A neighbor once caught me staring at the license plates on my block. I was five years old. We lived in a court and I was allowed to play in the court by myself so long as I didn’t wander off too far anywhere else which I did often but I had grown used to crouching, hopping fences and often could slip in and out to Lea’s house undetected. I don’t know the circumstances of why I was outside but I do remember it was overcast. I do remember I had a light jacket on, probably a shade of pink. I am sure my hair was uncombed. I am sure my bangs felt too long. I am sure that I was trying to rid myself of this hindrance even so young, tossing it away with my hand constantly or tying it back in a ponytail, patting the back of my head when it was sopping from the heat wishing I could peel it off. When it was cooler, I left it alone. Left it down and I am sure I was wearing pink corduroy pants with brown spots in the center of the knees and they were permanent. I was sure I had been tucking my chin to my neck and twisting the pine needle with both hands and crouching, my knees strong then. My white sneakers scuffed. The tips of my shoelaces drawn brown with mud and I am sure I didn’t hear her approach me from behind. I am sure she heard me muttering.
I had been going up the driveway of each neighbor’s house and sitting behind the car, in front of the license plate. She had seen me from her window. I was looking closely at the license plate, that is all she could see. I was looking at each piece of information. VA for state tags. To be clear it was VA, like VAH. Like the sound it made. Vah. I would say it. The letters in front of the numbers. Some would be doubled. Some in doubles. That felt special, like they were chosen to be doubles. Like some plates required scrutiny. This one had a green tag in the top left corner which was usual but also did not have repeating numbers. XGH-2879. It would have sounded better, I am saying out loud, XGH-2873 when I hear her.
I was five and soft and supple and ingenue and so much deeper than I am now. She said what are you doing? from behind me which scared me. I was tiny and crouched there with my most favorite one to hold; the withered needle. I am sure she heard me.
I said I’m trying to read the code.