By Matthew Sanborn Smith
Gretta bent our lives in ways unimaginable when she came to our school in eighth grade. Her beauty was of more than just the flesh, it was in the spirit that animated that flesh. When she walked the halls in her light sun-dresses and clomping, strappy shoes, we leaned toward her without meaning to, head first. Between classes she left a wake of whipping humanity behind her as she swept through the crowds
Students, teachers, male and female, all of us were powerless in her presence. At her desk, she might slip off her shoes, stretch and sigh with a little laugh that sent rippling awe-gasms through the classroom and beyond its yellow concrete walls until kids in other rooms shook themselves into lucidity, wondering what had just happened. Hamsters shunned their wheels in her presence, clinging to the cold bars of their shaky little cages. The frogs in the biology lab reanimated themselves for a single moment of her company before slipping back off into the realms beyond mortality.
When the school year ended, Gretta let us know, in the kindest possible way, that she wouldn’t be spending the summer with us, because she’d be visiting home. All three-thousand of us were crushed, our bodies were left cold vessels, devoid of souls until her return in September. In the interest of our well-being, we had to believe there would be a September.
As her plane passed overhead, we felt the strangest sensation: a light-headedness that became light-bodiedness. Our feet left their purchase on the solid ground. Our wind-tickled eyes wept, and although we struggled to breathe in the rush of air, our smiles stretched widely. We always wanted to travel. With Gretta as our guide, Europe would be enchanting.