While trying to figure out something to write about tonight, I came across a short story I wrote during my freshman year of college, about nine years ago (god, I’m old). It’s very autobiographical (snerk), but written in hardcore teen angst language (hee!). And oh, how it brought back memories. And made me laugh. Out loud. Check it out, if you dare… (By the way, to maintain authenticity I didn’t edit anything. This is exactly as I found it.)

 

The girl is working her way through a pack of Camel Special Lights, lighting each one with a clear green plastic lighter. She catches the sunlight through the plastic and reflects it on the back of her hand. He smokes Basics, because they’re cheaper, and watches every move the girl makes, noticing that she rarely raises her eyesight off of the ground, that she curls around herself like a shy child. This observation stops him for a moment, not because what he sees surprises him, but because he’s known her since the beginning of high school, almost five years now, and was never really sober enough to notice. After dropping out of high school, an ulcer and a significant hospital stay ended his drinking, and now, now he notices things. It’s a new sensation and it still catches him by surprise at times.

The girl walks back and forth across the width of the narrow driveway, running her fingers along the garage door, trying to keep them in the same paths she created in the dust during previous circuits. He sits on the dry grass lining the driveway, unlacing the skates sticking out of the ragged bottoms of his jeans. He’s watching her pace.

“I hate it when you do that. Just sit down already.” She smiles, pleased that he’s noticed her pacing before, and sits on the grass next to him. She sits not so close as to seem overly-eager, but near enough to encourage more conversation.

“You hungry? You haven’t eaten shit all week,” he says. She pulls blades of grass out of the ground and lights them on fire with her lighter; each dry blade explodes into a tiny flame before immediately snuffing out. She shakes her head no and he shrugs, stands up and walks towards the house. “If you get hungry, help yourself to whatever in the kitchen,” he calls over his shoulder.

She continues pulling blades of grass, wishing she could tell him that she can’t eat if she isn’t comfortable, that she’s been walking to the gas station in the mornings to buy crackers and candy bars with money she got from selling her CDs.

* * *

She sits on a full-sized mattress on the floor, thighs drawn to her chest, chin tucked in the rift formed between her knees. The blankets have been rolled up and tossed on the couch, since the heavy nighttime air that’s sifting through the rain and through the window was making the wool prickly against the backs of her bare thighs. The boy’s parents let him build this shed in their backyard four months ago, when, within a week it seemed, the naked tree branches exploded outward in green pods and shoots, signaling to them that it would soon be warm enough to sleep outside.

The building project had been fun, for her at least. She had spent the warm spring days sitting in a lawn chair, watching the boy and his friends drinking out of Mt. Dew bottles and hammering together wood, randomly as far as she could tell. They didn’t have a drawn plan while building, just the idea of three walls and a roof of sorts; the fourth wall would be provided by the side of the garage. She had felt like a mascot, even though she had known most of those boys for a long time. She now lives in the shed.

He’s lying on the concrete floor, body perpendicular to the mattress, resting his head on her feet. She mistakes the tickling of his hair for ants and twitches her feet beneath his head. He reaches one hand back, and flicks the side of her left foot with his thumb, like he’s flicking a cigarette butt into the molding leaf piles that line the streets. She twitches her foot again and jokingly whines at him to stop it, that it tickles.

He stands up and drops the cigarette in the Coke can they’ve been using as an ashtray. She can hear the momentary sizzle as it hits the damp ashes collected in the bottom. He reaches out a hand to muss her hair, like she’s his little sister, as she tries to look annoyed. He laughs and leaves the shed.

She spends the rest of the night, like the night before, and the one before that, lying on the mattress, smoking and playing Street Fighter Two on his obsolete Super Nintendo, battling with the buttons that stick from pop being spilled on the controllers. Every time she hears a noise outside of the shed, she sits up, trying to look like she’s engrossed with the game and not vigilantly listening for him to return.

* * *

She awakes to the afternoon sun surging through the window and submerging the mattress in heat. The dirt that has collected in the spade-shaped grooves sewn into the surface of the mattress sticks to the sweat layered on her skin and gets caught in her damp hair.

She walks into his parent’s house, listening for the sounds of movement that would suggest that someone else was there, and is relieved when she hears none. She doesn’t like the looks his parents give her, like she’s a poor, troubled soul they’re trying to save. She had been kicked out of her own house after another fight with her mother, but she doesn’t feel troubled, and she doesn’t want to be saved.

The cooled air immediately evaporates the sweat, leaving the dirt dry and imprinted on her skin, only to come dusting off with every move. She walks into the living room and sees him lying on the couch, asleep, slightly shivering beneath his thin blue t-shirt in the air-conditioned room. She leaves him asleep in the living room to take a shower and walk to the gas station before he wakes.

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