We are ten years old. We are staring in the mirror. My best friend tells me that we’re going to do “Bad” again, so I press my nose up until I look like a pig. We start laughing, snorting. She presses her nose up, and commands me to be still, be serious. Our noses up, our faces long and somber, we force ourselves to act grave as we stare at our reflections.
“Okay,” she says. “One, two, three!”
“You know I’m bad, I’m bad, you know it, you know! You know I’m bad, I’m bad, sha-ma! I’m bad!” we sing in unison, bobbing our heads, marveling at our exposed front teeth and our Molly Ringwald upper lips. We love singing “Bad” with our noses pressed up high. I don’t know why we always associated Michael Jackson with the pig nose. In my mind’s eye now, I see MJ with a carefully sculpted, surgeon-perfected nose, long and white and tapered. Am I wrong? Maybe he did have an upturned nose. When we finish singing, we take our fingers away and laugh with wide eyes at the creases in our noses, the startling shade of red they have become.
“Take off your shirt,” Brigitte suddenly says, so I do. She takes hers off, too, and we begin singing afresh. “The way you make me feel… you really turn me on… you knock me offa my feet, yeah, babe! My lonely days are gone! Sha-ma…!” We dance around the bathroom, mimicking MJ’s fresh style, perhaps trying to moonwalk or do a fancy spin. We watch ourselves groove topless, and then Brigitte says, “What’s that?” She points to my miniscule breast, years away from budding. I look down, confused. “What?” I say. “That!” she says, jabbing at a small mole beneath my childish nipple. “I don’t know,” I say. “It’s always been there.” Brigitte nods her head sagely, looking at the small brown mark. “It’s a beauty mark,” she says, her chin in one hand like a wise old man. “It means you’re going to have beautiful boobs!”
Somewhere in the bedroom behind us, a tiny gray kitten strikes up a racket. We run in and find him shredding up a newspaper that is lying on the floor. We tear the paper away and hold strips of it over his head, laughing hysterically as he leaps in the air and tries to catch it in his paws. When the game gets tiresome, we hold the paper closer to the ground, and let him shred it to pieces. When we return to the bathroom, he is turning manic circles in the middle of the pile, scraps of gray paper flying left and right. Later, Brigitte’s dad would roll over the kitten one night while he was in a deep slumber. I would never forget the horror that I felt when I imagined the kitten’s bones cracking under John’s heavy weight, the air rushing out of his tiny lungs.
In the bathroom, Brigitte commands that we begin singing again. She tilts an imaginary hat on her head, and begins moon-walking backwards, crooning lines from “Thriller.” I watch her routine from my perch on the counter, swinging my legs, lip-synching as she goes. She finishes with an enviable spin, pulls the imaginary hat down over her eyes, and sticks out a leg, toe pointed. I breath in a sigh of awe, wishing I could dance like that. She holds the pose for a long moment, letting the effect settle in. My reverent silence fills the small bathroom. Then she jumps back up on the counter.
Pulling a comb through her hair, she examines her profile sideways. She seems impressed. “Okay,” she says. “‘Bad’ again.” We resume our positions facing the mirror, push up our noses, and suppress giggles. “One, two, three!” she counts, and we begin. “You know I’m bad, I’m bad, sha-ma! I’m bad! You know I’m bad, I’m bad…”