ALEX – Alex has short hair and a dumpy ass and big, square framed glasses. Her dad is a drunk cop and her mother is a hoarder. Towers of board games obstruct the living room, so we take our playtime outside. Our knees are always dirty. We like the woods. Our game of choice is “Running from the Gestapo.”
We are 8, and my dad brings us along to a friend’s wedding. It is outside, by a lake. Alex and I sit by the docks, and she uses her pocket knife to shave the bark off small twigs. She tells me about her new school, how all the teachers hate her, but it’s ok: she hates them too.
Then I see the blood; on the dock, in the lake, streaming down her hand in rivulets. The top of her finger is still connected by a thin piece of skin, the aberrant finger tip flaps open and closed like gills on a fish out of water.
We run to the bathroom and stick her finger under the faucet. A woman comes out of a stall. She looks at us and says Oh, I’m sorry dear, but this is the girl’s bathroom. Alex is so so embarrassed.
ROSEANNA – At 12, I am enrolled in an out-patient program for depression and bulimia. Roseanna has tried to kill herself thirteen different times. She has made a career out of creative suicide attempts. She is seventeen and smart and stupid. I asked for a pencil she says and the idiot doctors gave it to me, so I erased all the skin on my wrist. I rubbed it raw until I bled. She is not allowed to use pencils, paperclips, tweezers, plastic forks and knives, but she is permitted access to spoons.
MICHELLE – Michelle is the worst bulimic in the out patient program. She takes ipecac and laxatives. I am nothing like her, but the doctors lump us together. Graduate students come to visit us in the program. If we talk to them, we are paid in McDonalds Dollars. I can buy fifteen cartons of french fries, so I take Alex out to lunch.
WILLOW – All the girls at my new school are bitches except for the ones who like The X-Files. There are four of them, and they wear the same necklace: a test tube with an alien in it. I sit with them at lunch.
I prefer Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because Willow and Xander are always saying such funny, irreverent things. In college, Willow ceases to be a sidekick when she becomes a lesbian witch. I love women too, and maybe, like Willow, I can be a dyke without having to actually eat pussy.
SARA – Sara drops out of school and becomes a hooker. Sara hands out lemon drops at the strip club. Lemon drops are vodka mixed with lemon juice, served in a sugar-rimmed shot glass. She doesn’t tell me about the sex, the detective tells me about the sex. He calls my house and asks me if I know where she is.
As a cheerleader, she wore three sports bras to contain her oversized breasts. She is 14.
ADELINE – Adeline is smart and cultured, and I’m lazy and into punk shows. She introduces me to Truffaut and I introduce her to Lightning Bolt.
In our drama class, there is a mandatory end of semester performance, so we pick a poem to recite together. The teacher doesn’t want to let me call myself “that nigga,” but it’s cool when Adeline says it, because she’s Haitian. Instead, I have to call myself “that negro,” which we both agree is worse.
SASHA – Sasha has long, ratty, ugly hair that she hasn’t cut for years. She is a teacher’s pet, always giving the right answer. She gets cancer, and all her hair falls out. I’m not sure what to do, because I still don’t like her.
JEMMA – Jemma Diamond is from England. She has a really serious fake tan, blonde hair, big tits and a diamond glued to her front tooth. The boys explain to me that it isn’t so much that she is attractive, but with a girl like that you can expect a perfectly groomed vagina.
ZOE – Zoe is anorexic, but she won’t admit it to herself. She’s so thin that she can see the contents of her bowels from the outside, the bits of shit lodged in her intestines make her skin protrude. She thinks that she is constipated, so she gets an enema.
The enema is a syringe filled with water. This is how it works: you’re supposed to lay on the ground, face down, ass up, and insert the water into your butthole. Then you wait until you feel “the urge to evacuate.”
I sit with her while she does this, and read her the dirty parts from The Decameron.
CARLY – Carly is my roommate and she is dropping weight. She shivers like a Whippet and drapes scarf after scarf onto her diminishing frame. She sits me down and tells me let’s play a game. We will tell each other the worst things that have happened to us. Repeated, methodical raping, for three years, starting at 14. Her father owned a Barbeque restaurant, they kept the pig carcasses hanging in a freezer. The first few times, the chef used knives and the threat of shame. After a while, she learned to meet him in there, quietly complying between the ribs and flanks and loins.