to her dad, say she was meeting Hannah or Katie at the mall. Her dick dad has it in for me. He hasn’t said so; actually, he’s never done more than snort at me, Have her home by nine. Alesia says it’s not me. He’s haunted. You…well, you remind him of my brother. I search the plaque until I find him—Rogue Robinson. Afghanistan. Alesia said he'd gotten blown up running into a building to retrieve the body of a dead soldier. No man left behind, she'd said, except the way she said it, it sounded like a curse. I stopped going to Alesia’s house after I saw the picture of Rogue hanging over her fireplace. It was spooky—my same protruding jaw and caterpillar eyebrows, same nostrils shaped like jellybeans. I asked Alesia if she saw it, too—if she thought it was weird, or if what we were doing together was hillbilly gross, but she just stuck her hand over my mouth. Shush. I nibbled her fingers—she tasted like an Almond Joy, and I stopped thinking about Rogue, started thinking about Alesia, how her hair feels like rain when it slides across my belly; the way she counts the seconds—out loud—while I unsnap her bra (my record is four). You dinosaur, she’ll say, if I ever go past ten. I’m pretty sure I love Alesia, so I need to get over this Rogue look-alike business. He has a Purple Heart, but Alesia and I have blood-pumping hearts that are in almost-love, and I have to believe that this is something Rogue would be totally okay with, even if his dad isn’t. And Rogue’s dad—I know I should cut him some slack; his only son is dead. The end of his family name.
Alesia texts me—b there in 10, T-Rex!
The wind picks up and I move to a bench behind a stand of evergreens. I stare up the pillar to the statue at the top—an anonymous soldier, his cargo pants permanently puffed out, pockets full of marble grenades, his backpack burdened with the weight of rock. The soldier has a firm jaw, set square like Rogue’s, like mine. He faces into the wind, unflappable.
About the Author: Michele Finn Johnson’s stories and essays have appeared in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, The Adroit Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. More at michelefinnjohnson.com;@m_finn_johnson.
Story Song: "Pictures Of You" by The Cure