It’s completely silent except for the smooth inhaling noise of her lungs. She’s drenched with the hot smell of Marlboros; it tickles her nostrils as it bear-hugs her natural body scent with a smokier scent of perfume. The clouds swirl around in her lungs, in her mind, in her very breath, and she relaxes finally—just a little bit—and allows the haze to blur out everything she’s ever wanted to forget, and everything she wishes she could remember but has to sacrifice in the long run. She exhales.
It was such a relief to exhale everything away in the form of a cigarette.
Her exhaust suicide is blown away with the breeze; it escapes along with her collectedness, and seemingly out of nowhere she becomes hysterical. Calm down, calm down! she shrieks at herself, but she can’t control the crying, no, she can’t control anything, she is powerless, weak, and her tears won’t end.
But this has to. How much longer can she live like this? How much longer can she bottle it all up inside, till it burns and uncorks and drips down her throat, like the bottles of Smirnoff snoring softly under her mattress. Empty; they’re all empty. So is she, unless she uncorks it in shot glass that has no bottom. Sometimes she relates and talks to the shot glass; unexpectedly they have so much in common—they both have something poured into them that never ends.
She’s feeling the nicotine buzzing inside her head and her ears. She hasn’t felt the nicotine hit in a while but it’s been a while since she smoked a whole pack within 5 minutes. The nicotine’s hitting, and the girl’s just glad it’s not her mom. Nicotine never left handprints when it hit.
The sun is beginning to set, and she watches as the sky paints itself with different colors. She gazes and lazily lifts the cigarette to her lips. The sun begins to sit, lowering its bottom into the water cautiously. As the ocean begins to brush its seat the sky starts to shiver into twilight; but still the sun continues to lower itself into the ocean, and the water licks its backside.
She inhales again, watching from her perch on the beach tower’s ramp as the sun drowns itself steadily. This had always been her favorite time of the day; the time between twilight and sunset, right before the sun commits full suicide into the ocean. She admires colors bleeding like runny paint across God’s canvas.
God. Haha. What a joke. She takes her eyes away from the bruising sky for a minute to laugh at the concept of God, or maybe she laughs just to mock Him. He mocks her, after all. He’s a joke. So is her life.
“My life has been one big joke
A dance that's walked
A song that's spoke
I laugh so hard I almost choke
When I think about myself."
The sky bruised darker with the coming night. She kept thinking how beautiful it was, until she leaned back further on her arms. She flinched, and rolled up her sleeves to her elbows. Her arms were the same color as the sky. She decided she didn’t like the sky anymore.
The waves were smacking the tide’s hands lightly against the cheek of the shore. The ocean was aglow in painful, beautiful, and painfully beautiful colors that reached out to include the girl in their familiar radiance. She sighed as she breathed in the slightly too refreshing chill of the ocean breeze, as she heard the slowly dying sound of pedestrians fade away.
She turned to watch them for a moment; the tired families with the exhausted looking parents and the sunburned, grumpy, and completely satisfied little children; the aged walkers in their jog suits, chatting with a “running” buddy of the same slow intensity, discussing taxes and gossip often with a coffee cup steaming in their hand; the spandex-clad bikers with their fly goggles and alien helmets, speeding to finish a race that only they are biking in; and finally, her very favorite—the runners.
Not the middle-aged Juicy-decked mothers with their tiny Chihuahuas and headphone wires streaming out the sides of their heads like earwax fountains; not the strolling elderly couples, though the girl enjoyed watching their sweet and funny walks, especially when it was very obvious they had been in love for longer than she had been alive. But her favorite, her very favorite were the runners; REAL runners, sometimes with a nice sturdy dog at their side, sometimes with nothing but an Ipod to keep their fast-blurring running shoes company. She loved seeing their sweat stains gently spread like a sunset across their shorts and tanks, through their sports bras and sweat bands. She thrived as they reach their runner’s high—she felt every satisfying aching moment with them, every stretch and ache of their muscles, every grunt and pant she breathed with them; she, too, escaped in running.
But she didn’t look at them for very long. She didn’t dare, and to be completely honest, she was SICK of running. That’s all she ever did, and she wasn’t thinking of the times when she pushed her body to its speed limit and gasped in blissful agony up hills. She ran from her problems, from her addictions, from her past, secrets, and shame. She was a runner to the core, but she took her gift and abused it in her escape acts; in the drugs she used to blind reality, in the drinks she threw down her throat to blur it. She stole, searching for the item that would fill the void she didn’t recognize; she threw-up to control a chaos within herself, because she couldn’t control anything else–and she cut. She cut to feel something other than the flood drowning her dry eyes. She cut to feel something, anything at all.
She couldn’t keep doing this and expect to live very long. But she hadn’t really expected to live really long, and frankly at the quality of life she had for herself, she really didn’t want to. It was tiring, more tiring than any race on a track; this race that masqueraded the joke she claimed was her life was exhausting, and tonight was simply another fatigue for her to wake up the next day sore. She was tired of being sore; she was tired of waking up either hung-over or still fucked up because she couldn’t handle the bluntness of her truth without a blunt, or the bluntness of the blows. Another benefit of the being a druggie was that her body was rarely in the natural state of feeling. She was numb, inside and out. The numbness made it much easier to deal with the bruises and cuts in the mornings.
Mornings were the worst, the girl thought coldly as the sky cloaked itself in darker robes. Mornings brought the truth out into painful, bright sunshine; there was no covering up under morning rays. Not to mention the hangovers, the lack of sleep…and God, she hated dragging herself into that hellhole people call high school. It was one thing to escape her problems, to ignore the fact her family was a dysfunctional mess of psychos (including herself); it was another thing to hide that from people who put down a girl for wearing something slightly unflattering, every day. Every morning.
Well, she WAS a runner. She found her way out of that too– she stopped attending school, or went wasted out of her mind. She was tired of being called to the office every damn day; of seeing those goddamn counselors with their goddamn invites to, “Talk to us, sweetheart, we’re here to help you.” Talk? She didn’t want to talk after the social workers had come to interrogate her and her family. She didn’t want to be separated from the hell that burned in her home every day and night. For her family to be ruined, for her to be blamed...to feel that guilt? For the downfall of her family's non-existent hope of second chances? No. She would not be responsible. There could be worse situations; she had had a taste before. At least she had a nice house, money, a beautiful privileged life, and a few real friends. Everything was picture perfect, in the house that imitated a home.
But she wouldn’t talk. That was the last thing she would do; she’d lie, cheat, steal, drink, shoot up; she’d pretend, fake, and smile till her teeth hurt from being exposed so much in such false facial expressions.
The therapists tried to make her talk. The psych wards, the cops, the teachers, and even her parents. That was the saddest part of all…that her parents couldn’t, simply WOULDN’T understand why she was such a failure. Why she self-sabotaged herself into societal suicide. Why she committed suicide, they never understood the real attempts either.
How could they? When her papa worked all the time, as far away as possible from her mother. She hated him for it, yet she couldn’t genuinely. After all, wouldn’t she do the same damn thing if she could to avoid her mother? And she wasn’t even married to her.
But she could hate him for contributing to the fights and bitter violence of her childhood years. She could hate him for the screams and miserable car rides forced when they had their every-other-week “family time”. She could hate him for escaping so well; not only from her mother, but from being a father to her and her brother. She could hate him for that. And she did.
As for her mother, she had completely denied her husband’s path in choice and action, as usual. Her mother’s choice of coping mechanism was her papa’s opposite; her mother’s choice of anything usually was her papa's opposite. God, she was scared of her mom. She was scared of how much she hated her, and how much she yearned for her approval. She hated how as cold as the girl could pretend to be, her tears still came late at night, hotter than hell itself. But she knew this inferno vision of hell was inaccurate. After all, her house thermostat was set at perfect (of course) 73 degrees.
But her mother reigned over this beautifully climated dark kingdom. She was the anti-Christ, but her mother was the anti-God. Her mother threw her life into her children as suicidally as though she had thrown herself off a cliff. Her father threw away his children for the office. The girl’s mother obnoxiously demanded perfection with the vocal chords to match, where on the other hand, her father demanded invisibility with complete silence. Her mother abused her physically while her papa beat the shit out of her in other, less visibly obvious ways.
The girl hated them both. She hated the bruises speckling her body. She hated her constant, secret, and burning longing to be held tightly, as much as she hated the desperate wish she had for her family to be something close to happy. She hated that her little brother blamed her for all the problems in their dysfunctional family. She despised the fact they were so disgustingly perfect– that SHE was so disgustingly fake to the eyes of the world; she smiled, curtsied, shined, and partied away her troubles into oblivion. And she did it well. Her life was a daily rehearsal, and no matter how much she ran, she couldn't avoid practice.
Practice makes perfect; she knew that. She knew that if she kept going the way she was, she, too, would practice and fade into oblivion.
She decided she didn’t think she cared.
The girl turned her thin face with the cut lip and slightly swollen eye toward the horizon to net the last wound-colored rays of light with her cheekbones. The sun drowned completely. The water swallowed it with a satisfied gulp, and the world became a little colder, a little more empty.
The sun had left to where she couldn’t follow. For a few frightening moments, the girl contemplated trying to follow it anyway– after all, she didn’t think she cared.
The thought passed with the passing sound of teenagers laughing loudly above the rap music in a speeding car. She sighed softly, exhaled deeply one last time, and flicked her cigarette away till it smoldered under the lifeguard tower. She wouldn’t follow the sunset tonight– but that didn’t exclude tomorrow.
There is no chance in tomorrow, the girl thought slowly, concluding her 15 minute smoke break with a slight wince as she stood. Her feet went to bury in the sand, as she tucked away her feelings and buried them in the coldest part of her heart. The beach was cold. So was she.
Slowly, she gathered her trash, dumped it into the nearest bin, and slowly left the ocean and sky to limp a trail of footprints in the deadening sand.