Here, take my courage.
From the back porch to the fork of the tree, nimbly from the fork to the highest branches, a squirrel shaped like a girl. She looks down on the rotting train ties that divide the yard from the dirt parking lot where her father's truck is parked. She once fell off the runningboard of the green Chevy pickup while her father was backing out into the alley.
Sprinting and shrieking through the field to the dry hockey rink amid a horde of summer grasshoppers, innocuous and impenetrable as fog.
She is the lead in the play. She skips over the stage as Silver Spurs, slips through keyholes and saves Christmas. She recognizes the value of being silly, of playing the fool, of pretend.
She is not afraid to raise her hand.
In the darkened primary school gymnasium, beneath the basketball hoop, she dances. She is anonymous and alone in her witch costume, and the freedom of solitude settles over her like a song.
Knocking on the door of his house, knowing. She takes his hand and leads him down the stairs to his basement bedroom where they undress and she lies down on the boy-smelling sheets. It hurts when he enters her and she is glad to be rid of the burden of virginity. She has not yet had her first period and so when she goes to the bathroom she thinks that the blood from her broken hymen is menstrual blood and she welcomes it as a friend.
Courage is the secret I keep from the world. The knowledge that even now, in this moment of truths, I do not share. I see through you. I understand. Take my courage. You need it more than I do and I don't really use it anymore, anyway.