That was the year all the girls wore spit curls, or hair shaped like upside down tulips. My sister used lipstick in school, wiping it off before she walked in the front door. She was so pretty, I wanted to be my sister, to have her cherry red lips. My mother said looks don't matter. It's the mind that makes the woman. At night she was reading aloud to us. The Bible and The Gulag Archipelago. "Don't you just hate it?" My sister asked, blowing smoke rings in the dark. "I mean, everyone else is eating Micky D's and watching I Dream of Genie, and we still have to listen to story hour and clean our plates of black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes. We can't even go to the movies."
Weekends she snuck off on her fat-tired bike to visit her friend, Annie G. who loaned her eye shadow and pink sponge rollers she slept on each night. Sometimes she went to the Cinema with an older guy, Donnie Shaver. Donnie had a ponytail and smoked weed. Afterwards, she'd giggle and tell me what he did, showing off the marks where he broke her skin. Before he left, Donnie promised he'd come back from Nam in a red Mustang and drive her away in a cloud of dust. He sent letters from boot camp, signed with Xs and Os. My sister showed them off and dated other men. I had nightmares. Only in the dreams, Donnie came back for me. But something always went wrong. Like the car flipping over or flying off a cliff and bursting into fire. Like the last scene in one of those black and white movies I never saw. Only the car was red. And my lips. And the flames.