Here is the house. Its siding contains asbestos. Its paint contains lead. This is what we were told every time we got caught sneaking out the window in the middle of the night. As if disease and the birth defects of our future children were the only fears we had left.
Here is the room. In this room, three of us slept. One on the floor, two on the bed. Two girls and one boy. I won't tell you the rest.
Here is the shed. Its roof is made of fiberglass. The parents used it to store the bikes we were supposed to ride to and from school. Most days, us kids went to the shed but never left. We sat on the bike seats and smoked grass.
This is the park. This is the park where Cotton and I met. In this town, this park is where the drug dealers hang out. There is a boulder in the northwest corner that bears the park's name. The boulder is red granite. It is pocked with holes where crystals go missing. If you bend down and look carefully, you can see smears of blood and bits of fingernails.
This is Eddy's Diner. The booths here are covered in green vinyl. In the entrance there is a cigarette machine. In the bathroom there is a condom dispenser. Eddy wears polyester pants and hosts parties.
This is Eddy's pad, and this is Eddy's dance floor. It's laminated wood assembled into a 12x12 square. The last time I came here, Cotton crashed face first. Cotton crashed face first never to rise again.
Back at Eddy's Diner, we slid into green vinyl booths and smoked cigarettes. We wondered what to do, but did nothing instead.
At the park, we gathered around the red granite boulder. We chipped Cotton's initials into the center.
In the shed, we passed a joint back and forth. It was the next day. It was third period. We inhaled and exhaled and tried to forget the mess of blood Cotton had left.
At night, in the room with one boy and two girls, we abandoned the bed. We slept in opposite corners of the room, arms over our eyes for protection.
Here is the house. Here is the house I spent my adolescence in. It is not the house I grew up in. I grew up when I left the house, the room, the shed, the park, the diner, the dance floor. I grew up when I could look back and see what it was made of.