Sunbeams and Cow Manure

by Lexi Millard
(South Bend, IN, USA)

I met her years ago, at the local summer 4-H fair. I didn’t think anything of her when I first saw her. She was just the girl in the stall beside me, taking care of her cow, just like I was taking care of mine. The whole barn smelled of shit. There was hardly a moment when one of the cows wasn’t dropping manure across the hay and cement that covered the floor. I swear that smell still lingers on my skin, even now, a decade after I left my parents’ farm for the big city. I swear people still catch that hint of cow manure and know that I’m not one of them.

Still, it was only because of that experience, that upbringing as a farmgirl, that I met her. Sarah, my summer girl. I didn’t notice her until she smiled. When she did, though, it was like the sun finally came out in my life. Our parents never knew about us. They would’ve thrown us out, sent us to boarding school, sent us to Jesus Camp… whatever they could to fix us. I’d felt smothered by them for so long, like my true self was blocked out by the clouds, but I never knew what was being hidden. Sarah revealed it. Sarah and that shining smile pierced through the clouds and showed me the skies.

I haven’t spoken to Sarah since we broke up at the end of that summer. She wanted to come out to our families. I couldn’t, not yet. She came out that winter. Her parents kicked her out and I never heard from her again. I waited two more years and ran away once I was old enough. I went to the city, got a job, and came out once I was independent. I still wonder which of the two of us made the right decision, but I know that she was the sun of my life, even if she smelled like shit.

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