describe how each high school year by semester went for you
9th grade: We don’t call it a play date anymore, it is hanging out, hanging by our toes like wet lipped fruit bats, like jungle gym monkey kids. Young and swollen. Blood, immature blood, pink blood, fresh meat blood pepto bismol up the wazoo, and spit under my bed. Code names aren’t for spies, they’re for 14 year old girls with googley eyes, not that we needed them. Kevin and Grace, Ellie and Joshua, Paloma and Matt which is weird because I’m hot for him, and they kinda look like siblings. Pink shorts, black tights, Jimmy Eat World, pizza bagels and lucky charms under a fresh white linen morning like detergent sealed crust between my eyelids, you tore them open. I mean, not yet. But soon. I discover neon sex scenes, Sky Ferreira, and Skins and this is where the final hopscotch box stops; at the end of the subway platform. This is where I’m supposed to jump. Monkey balls fall on our heads as we walk home, and autumn leaves crunch like drum line snare beats. All godless girls with snakes and cherry lollipops and 9 millimeters pointed at our clits, Bend it Like Beckham under your itchy wool blankets, Alice’s mom thinks I’m cool, and I stay for dinner and crack some risky jokes like a fox among wolves. (I think he looks at me when I look away). Me and Hana FaceTime I take screenshots of her dancing with her cat. The girls who play soft ball in short shorts, the girls who call them sluts, the boys who watch. We dance through rainbows in the sprinklers on the way to the Homecoming dance and pretend we don’t care we don’t have dates. We’re floating in the cytoplasm, floating on the cotton candy overdose cause our parents drop us off at the bowling alley but we are too loyal to sneak out the back. We pool our money every Friday after school for the spring break road trip we’re going on when Hana gets a car, and one of us has lost our virginity, and none of us are scared of the dark.
Miss Budd yelled at me for not standing for the pledge of allegiance, and I was 4 years old again. My English teacher held me back, and held my hand, and gave me a safety pin for my missing button, and told me it would be. Okay.
10th grade: We were on the news that year. Cristo’s curls on KTLA, solemn, and not the boy cross eyed and high with his pants around his ankles. Suddenly we’re all standing up straight, suddenly we’re being told we can’t wear leggings because somebody posted a video of Penelope having sex with Max on Facebook. Suddenly we’re underground in the girls locker room (red varsity knee socks, Dina drowning the spider nests with Victoria’s Secret rose perfume, humid with shame and lesbian suspicion) holding our arms in front of our naked breasts, single file like ants for the syphilis test. The boys who drew penises in fire and salt on the soccer field grass, like druid frat boys, but not the boys who put gorilla glue in the classroom locks, and not the boys who wrote their hit list in the red pen on the back of Mr. Chan’s syllabus and ended up in court, who called in a bomb threat, just to get the test pushed back. We all took turns getting our ghosts exorcized in the principals office. It was pompeii and pandemonium, and nobody was safe, not even us girls sleeping wrapped in the dust of library encyclopedias. You moved away from me like I was illiciting the restless black dreams on your grandmas shitty air mattress. The sheets are clean enough, but this attic is haunted, you keep waking up in the middle of the night to your body sinking like a pirate ship caught by the Kraken, the floor gnawing at your bones again so you just. Got up. And slept somewhere else. My English teacher held me back, and told me I was a good writer but don’t be so angry, and I cried right there, and she gave me a kleenex from her Shakespeare tissue holder and I blew this stupid pain head first out of my nose. I never told you about that. Maybe if I had you would’ve felt bad for me and stayed a little longer. But you hung out with those buckwild kids under the spot by the willow tree, and it was easy. it was just snuffing out an annoyance. A mosquito licking the ruby of your earrings that you shooed away. Our birthstones were both rubies, you know, we were twin cancers with balmy skin and busted appendixes, the aliens took you once and the only explanation was a scar on your spine, and I reckon I should’ve known they’d come back for you.
(You are gonna tell your kids about these cherry cola years of golden suburbia, and midnight blue debauchery snapping teenage knees, and furrow your brow forgetting the name of the girl you spent the first two calling your best friend.) You cheered at football games. You got drunk with them at night, and you were bursting and missing teeth like a watermelon smile, you rubbed up against each other like cats they touched you in all the right places and you didn’t text me anymore. You went to sleepovers and posted photos on Instagram, I wasn’t invited, I thought this bullshit was supposed to stop happening in elementary school. All the things we thought would never happen, lockdown drills, fire drills, earthquake drills and we still weren’t prepared. It was. Pandemonium. It was. Chemical fires in Mr. Dow’s science class. And me and my plans were just. so fucking boring standing next to your cherry blossom hurricane. You didn’t wait for me after class anymore and I just. Looked so stupid trying to catch up. Blood, mature blood, cows blood in the manure for the roses to eat. Black blood, like storm sky, I dish out this milkshake I pick the scab and I lick the blood away. Thomas comes out and dubs himself the gay cliche, we walk home together on the yellow brick road, and we pray a tornado will land the school library on our corpses so we can die with those sparkly shoes on. Those ruby shoes on. The Fates gagged me with a pack of jolly ranchers. I got straight A’s while Rome was falling. Nobody has ever made me feel so small.
11th grade: New school. The kids talk different here. Depression in California is like getting a cold in mid-July. So ironic it’s almost insulting. I’m pretty sure it was raining all year, but don’t count on it, I lived sub-terrestrialy with my mothers tulip bulbs. Today’s Wednesday? I thought it was Friday? I thought yesterday was Sunday? Depression in California is like running after a rabbit in the woods. It doesn’t matter how sunny it is, you will suddenly look up and it’s night, and the trees are not your friends, even when they are as skinny and shaky as you. You will get stuck in the swamp, leave your shoes behind, and not even remember why you were out here in the first place.
Headache. Stomach ache. Lots of those, those are easy to fake. Menstrual cramps, vomiting, gut wrenching, kinda vomiting. A personal favorite. I got to get my hands dirty for that one, I got to reach for the gag reflex like a remote control and press fast forward and feel my arc capsizing, until the static buzzed and I was pale like southern gothic tragedy, I’m not bulimic I just don’t wanna go to school. Depression in California is like an abandoned zoo. Everything echoing animal shrieks. They set them free but the cages were empty long before that. I make some friends, nice ones who laugh at my jokes, and I feel like I should get a sticker for it, but I do more nervous shaking than laughing.
Depression in California is like a badly maintenanced carnival. We’ve gone around the ferris wheel 8 times now and nobody seems to notice. The cotton candy polluting my blood, running slow and globby while the kids below spin, the kids drop, the kids could die, but they just giggle hand in hand with smiling clowns who pump them full of teeth rotting sweets, the winking lights are blurry this far away, and it feels like eons before we’ll get back to the bottom. I’m out of tokens. I think I’m just gonna jump.
12th grade: Trump won. I think I might like girls. My dad jokes about his own death so I know what it means to be angry now, like femurs forged from the goddamn ring of Isildur. Is this what’s normal now? Fucking boys who are oil slick and easy living, and lose my socks in their dorm rooms? Meet them for diner food and xans on the weekend, and everything just temporary? Is that just what everybody wants now? My brother got a green card marriage, but I guess he loves her for real now. We watch the Walking Dead until the streetlights glaze over our eyes, he asks me if I have a boyfriend, no. If I’ve had any since I last saw him, no. If no is my favorite word, yes. Thing is I’ve never been anyone’s girl cause I’ve got a volcano where I should have a stomach. I know what it is to live on the red planet. But I ignore all that and go to concerts that bleed beer and swoon for boys who drink the blood. I guess we’re used to falling off of things so we do it on purpose now. It’s not over but I know how it’s gonna end. Cracked skull, and police lights. And to the break of dawn on Brandon’s roof, boxers stained with mayonnaise, and Deadpool is probably his favorite movie or some dumb white boy shit like that. I’m not gonna cry when I leave for college, I’m gonna cry at the car rental watching the sun bleed out on the trees. I’m gonna cry in the knothole of an oak tree, hiding from the freshman mixer party in the woods I knew I shouldn’t have come to once the social anxiety starts clawing up soaked in the gallon of strawberry Crush I downed to calm myself down. You know, in some other parallel universe, my parents never divorced and we dispute where the sugar pantry should be at inopportune times, and I don’t straight jacket myself with the echoplex sound of my mother screaming over my dead body just to not inhale the chlorox under the sink. I was so bloody, I just wanted to be clean.
I thought it was like the 80’s, the rusty exhaust pipe of Matt’s car turning the snow black while he’s wasting time daydreaming of my piston pumping sloppy hips, and rumored things that happen in the backseat, and kicking cans in no particular direction, and first love sticky and first love stabbed into your kidney and you never really recover. I thought it was sixteen candles, and say anything, but it’s getting bloodshot squirrelly smoking hash in the disabled bathroom stall. It’s a personality disorder grown up from the ground like a mushroom that is poison to the touch, and thrown away birthday presents, and valentines day balloons stuck in the trees. It’s dropping the last slice of college acceptance celebration cake on the floor for your dogs breakfast, and cartoon rain puddles for eyes talking about how scary it is to drive on the freeway. Karina and Maddie rough housing like pit bulls in fifth period cause we don’t do shit in that class and pretending that we are not all gonna be strangers in 6 weeks before we. Before we. Please don’t make me say it out loud.
My English teacher held me back, and told me to make up the quiz I missed, and that was the only time I will ever be happy that some strangers just stay that way. And Daddy, I will miss you when you leave me, and Daddy I will meet you in the next life you just gotta wait for me ok?
I am not the kind of girl people have crushes on. I am the kind of girl who can survive 18 stealing food from parties, couch surfing, living like a lightning bolt. There one minute, and gone the next.