She started smoking cigarettes when she was fourteen, around the time her father left the family for some Betty with an inheritance. She had a pretty face if you didn’t look too hard. Her mother always said that.
She read Flaubert on the rooftop of her apartment building while she smoked and listened to obscure Bob Dylan songs on a broken, first-gen iPod. She stole pills from her mother’s Vicodin prescription and popped them with her friends while they flew the bus around the city in dreamy loops. She liked boys, but enjoyed keeping that fact ambiguous around her mother. She once kissed a policeman straight on the mouth—even got a little tongue in there. That night, in jail, she wrote poems in her head about the ineffable pleasure of being young and screwing up on purpose. During the holidays, when it was just the three of them—her, her mother, and her younger brother—she would develop this soft side as the red wine she cavalierly sipped soaked past her calcified exterior. She would make them laugh; she would do these voices; she was a riot. She rarely put it into words for herself—or for anyone—but she never felt safer than when she was watching her mom laugh.
When she was little—around five, back when she was just beginning to fall in love with the womanhood of her mother, back when she hungered for nothing less than to move and to speak and to dress like her, back when her mother wanted the same—she would sneak into her mother’s bathroom in the middle of the night. She would smear her mother’s mauve lipstick on her face and rub shampoo into her dry, brown hair. She would spray perfume over every inch of her body. Then she would go down to the kitchen and put on a show for no one. Cracking eggs into bowls, pouring in syrup and cereal and flour, she would mimic the words of her mother into the darkness. She would yell at her mother’s husband. She would splash water on her eyes and pretend to cry. Then she would cry.
—Derek Baril studies Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Arizona. As a native Tucsonan, he finds Mexican food to be on par with oxygen in terms of substances he needs in order to survive. He has been known to write poetry and short stories on occasion and has even gone so far as to threaten his parents with the idea of becoming a writer.
This is the second of five installments from this collection. The first was featured in our November issue. You can read it here: Stay with Me: Vignettes for the Absent-Hearted: Olivia