We sat on your stained carpet, breathing heavy and watching our bodies change with the setting sun, slowly turning gray until they exploded against the wall, before we had time to slip our pants back on and re-clip our bras. You showed me postcards of all the places you wanted to go. All the places you thought about while you sat in the back of your dads truck at the flea market, fingering paper painted in smudged lipstick, water stains, and the promise that beauty existed, somewhere, anywhere, but here. I asked to hold your hand, asked to flake the polish off your nails, but you didn’t answer. Instead you rubbed the smudges off the sunglasses lying next to us on the floor, hoping your fingers would heal their cracked frames, and if they could, maybe, just maybe, they could heal us too. It wasn’t easy, I told you, to love a girl with sunflower eyes and a metallic heart, hardened and hurt, only seconds from shattering across the bathroom floor.
We spent most of that summer at the beach, tossing our bodies through harsh waves and beaten sand. You always wore the same shorts, white and stained with sweetened cherry vodka, grime from the subway seats and your mothers pink lipstick when it grew too heavy for your mouth. I traced your tan lines at night, pretended my hands were walking through snow. We were good at kissing and I liked the way you ran your nails across my bare back beneath the tattered sheets. No one knew what we were doing, or how loud I could scream when you dared to drop your face below my belly button.
Summer ended and we wore red tights, our feet strapped into glimmering gold heels, suffocating in the only thing that made us girls. We ate cheeseburgers in prom dresses at the gas station, filled our mouths with processed beef and artificial cheese because it was easier than choking on our parent’s disappointment. Their long faces bleeding with the regret of fifteen years wasted, trying to raise daughters that would marry blue-collared men and squeeze grandbabies from their loins in an attempt to keep the earth sane. Later we bought a plastic tiara at the dollar-store, brought it home to our families and pretended we were princesses. Crowned each other by the fireplace and giggled over the memories we would pretend to have for the rest of our lives. Our mothers cooed and granted us permission to spend the night in the basements of our peers, living off of smoky kisses and cherry punch until our minds remembered that we were still alive.
When we got there you and I let our fingers roam over video game controllers with their knobby, worn-out buttons. We dug our hands into the deep grooves in the faded couch cushions, and across the stomachs of boys who spent most of their time gluing what was left of their attention to a television that spit out the vibrant colors of someone else’s mind. He was short, always wore something red, and his eyes bled with dreams, like he was searching for something in our naked bodies that he would never find. I told you that you didn’t have to follow him down the dim hallway, that you didn’t have to strip in the moonlight and drown in his wrinkled sheets. But you said you wanted to feel the way a high school girl was supposed to feel, with chewed fingernails, pink faded panties on his bedroom floor and swollen eyes, from always remembering that he’ll never want to see you with your clothes on. I slept next to you that night, ran my fingers over the scratches on your back, marks to remind me of his drooping face smothered in drugs, his yellowed eyes, his bare body on top of yours, pounding himself deep into your skin. In the morning you vomited pink. I held your hair back, yanked stray bobby pins from your mane and tossed them in the bathtub, turned the shower on and let the steam fill the room until we couldn’t breathe anymore. You lay your head on the counter and looked up at the rose-patterned curtains. Let them eat away at what was left of your imagination and drown your ideals in a pool of strawberry milkshakes, lace curtains and chiffon dresses, the kind that stain your body the color of a girl.