Jenny had a permanent lisp, no amount of speech therapy would rid her of the breathy hiss her pretty raspberry mouth produced every time she tried to push a “th” through her missing eyetooth. If Jenny minded her absent tooth she didn’t let on, she refused to wear her bridge and frequently balanced a Marlboro Red in the perfect niche between her pearly incisor and damp molar. When I shared a cigarette with Jenny it always came back to me slightly wet and smelling of the the Big Red she kept packed against her gums like chewing tobacco. Jenny wasn’t short on bad habits and she wasn’t shy sharing her bounty.
Jenny’s tooth had gone missing the summer before when she’d run off with a dumb skinny kid from her dads neighborhood. She and the boy had only been gone three months, at his deaf grandfathers house as it happened. The ignorant old man lived a mere mile from her fathers and well within the area we had been canvassing with fliers that either mysteriously disappeared or grew fresh sharpie mustaches and monacles daily. Several of these fliers of my grinning impish friend turned up with the right eyetooth blacked carefully out. When she and the boy grew tired of playing house, Jenny caught a bus back to her mothers apartment sans explanation. She had lost the tooth and gained a scratched in cross tattoo with the mysterious initials “R.K.C.” in some fascimili of cursive on a ribbon below.
I of course asked her about all of these curiosities. I was keenly aware of my duties as best friend to this teen dream goddess with perfect lips and eyes, her long tan neck marked by a single dark green vein tumbling gently from the dimple of her throat up to the tiny ridged cleft under her small chin, a scar from a monkeybar fall. I had been there to see this happen, her still together (at that time) parents panicking and rushing their tiny bleeding devil to the hospital so quickly they’d left me at the park by myself, to the feigned chagrine of my own parents. I’d had to beg to go to Jenny’s house again and when I’d gotten there, she proudly showed me her four new stitches, plucking at them vainly. Even then, Jenny had a thing for scars.
She responded to my queries with her typical infuriating mystique, it wore thin despite my infatuation, though to be fair I’d become used to her casual dismissals.
“So what happened? Are those his initials? How’d you lose the tooth, did he hit you?” this last pressed with what I thought to be an acceptable amount of alarm and concern.
“You should see the other guy” Jenny offered along with the bell peels of her haughty laughter and a dismissive wave of her tan wrist as she reached to sift through my nailpolish basket, her fresh tattoo raised up in swollen skin anger. Jenny had a bandage but she took it off and began scratching at the cross and initials as soon as she’d gotten out of sight of her mother or fathers place. I don’t know if she was trying to erase or deepen the tattoos, I don’t think she minded either way, Jenny wanted to affect herself.
It was a few years after this when Jenny’s parents took away all of her Marlboros and boys and had her tattoos removed by force, she was not yet eighteen and not emancipated. Her parents couldn’t do anything about that perfect hole where her right eyetooth had been, or that my left eyetooth stuck out out slightly, my vampire fang we called it, and my tongue darted out to fill that hole when we kissed, like a puzzle, after I’d traced that line of blue/green up her throat to that tiny scar, but that’s childrens stuff.
I don’t imagine I was important, and that’s ok. Jenny got married a few years ago, I didn’t get an invite but my parents heard through her parents who are back together and attending church again. I went to see, because that’s what you do.
I stood outside and offered a Marlboro Red to Jenny, who didn’t recognize me. I recognized her , hair slightly thinner and teeth not so pearly. But that niche, between her eyetooth and molar, holes don’t age, scars don’t lie. Jenny knew that at a young age, maybe I should have said something. But I wished her luck, Jenny thanked me and took a quick hit, hot-boxing furiously before passing it back. And I went on my way with my Big Red scented cigarette.