The only living girl in America Nine years old and my favorite daydream is the one where everyone’s vanished. I’m old enough for a license and I drive across abandoned America: ignore speed limits, break into houses, rummage drawers and sleep in the queen-sized beds of strangers. This is what I thought about while the well-adjusted girls planned their weddings. I never imagined myself with a faceless groom and a white dress but I remember the woman I did not grow up to be: long light-colored hair, muscular arms and either a dusty red pickup or one of those low, squared-off cars the old movie stars emerged from at premieres— only I am at a filling station in the desert, watching the sun set, secure in the selfish knowledge that the whole country is mine. impossible futures there is a way back & there is not. the swans in the mill pond have abandoned their nest again, second straight year, reeds twisting tighter every day around the lack they left behind. my mother watches me scramble down the point, peer across the water into a tangle of dead kindling. she wants me to tell her a miracle, fluffed signets in a crunch of shell, but i can’t see anything, and i can’t lie. Time Machine I’m sorry, everyone and especially mom, but I would not kill Hitler first. I’d go pick myself up from the seventh grade and I’d take us to see Bikini Kill in 1993. I’d get her some zines and a homemade t-shirt and we’d stand in the front, let the boys stare at the sweat on the backs of our necks. Let my seventh-grade self know that nothing comes between her and what she likes, especially not men, let the drums and bass and guitar and Kathleen Hanna’s voice be a clatter of tin cans between the bedrooms of all the girls who felt like us but weren’t telling. Let her know that her body is a drum kit with the right to crash and beat and bang, that she can add as many Rs as she wants to her own angry name. Rabid Raccoon, Prescott Quad, November ‘07 So cold I couldn’t smoke a cigarette without alternating hands, shoving one and then the other into the relative warmth of the pocket of my jeans. We ran inside for thicker jackets, heard a scuffle and rocks hitting the wall; Sean said it chased him and then darted for the woods. What did you expect, we asked, who was that waving a lighter in its face—when a girl ran down the path toward us, messenger bag flying behind her. You won’t believe what just happened! she squeaked, and we all made a second of eye contact before I said Got chased? Raccoon? She smiled weakly, walked off into the night. A year later, when I heard she’d killed herself out west, all I could think of was the cop we called, how long he took to get there, how he shone his flashlight around for a minute and told us not to worry about anything. Assembly Line for Grief It’s almost all automatic now, but there are still a few people hard at work putting together your grief. For example, Rosa makes sure the wheels are on right and Henry does all the fussy details in the paint, the tiny lettering and scrollwork that need a human touch. Alberta adds the flashing lights that signal when your grief is becoming overwhelming, or fading out like a Polaroid left in the sun. You wouldn’t want a robot in charge of calibrating that; grief has its own specialized mechanics that have nothing to do with metal and gears and Alberta, who has buried a husband, two children, and six dogs, understands those subtleties better than anyone else at the plant.
February 10, 2015