When I was little, we had a table with three legs. The odd end was held up over the years by various unremarkable items. From it we at peanut butter or cheese sandwiches for dinner. Catsup spread on crackers. We all sat there. Mom and me and my big brother. She was always only home in-between jobs. Together we grew up in this way. Cold, hungry, and getting by. Make due with what you've got. Hand-me-downs. The cheapest meal on the menu. Always clutching what you not-quite-but-almost wanted. I had too much practice in those ways -- with the healing powers of string and duct tape.
But on the playground, it was no use.
I was obsessed with crisp new designer jeans.
I was only twelve.
My brother said he would help me earn the money. Paper routes and chores around the neighborhood over the summer. In bed, at night, I allowed big wet greedy tears to roll down my cheeks and into my pillow. And on one unremarkable day, I stood out on the black top and watched the other kids play games. Wind caught an extra foursquare ball, and I stopped it under my foot. There was black, then grey, then blood on my hands and clothes as I picked myself up and stumbled to the nurse's office after an older kid ran up from behind and blasted the ball away from my center of gravity. No one went to get a teacher. We were all afraid of Jeff.
Someone I was supposed to know rushed me to receive medical attention. Teeth fixed and lip stitched before my Mom arrived. Cradling my head and sobbing into my hair. I only kept trying to push the words I'm okay convincingly through the mass of cotton compacts and novocaine. I was terrified by upsetting her as she made the slow steady words I'm sorry repeat until they'd lost all texture and sense. I closed my eyes and wondered what kind of table Jeff had. I'd forgotten about the price of fixing things.