My friend is the kind of girl who would swallow her cigarettes whole and blow the smoke out in patchwork fumes if she could. She carries around a water bottle filled halfway with vodka and drinks in the elementary school playground when it’s closed.
She doesn’t like the swing set, so she sits down on the end of a slide, lies on her back and stares up at the sky. She has the look of the perpetually fatigued, and she’s always talking about how she’s too old to live like this.
“He had Kurt Vonnegut on his bookshelf so I fucked him.”
I laugh aloud from the sheer absurdity and take a seat down next to her on the slide. The stars are so dim and I can’t possibly understand what she’s staring at. So I smile halfheartedly and tell her, “It must’ve been hard to resist. I mean…it was Kurt Vonnegut.”
“So you understand,” she lets this line dangle in the air for a little bit. I’m half-expecting her to say something more but she doesn’t.
“So what was wrong with him?” I ask.
“Well, actually. Fuck. I don’t know…he has these shitty expectations. Not stuff he’d say aloud but like — the way he’d look at me,” she replies, “I’d curse in front of him and he’d give me this face like I’d said something so goddamn egregious. It’s like the goddamn mirror of expectations he had of me shattered when I said the word ‘fuck’ for the first time. And when I asked him if he had something to drink, he said no. I think he assumed I meant alcohol or something. Like, he didn’t even offer me a cup of water. Just no. Nothing to drink. At all.”
I hesitate for a moment and I indicate my understanding with a quiet mhmm. I know she has more to say.
“I just want to tell him — like fuck, man — I’m not your stupid manic Stepford bitch. Like, I don’t mind being around assholes, but I hate assholes who try to shove their unwanted judgment down my throat with their looks of disdain and shit,” she says, “plus, I like my curse words, and I like my drinks. So fuck it. Fuck them. Whatever. I’ll do whatever the fuck I want — and I’ll curse however much I fucking want to.”
I let this settle in for a second before I tell her, “You know what they say. Don’t judge a boy by what’s on his bookshelf.”
She pauses for a moment, the corners of her lips lifting into the faintest grin, “Nice. Were you saving that the whole time?”
“Yup,” I say, feeling pretty proud of myself. “I was honestly just waiting for the right moment. But you know what? Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be other boys out there with Vonnegut on their bookshelves, and there’ll be other boys who don’t have Vonnegut on their bookshelves. Either way, there will be boys. And some of them won’t care if you curse.”
She rolls her eyes but can’t manage to hide the small smile forming on her face.
She is the kind of girl who willfully doesn’t live in rules and conventions, who seeks out the loopholes and stakes her claim there. She has the capacity to be deeply profound, if anybody ever bothered to listen carefully enough. She just likes to live on the edge of rooftops and fly her paper planes through telephone lines and over apartment complexes. It gives this impression that she doesn’t care. She does care, but nobody ever bothers to see past the cigarettes and vodka hiding in water bottles. Why she does this, I’m not sure. Is she hiding? From what? Is the world just easier this way?
We sit in silence and I’m trying to find something in the sky to look at, but the lights in the park are too bright and I can’t see anything past the dark blues and indigos. I glance at her and she’s staring off into oblivion with this doe-eyed look on her face like she’s seeing the sky for the first time in her life. I guess, to her, she’s just watching the world fade away on a Friday night.