Our shabby little houses look like conjoined twins inexpertly separated. Her family’s house got the worst of the porch, ours got the sagging gutters. What used to be rivers of green grass flowing between the houses and the street, and between the houses and the houses behind, our families divided with chain link fences and choked the life out of, two squares each. Our yard we filled with fractions of cars. Her parents, my parents, are the salt of the earth, in other words, dirt made palatable. That sounds cruel. I think hers would treat me better if we were to trade; she thinks mine would her. Because every window in our house faces a window in hers, when she’s in her bedroom and I’m in mine, I imagine we’re sharing a double. We’re careful not to catch each other catching a look at each other, but if my light’s on and hers is off, I have to try to act as if I don’t think she might be watching. I sit at my desk occasionally turning a page of my civics book and tap my pencil against my upper lip for a studious effect. I’ve never told her that I know she kicks her shoes off from across the room, making scuff marks at the back of her closet. I don’t know what she doesn’t tell me. When I’ve finished pretending to study, I turn off my radio, but I hear the same station from her window, and the staked-out dog from down the block, and the shrieks from the shock absorber factory that runs all night. I’m out on our steps; she’s out on her steps, so close I can see down her shirt, and I think to myself, if I loved her, this would be heaven.

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