Self-Portrait as a 99￠Lemonade Stand by MJ L'Esperance
Summers here are short, and heavy
as a hand-knitted blanket.
Summers are when I come alive,
the sizzling air infusing oxygen
back into my bloodstream,
the rustling of leaves my alarm clock.
Summer, at last! My dear,
come find me in the hottest part of town,
at the edge of a yellowed front yard,
uneven, unstable, built in haste
by a giggle of pre-teen girls
sent outside by exasperated mothers hoping
to catch the breeze of hurricane
children leaving the house.
Come find me, first job, easy pocket money
to buy purple popsicles at the corner store.
The girls are sitting on rickety chairs,
complaining of thigh sweat, pouring glasses
of sugared water for strangers, spilling
secrets and acidic rumours, deciding who’s hot
and who’s not. I know where I stand.
Come find me under the sweltering midday sun
when the girls of summer are suburban bored.
They have run out of skin to tan, all golden angels
while I'm still as white as driftwood. They compare
cup size and trade training bra anecdotes like war stories
laying on purple-stained beach towels as I stand
all around them, awkward and flat.
Come find me, wet lips and dry throat.
“We just wanna try something new”, say the girls.
It’s a game they play, I’m a cheap thrill
to quench their thirst for newness. They come
to me shaking from the roar of lawn-mowers
and whipper-snippers, drunk on kerosene
or toxic powdered lemonade. Behind the old toolshed,
we exchange kisses that taste like grape juice.
Come find me, before the rain lifts the heat spell
or the boys ride in on their bikes, either way
I am ephemeral as a may-fly. Come find me before
they are gone, tomorrow they will have moved on
to achievements you can put on a résumé,
friends you can keep without the heat of shame
when you recount your summer between lockers.
Come find me, even after it’s too late, after
I’ve been discarded in a heap at the corner
of the street. Come pick me up and make me new.
Come make me a dining set or a nightstand
or a treehouse. Come make me believe
that I can become anything I want.
MJ L'Espérance is a writer from Montréal. She writes about identity, disability, loss and lust. Her work can be found in Anti-Heroine Chic and Ponder Savant. In her spare time, she likes to run after cats in back alleys and walk barefoot on the grass. She’s on Instagram @mj.lesperance.