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.