It begins like this:
Five weeks into twenty, she broke a little bit. No one knew why or cared to know why, but in October she was fine and funny and in November, she was not. The fall of her discontent dissolved into the winter and there were her parents, hovering over her hangover as she tried to wake at noon in the cinder-blocked dorm room where they had come to claim her. They huffed disappointment while she stuffed what she liked into black plastic trash bags. Together they split, just as she had wanted – quickly and without goodbyes to anyone she knew. She slunk into the back seat of her parents’ car, sunk so low her eyes lay just above the lock on the door. She popped a tic-tac. Straightened up when they hit the highway. It was a new day like the old one.
Or maybe like this:
Five weeks into twenty, she helped him rob his first convenience store. She wore what he said, she did what he said, but when they got there and started the thing, she became her own bad ass, her very own bad ass. She could feel him watching her focus while on fire and shouting out her orders, and she knew he would love her at last. They would run off together to – where? anywhere they wanted! – but a few days later, all the lame loot drunk and pissed out in his cave, he retreated like always. She was alone again. She leapt into her parents’ car right on time, all mock school-break joy, her chin up high enough not to look into the eyes of anyone. She was resilient and sunshiny perfection for them and she was guilty and broken and would never return.
It could begin this way:
Five weeks into twenty, she left school out of boredom. She was not the smartest or the prettiest or the funniest and it was dull to be so plain or to be considered so plain and it made everything else so plain: the way she talked, how she rode her bike, her face in the mirror, everyone else’s face and also, everything everyone else said or did. Her arrogant stupidity was not lost on her; instead, it crawled around her like a parasite she swallowed on purpose. (You make your crosses, she thought, so you should carry them.) She quietly helped her parents pack her records into old milk crates and her clothes into new duffle bags and she slipped away into the back seat of their car, saw their confused faces looking back at her in the mirror, put her headphones on, never pressed play, weakly smiled for them, and gave up.
It ends only this way, at last:
Twenty-five weeks into twenty, she stands in a phone booth wedged between two oily snow banks in a turn-around for trucks. She wears a striped cotton glove on her smoking hand -- she needs the flexibility of fingers; her other hand is goose-downed and mittened and holding the tethered phone. She stamps snow from her giant boots and crosses her legs against the cold and also against the need to pee. She waits on a ring and then another. He answers and just from the sound of his hello, she knows who he is today – a relief! She will snuff out her cigarette, stuff her cotton-gloved hand into her pocket, button down for the long haul of talking to him, of listening to him mostly -- he'll unleash his tainted gifts for her tonight. She will listen to his big ideas about writers and Mexico and fate and piracy and cops and also old songs her father likes. She will listen to his fierce willingness to love her now. Right now. This minute, he will love her so poetically, that she will hang on to the phone like a rope he can't have and eyeball the scummy truckers who dare to take her booth, take him away from her. Tomorrow? The next day? She suffers the chill and clenches her legs -- she can wait it out because she knows this won’t last, that he won’t last. Tomorrow, she will use an indoor phone and neatly plan her escape to reality, to exams again and cinder block and beer in pitchers. His agony will remain unrelenting, unknowable, unattainable and real.
She wasted so much time making up hers.