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Eat Dirt
October 5, 2011

I once made a pan of dirt-laced brownies. On purpose. Because I had a crush.

I'll explain.

In 1988, I had this huge crush on a boy in my neighborhood. He was blond with blue eyes, a year older than me, and he lived on my friend Erika's block. He was always part of the small group that spent the summer riding bikes, playing night games, and swimming in Erika's pool. Every night after dinner, I carefully Aqua Netted my bangs to windshield stiffness and took off on my silver ten speed down Sunset Boulevard and across the train tracks to Erika's house, listening to my Top Gun soundtrack on my Walkman. We played Kick the Can on Burnham Boulevard before moving to the pine trees on Dean Green for Ghosts in the Graveyard and truncated bouts of Capture the Flag.

Every so often, he'd stop by my house when I happened to be out hitting tennis balls against the garage door. We'd stand at the foot of my driveway and talk about nothing for ten long beautiful minutes. Him straddling his bike, me twisting the sticky grip of my white Pro Kennex racket in my hands. (Given the number of hours I spent practicing my garage door forehand hoping he'd stop by on his way to Super America, I should have made varsity that year.)

At night, as I let my window fan blow the humidity off me, I thought about every meaningful look we exchanged during Night Games. It was a lot to think about, since every time he glanced my way was OBVIOUSLY heavy with meaning. One night the group spontaneously met up and went puddle splashing and mud sliding in the fresh, green afterglow of a summer storm. That was the same night he left an empty can of Coke behind. His LIPS had been on that can of Coke. It was a can that found its way to my bookshelf and took the position as a treasured memento. But I didn't kiss the can every night or anything weird like that. No, the can of Coke was simply a magical love talisman that maintained a magical love connection between the two of us and me holding onto it meant that we would someday Be Together.

But then he went away to camp for two weeks. Before he left, he told me very seriously how much he wanted me to write to him while he was away. (LIKE HE WAS GOING TO WAR OR SOMETHING!) I was dazzled. Before he and his army green duffel bag had even left the city limits, I had already bought special stationary and composed three different letters to him. But they weren't love letters, no. I was very careful about that. After all, no request of going-together had been put forth, so these were short, snappy letters with a studied breeziness that talked about what we were doing in the neighborhood, what happened on TV, and how I'd be sending him his requested care package eventually. (Can we discuss how he requested that I send him a care package? It was just like he was requesting I send him PROOF of my LOVE through the MAIL.)

So my mother had this book called The Modern Witch's Spellbook, and it told me that to win the heart of my beloved, I had to make him eat the dirt taken from his footprint that I had collected by the light of the moon. You know, as you do.

One hot Minneapolis night before he left for camp, Erika and I planned a sleepover, and on the pretense of taking one last walk around the block before bed and David Bowie videos, we attempted to sneak into his backyard. We figured that since it was his backyard, his footprints were bound to be everywhere, right? Unfortunately, we forgot about the motion sensor flood lights that would have clearly illuminated two girls dressed all in black digging up the lawn. (Did I mention we were dressed in black for better hiding purposes? Because we were.) In the end, it was actually a very lucky thing those lights scuttled our first plan. See, it hadn't occurred to us that in taking dirt from the backyard, I was running the risk of casting a love spell on any one of the four other members of his family. Dodged that bullet!

Plan B was much more complicated. It involved getting him to stand on a certain patch of bare earth in Erika's backyard that we would then later dig up at our leisure. (The earth had to be bare of grass because baking grass into a pan of brownies would be gross.) However, to make sure we didn't lose track of said special patch of dirt once he stepped on it, we made Erika's little sister place one foot on either side of the sacred patch. TO GUARD IT OF COURSE! It wasn't what you'd call the smoothest of maneuvers. He definitely eyed Erika's sister as she skipped over to the patch of dirt and straddled it while giving him a toothy grin, but it's not like he could have known we were going to turn his footprint into a dessert.

Later, we hastily scrabbled up the top layer of dirt (the ground was baked hard by several months of Minnesota summer sun), collected it in a plastic Ziplock bag, and I stirred it into a brownie mix. I think there was was some sort of incantation, too. Back then, I was an inattentive cook, and when the brownies came out, they were burned on the edges and thin, bowed, and cracked in the middle. When I tried to cut into them, a few of the squares shattered. No one in his right 9th-going-on-10th-grade mind would have eaten them, but I chipped them out of the pan and mailed them off anyway.

Sadly, when he got back from camp, the summer love of Coke can magic was gone. And, since we had experienced a particularly cloudy two weeks while he was away, so was my summer tan. "His love faded with my tan," I used to think with a tragic romantic wistfulness. IF ONLY I HAD MOISTURIZED BETTER! Since we hadn't managed to collect the dirt from a barefoot footprint -- one that was more intimately connected with its owner -- and instead settled for the footprint left by the rubber tread of his Nikes, I assumed the strength of the spell was to blame. Also, it was collected during the day and NOT by the light of the moon, so there you go. It never once entered my mind that he hadn't eaten those hard fragments of totally appetizing brownies.

A few weeks later, high school started, and I was a freshman and he was a sophomore and I had to suffer through him walking me to math class and telling me about another girl he wanted to ask to homecoming because she was so brave and had survived leukemia when she was only seven years old and all I could think was, "I can't believed I wasted a pan of dirt brownies on you."

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Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic