Mari Romero snapchatted a frowny-faced selfie to her friend Deanna in San Diego and received in return, five minutes later, a selfie of Deanna holding her hand like she was shooting herself in the head with a gun.
Mari texted Deanna, “dont kill yourself bitch. movie saturday???”
Mari examined the dirty soles of her feet. Very dumb feet, Mari thought. She looked at her pointy elbows. Terrible elbows. Her quasi-unibrow. Gross. And God, her pimply forehead. And those bony fingers. Skeleton hands. Stringy hair. Elf ears. Beady dark eyes. Lumpy shoulders. Stick legs. Tiny breasts. Nonexistent ass. Oily, pimply, scrawny, dark-eyed, elven skeleton girl. Useless.
Mari tweeted, “i wanna listen to Lou Reed with you but you don’t exist.”
Mari shifted her legs to try to get comfortable. Her ass hurt. She stood up. She felt the blood in her legs. Walked around. This is a very dumb room, she thought. Mari examined the shitty poster on her wall. “I hate you, Ty Segall,” she said. “Just kidding, I love you.”
There was a pink beanbag in the corner of the room. Mari got down in a crouch and assumed her trackstar stance. “Fire the gun, Pepé,” she said. Pepé was the guy who shot the starter pistol. Her legs tensed up. This was an important race, perhaps the most important one of all. “Pepé, I said fire the gun.” Pepé was trying to be cute by not firing the gun. Pepé fired the gun. Mari ran, half-skidding, her bare feet sliding across the floor. She stopped short before the beanbag and dove headfirst into the soft pink. “Yessss.” She had won the race. Even Pepé was impressed.
Mari walked back to her computer. She remembered what she was going to do earlier. She posted the video for Twin Sister “Kimmi in a Rice Field” on her Facebook wall.
Mari wrote above the video, “does anyone have a giant bag of rice they can pour all over me? like i’ll lie down on the floor and you stand above me on a chair pouring rice on me until i slump over and i’m covered in rice. ok.”
Mari lay facedown on her bed for two minutes, then leaped to her feet and felt dizzy and staggered around lightheaded. She punched the air. She dropped to her knees and crawled for a few feet. Sore knees. She did six jumping jacks. Touched her toes. Mari walked back to the computer. She sat cross-legged on the wood floor in front of the laptop. No new emails. Green and red and orange names on gchat. But she didn’t feel motivated to chat anyone. Where was Deanna?
Mari emailed Deanna.
where are you right now?!?! i’m dying of inattention. pretty soon i will disown you as a friend and ride my bike through a third-story window. what is your favorite lou reed song? right now mine is “street hassle.” if you don’t love that song you are fucking stupid. i have never emailed you before. this is a momentous occasion. let us pray. deanna. i want to tell you something. that time when you took groucho for a walk and you asked me if you smelled like stanky ass dog and i said no, it was a lie. you totally smelled like dog. in fact, 2 out of 3 times i see you you reek of dog. please take more showers.
yr friend in hell,
Mari sighed and smiled a little as she leaned back against her bed. She leaned forward and opened a tab, typed in “youtube,” then “lou reed street hassle.” She clicked on “complete music video.”
Mari liked the part where the man and the woman kiss in black and white. Well really she liked it all.
It was time for a bath. Mari lifted her shirt over her head and pulled off her pants.
Walking on the wood floor Mari could feel each bone in her foot and every nerve ending going up her leg. There were so many bones and nerves and muscles and so much blood running through those thick, gross veins. She felt a little sick.
In the hallway to the bathroom there was a dullness in her ear like during plane takeoff. She felt the ends of her curly, dark hair on her shoulders. It was so long. When was a good time to cut it?
In the bathroom next to the toilet was a claw-footed ivory tub. The perfect size to hold her. She sat on the toilet, more because it was relaxing than because she needed to go. She turned on the hot water and felt it with her hand. Too hot. She turned on cold water. Getting better. When it was a nice temperature, she let it fill up a ways, took off her underwear, stood up, and got in the tub.
Lying in the tub under warm water Mari began to drift into her thoughts. She remembered telling Deanna how she didn’t believe in things happening one after another. For example, Deanna and her becoming friends was not an event with a specific date and time. They had always been friends. She felt a little silly trying to explain it to people.
But she could admit there had been a first time her and Deanna really hung out, if you wanted to be all chronological about it. They had had two classes together and mutual Facebook friends and started chatting one day.
Mari: You are pretty omg
Deanna: No you are. wtf are you talking about
Mari: Mr. Kuchowski looks like he has a small bent penis
Deanna: Mr. Kuchowski looked at my tits once i think. i glared at him
Mari: Mr. Kuchowski is a small depraved man with a weird penis
Deanna: what are you doing this weekend. my parents are dumb but you can come over
Mari: ok that could be cool
Mari slept over at Deanna’s that weekend. They stayed up late talking under covers, Deanna in her bed, Mari in the sleeping bag on the floor. Sometimes there was a nice silence.
They played a game: creep outside the room down the hallway to the far set of stairs and back without waking up Deanna’s parents or brother. It felt exciting walking stealthily barefoot on carpet. Mari imagined the family breathing somewhere nearby, the peaceful steady lift and fall of their pale chests.
After a few rounds they decided this time they would do it with their clothes off.
Deanna went first, and Mari heard her step over her, then out, and footsteps hurrying back in. Now it was Mari’s turn.
Lying in her sleeping bag Mari reached down to tug at her boxer shorts. Removed, she felt the lining’s soft flannel cotton. Timidly she raised her t-shirt slowly off her chest and over her head and hair. Outside it had gotten darker. Harder to see and the carpet beneath tougher. She jogged on her tippy toes to the end of the hall, the stairs, and back to Deanna’s door. She could feel her heart there in her chest.
Walking in she saw a nightlight turned on and Deanna there propped up on her elbow. “Hey, turn that off!” Mari said. She crossed her arms over her breasts, dropped to her knees, and burrowed back into the warm closeness of the sleeping bag.
Mari lay in the tub. The suds lapped at her skin. She could feel herself becoming perfectly still.
I am going for a walk, Mari decided.
Where am I walking, she wondered.
She wasn’t sure where there was to go.
She took the key from the cupboard and walked out the front door. The porch’s wood was all chipped. She slipped her foot out of her ballet flat to feel its warm.
Deanna was calling. Mari slapped the phone to her ear.
“Fritz! It’s Winston.”
“What’s up, Fritz? What are your coordinates? No for real though, Fritz. Are we going to a movie this weekend? I wanna see Damsels In Distress!”
“Is that out yet?”
“Yes it’s out yet, dumbass. It’s been out for like two weeks now.”
“Well, we should totally go see it!”
“That is correct! OK, so. Also.”
“Have you decided where you’re going to college?”
“I have lots of time to decide. Stop pressuring me.”
“Fritz. College. This is an effing momentous decision. Don’t mess up.” Mari rested her hand on her hip as if she were trying out a new posture she had seen others do and wondered if she could do herself.
“Fuck college. Let’s not go to college.”
“That’s not even an option. Go to Sarah Lawrence with me.”
“Mari. I might do that. But also, I might not do that and just see you on weekends sometimes.”
“This is insanity. We were meant to be roommates. We were meant to be Sarah Lawrence girls.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? ‘Sarah Lawrence girls’?”
“Yeah, I know, I know. I mean, I wouldn’t like go around introducing myself as that.”
“What will you ever do without me, Fritz? Could you ever leave me?”
“Winston, it wouldn’t be easy.”
“Fritz, there’s something we need to talk about.”
“Are you gonna get all weird on me when we go to college?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean like I don’t want to post happy birthday on your wall and realize I haven’t talked to you in a year. That’s totally fucked. We need to start doing google hangouts or live in the same city or we need to like ‘grow as people’ but then have a joyous reunion after college and move into an apartment together in Brooklyn or something. I’m not your fairweather friend, Fritz, I’m your you’re-stuck-with-me friend. This is it. Don’t go to frat parties and get fat either, OK. And don’t date fuckheads. I don’t want to meet your new boyfriend Tim who does crew and hates women or whatever. I’m not trying to be offensive, it’s just weird shit happens in college. I won’t do that either, OK?”
“I’m not going to do any of that stuff,” Deanna said.
“Don’t like do molly and pass out on the floor of a rave and wake up vomiting with a glow ring around your neck at Zack‘s house, OK? I feel like I’m being really negative but like, you’re really cool and I don’t want us to become shitty dumbasses in college,” Mari said. “I don’t know, what are we going to study? What the fuck is my profession? Like I’m probably going to major in English because I like books. What will we do? I picture you visiting me at Sarah Lawrence after a long separation, and we’re wearing sunglasses at a cafe on the far outskirts of campus, and I’ll say to you, ‘I feel like I’m losing you,’ and you’ll say, ‘Winston, nothing has changed, how could it ever change,’ and I’ll say, after a long pause, that I think you’re right, nothing has changed, how can anything change. And I’ll feel a little better, and you’ll go back to wherever you’re living, and I’ll attend a crazy dance party thrown by some hippie co-op. And I’ll be glad that you’re probably kissing a boy somewhere. And I’ll think about texting you and not do it. And I’ll know that somewhere you’ve gotten my text.”
“Are you done?”
“You love it.”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“We’re hanging Saturday, OK.”
“Peace out yo.”
Mari ended the call and set the phone down gently with two hands like she was laying down an offering.
She thought of somewhere to go. The set of stone steps along the edge of the lake. She wanted to go walk on them and sit on them.
Mari hurried down the hill to the lake as fast as she could go. For a second she felt her weight pushing ahead of her balance and almost tripped.
The lake was further away than she remembered. She tried not to think of the lake as far away. It didn’t have to be boring doing things. Mari tried her best to focus on what she was doing as she did it.
The stone steps were still there. She took off both her flats and felt them. Had she ever taken Deanna here? They must have gone sometime. She wasn’t sure what there was to do anymore but lie down a while and then go elsewhere again. For a moment she didn’t want to do it. There was no way she could do it. So terrible having to keep going and going. She knew she was going to do it anyway.
Mari saw the water and moved her feet until only the heels were on stone and the toes hung out in the air. Her balance was good. Mari reached in her pocket, took out her phone, tapped the Snapchat icon. She held the phone out before her reverently with her right hand and with her left hand gravely formed a gun and held it to the side of her head. She took the photo and made the gun sound with her mouth.