by Melissa Bernal Austin

My favorite iteration of God is 12-year-old GirlGod —

God of watermelon bubblegum and Dr. Pepper LipSmackers. Of hologram stickers and locked diaries. GirlGod of 1994.           A God who never says anything mean about your bedroom when She comes over to spend the night. She can keep the secret about your brother’s sadness and you can cry and cry and She won’t be bored or make you feel like you have to say you’re sorry for it. She smiles while running Her chipped,  glitter polish fingers over the smooth spines of your books. Stands politely near the bed, uncertain about sitting  until  you say, You can sit there if you want,  and  12-year-old GirlGod sits, relieved.           She does my eyeliner   like  Hers,  a  little  too  thick,   with  a  black  pencil  pocketed  from the   Walgreens   on the corner.   She leans in so close, I  smell  Her green apple shampoo, Her Windsong perfume. GirlGod  holds  my eyelid taut  with   one  small hand,  Her  charm  bracelet  tinkling and catching the light. I can hardly breathe.                When GirlGod  is   catcalled  for  the  first  time,  we whisper  about  it  during  band.  He  was  old enough to be  my  dad, She  says,  making that gross  face  12-year-old girls  do  so   well.   If  we tell Her  father,  he’ll  say  he  wants to lock Her up ’til   She’s   30.   She  rolls  Her  dark  eyes, eyelashes     fluttering    like   bird wings, descending. As if he could.             My GirlGod is wise and beautiful. She is loving and kind.  She shares  Her  cokes  with  me  even  though the health  teacher  says   She   shouldn’t.   It’d  be better to have mono together anyway. We blow watermelon bubbles on the  back of the bus. We play  M.A.S.H.   and  only  write  each   other’s names on the list,  four times.  We lean close to share headphones. She winds and  unwinds the cord  around   Her  finger.  I  think  She’s  really pretty  and  I   know  I  love Her.  I’m not even scared.             GirlGod says She stole a new lip gloss from Walmart  this  time.       She holds my chin steady to  apply  it.  Hidden  from everyone else, I am face to face with Her.  When I smile without   meaning   to,  She  scolds  me  a  little  but it   doesn’t  matter.  We’re  best  friends   and  I  know   it.    And    I    smile    again    because    She’s  looking   right   at   me.  Her  lip  gloss  so  shiny I can see myself in it.