I roll my eyes. “Everyone,” I say. I leave a crumpled ten on the counter and start to walk out. “You forgot your can!” he calls back.
“What?” I say, turning to look at him.
He pushes it toward me. “It’s a gift,” he says. “For your project.”
I don’t know why, but I take it.
I don’t take the normal way home, on the sidewalk, past the houses. I walk along the grass next to the highway, wearing my glasses, carrying my gas can. Winner, winner, chicken dinner, I think.
“Hey Gassy.” A rusted, brown pick up slows down next to me. Two men sit in shadow in the cab of the vehicle. An arm covered in red flannel hangs limply out the window, a single finger tapping the side of the door in time with the music on the radio. I can see the outline of a baseball cap on the driver. “Want a ride?”
I poke up my middle finger, letting them know how much I want a ride.
“Don’t be like that, baby. A girl like you has to take what she can get.”
Their laughter is like fingernails on a chalkboard, the keys of a piano being pounded on by a toddler. I am the joke. The hapless fat girl who needs two strangers to give her a ride and feel her up in the smelly cab of a truck. Fuck them. I throw my bottle of orange juice at their car. Fuck the whole world for making me feel like a loser when my life has barely begun. One of them throws a can out the window—beer. It hits the ground near my feet and sprays my legs. There is a kench of laughter as they speed off, kicking up gravel a few feet ahead of me, before swerving back onto the road. The back of the truck fishtails for several seconds, then the tires cling to the tar and propel them forward. I can see two heads through the back window. Two drunken idiots polluting the planet. I wish I had the power to flip their truck before they flipped someone else’s. Life is all about allowing people choices to be who they want. But the majority of people choose to be worthless. Not me, uh uh.
I’ve never been to the ocean, never heard the waves lick the sand in that quiet shushing you read about in books. I’ve never been to the zoo, smelled the elephant piss, and heard the cries of the monkeys. I’ve never had frozen yogurt from one of those places where you pull on the handle and fill your own cup with whatever you like. I’ve never eaten dinner at a restaurant with napkins that you set on your lap and silverware that isn’t plastic. I’ve never painted my nails like the other girls at school, in bright neons and decadent reds. I’ve never been more than ten miles from home. Ten miles. It’s like I live in the forever ago, not where buses rumble and trains have tracks. I’ve never had a birthday cake, though I’ve wanted one very much. I’ve never owned a bra that is new, and had to cut the tags off with the scissors from the kitchen drawer. I’ve never been loved in a way that makes me feel as if I was supposed to be born, if only to feel loved. I’ve never, I’ve never, I’ve never. And it’s my own fault. The things that we never do because someone makes us fearful of them, or makes us believe we don’t deserve them. I want to do all my nevers—alone or with someone who matters. I don’t care. I just want to live. Nevaeh never had any of those things either—and now she never will.
I can’t stay the way I am. I don’t remember what it’s like to be free. To be wide open without fear. I need something to break me. Just enough so that I have new pieces to work with—make them into something else. I don’t want to give anyone the right to treat me like a loser. I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to live in the Bone, I don’t want to be without knowledge. I won’t be the girl who people laugh at. Not anymore. Good thing I memorized their license plate. Just in case.
A WEEK LATER, a rusted brown pickup truck sits in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. I am supposed to be buying more granola, and shampoo for my mother, but all I can do is stand on the curb and stare. The license plate matches the one in my memory. I stare into the window; it’s filthy—trash and mud everywhere, a waterlogged copy of a nudey magazine lies on the floorboards, a piece of blue gum stuck over the model’s exposed breasts.
The door is unlocked. I climb into the driver’s seat and place my hands on the wheel. It stinks of manure and stale beer. I breathe through my mouth and try to picture what goes on in a jackass’s head. Probably everything that’s littering the floors of his truck: sex, food, and beer. I bend to retrieve the magazine, paging though the pictures, flinching past spread legs, and hard, round, baseball tits. Glossy lips, parted to remind men of all the places a woman’s body can accommodate them. I tear off one page, then another. I keep tearing until the magazine is a ripped pile of tits and ass and feathered hairdos, then I scatter them across the cab of the truck. There is a hammer in a toolbox on the seat next to me. A fix it man! I pick it up, weigh it in my hand, then I swing it at the windshield.
The glass splinters straight across. I like the way it looks, so I hit it again to make sure he won’t be able to see when he drives. As an afterthought I look around to see if anyone is watching me. There is a mother a few cars away, wrestling her screaming twins into her car, but she is too distracted to notice me. I dig around the toolbox until I find a box cutter. Climbing out of the truck, I lower myself to my haunches, flipping the switch to draw out the blade. An old station wagon is to my back, and beyond that the field of lilacs. If the driver of the truck leaves Wal-Mart now, I won’t be able to see him coming. I should feel something, fear or anxiety, but I don’t. I don’t feel anything. On the side of the truck I carve the words: I DRINK AND DRIVE, AND I HAVE A SMALL DICK. When I’m finished I toss the box cutter into the back of the truck. Dusting my hands on my pants, I head into Wal-Mart to do my shopping. Until the windshield cracked, I hadn’t realized I’d been holding such a grudge. The minute the hammer hit the glass it was as if everything surged out of me all at once. Anger, so much of it. I decide that there must be more grudges hiding in me. I wonder what it would feel like to exact revenge on people.
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