One thing my mother loved to talk about was class; how important it was to have, how much men loved it, and how scarce it had becoming. Ever since I was seven she has drilled me with the talks. When I’d ask her for clothes that I saw the girls at school wearing, like rhinestone studded bellbottoms, or T-shirts decorated with sassy sayings, she would always say the same thing. “That has no class. Put it back.” I hated her for that.
I didn’t like telling her about any of my crushes either. The ones I told her I hated were the same ones I thought I loved. I figured that was the best way to keep them safe from her suspicious eye.
“Guys will want you when you act like you don’t want them.”
“I know that already,” I told her rolling my eyes.
“As long as you know.”
Just once I wanted to be able to make a mistake and have her pity me. But she had made that almost impossible with all the constant council she volunteered. If I ever made a big mistake, there would be no pity from her, and why should there be? She had taught me everything about life and men by the time I was ten. Unlike all of my friends, I couldn’t go out, get my heart broken, then come crying home to my mother. She had made an idiot proof system. I could already hear her voice, “You should have seen the signs.” Or “You’re not stupid, you just want to be.”
I knew most of the things she said were right. I just hated that she wouldn’t let me be young. It was as if I were her crash test dummy for undoing all the shit she’d made of her own life. I wanted to scream, but instead I let it fester, the hate.
It would be a shame to die from the juice of a grape, I thought to myself that Thursday morning, my tongue weaving drunkenly around the smooth, firm purple marbles in my mouth. The juice had already made its way to my nose a few times, and I snorted in reproach, thrusting my head back violently and finding myself back on the beach so many years ago. “Just stand up”, my father was yelling to me as my head bobbed up and down under water. I could hardly hear him over the sound of my heart knocking its fists against my ribcage. “Just stand up.” It seemed simple enough, but it’s hard to think clearly when you’re drowning.
I played the obituary over and over in my head. Braden Elmsley,22, dies sucking on grapes while lying flat on her back. She was dressed for a night out, hooker heels and all, assumed to be making shapes in her mind out of the white bumps of stucco on her bedroom ceiling. Her dog will collect her earnings.
Daydreaming was an activity I thoroughly enjoyed. It was something I was never allowed to do as a child, so it’s as if all the dreams had saved themselves for when I got older.
So there I was on my black cot mattress, a planet of my own, feeling like what Noah must of felt, my only reliable companion Georgy on his pillow beside me. I felt like an old shriveled man, or maybe even a tree with countless winding lifelines inside my woody palms. Really, I was quite young, a twenty something in her supposed sexual prime, with skin that snapped fast on the back of her hands like it should, and legs that could have easily gotten her out of a speeding ticket. So why did I feel like I’d been there so long? Like I’d just been standing there, my palms upturned, waiting foolishly for rain that refused to come? The grass around me was wet, but the spot where I stood was brown with burn.
I looked over at Georgy propped up on his hind legs and reaching his paws on the bed. I was his life, his only reason for living. He got excited for no reason, wagged his tail for no reason, and was practically living for no reason, but what dog cares about his reasons for living?
Georgy whined and I turned over to reach my hand in his direction, my eyes catching a glimpse of Teddy’s box, overflowing with plastic lighters, hotel mints, and navy blue designer boxers. It smelled just like him, or like his insides would smell if he had no skin. In my eyes, the depths of his being were in that box. He probably would have asked what the hell I meant by that. I wouldn’t have lied. I would have had to admit that I didn’t know. “Your a dumb ass you know that?” He was probably right. That’s how most of our conversations ended; stuffed tightly in a box, pieces hanging, ready to erupt again at any moment. He would put me down, and underneath all my layers of defense I agreed with him.
I remembered the first time he touched me. It was my birthday. I was seventeen. We were in the kitchen of his one bedroom in Kansas. The daylight was filtering in through the blinds and making stripes on my skin. He kept petting me like a delicate flower as if I would break in his palms. New shoes. “ Your so pretty,” he used to say. I wished that he would just call me sexy or something. Whenever we fucked then I imagined pretty things like lacy drapes, flowy white linen, and the flowery tablecloths my mom had made for our dining room while Jim was out cheating. I never could understand how she did it. She didn’t drink, yell, or break expensive china against the walls; just sat there sewing her heart out, with class no doubt. It made me nauseous.