I sure did all the dumb things for Colette. From this distance it seems such a beautiful name for first love but I didn’t love her then for posterity. Thirteen was I and sitting on a summers evening verandah seeing her image ranged across the Southern Cross and recalling every soft word, the faint English lilt of it, the pale fingers around a pencil. Colette. Whose fingers were never to touch mine or voice to say my name. Me; too desperate in my dumbness and struggling to find the secret of the older boys, their easy leering smiles and knowing winks. Me; too young for this secret but old enough to know that I did not know. Sometimes when Colette looked at me I felt she was willing me to grow up, to grow me into this knowledge that I could not learn. But how did she know it, I wondered, she who was no older than me. How many nights looking at that bruised sky and searching for the secret that would not come? Too many. So I learned to make people laugh instead and I grew it into a little web and a little shell too. And sometimes I would see her smile, from a distance, but definitely smiling at the jokes that grew for her at night from my helpless heart. Colette smiled. Did I grow slightly older at those moments or did she grow slightly younger? It doesn’t matter; you can’t make people laugh forever. She found an older boy and then her family left town. The last time I saw her she was 17. She gave me this quizzical look as if to say, “So you’ve finally grown up.” But I hadn’t grown up; I’d just grown taller. In my confusion I dug into my pocket for a joke and I poured it from my mouth into her open ears, so gently like a gift. I like to think she is out there somewhere in the big world and that she keeps it still.