The girl is pretty. She has a hooked nose and coffee skin and a pointed smile that looks like Peter Pan’s, if Peter Pan had been a teenage girl in a hijab writing someone’s name on the side of a Starbucks cup. She hands the cup to the customer, who is also pretty, but in a different way, with tight clothes and short hair and sharp eyes. The girl smiles at the customer, and for a second she considers asking for her number, but instead she inspects the creases of her hands while the girl walks away. They don’t see one another again for years, and when they do, neither recognizes the other.

The girl walks the half-mile home from work and passes all sorts of interesting people with crazy hairstyles and t-shirts with curse words in capital letters on them, and she overhears conversations about everything under the sun. A man yells something at her, and she wants to flip him off, but instead she pretends she didn’t hear and keeps looking at her phone, which is open to Facebook, even though she hasn’t actually read a single thing yet.

When she gets home, the house is empty because her mother is still working and her father is at an AA meeting and her brother is probably at basketball practice or off on a run or watching a movie with his on-again off-again girlfriend, so she goes upstairs and sits in the chair by the window of her room and watches TV on her computer instead of on the TV because it’s much farther way and the couch isn’t as comfortable anyway.

She’s lost in a pleasant buzz of thoughtlessness when she hears the door open and close softly, which must mean her mom is home, because her brother always slams it. Part of her wants to go greet her but she knows she’ll just see her tired eyes and hear about how awful it is to work evenings, you have no idea, so she stays in her room instead and doesn’t think about much of anything at all until her mom calls up the stairs that dinner is ready and she’d better come eat before it gets cold, hurry.

Dinner is a silent affair, as always—three family members staring at one another and the fourth conspicuously absent (she’s pretty sure he’s out getting high with his friends, since he’s been gone for hours now.) Her father asks how her day was, and she wants to tell him about the funny thing her friend said in Chem class and the pretty girl at work, but instead she says fine, thank you, how was yours? and pushes her food around her plate because she knows he’s more interested in having a reason to talk about his own day than in hearing about hers.

And when dinner is over, she helps clean up and in a moment of emotion her mom pulls her near and says, I love you, and she wants to say, I miss you I miss how we never talk anymore I don’t know the first thing about you these days and I can’t bring myself to ask I’m worried that I’ll never know you again the way I did when I was young enough to understand you, but instead she says, love you too, and ducks out of her grip to run upstairs and stays in her room alone until she falls asleep to the sounds of her brother slamming doors and making a thousand excuses.

Zetetic separator

Arielle DeVito, a rising freshman at Stanford University, can often be found lurking in libraries and comic book stores. She has been published in Navigating the Maze, the Ohio Poetry Association’s ekphrastic anthology, and Lake Erie Ink’s Home/Away From Home, among others, and been recognized in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Johns Hopkins Creative Minds Contest. She is also a genre editor for the youth literary magazine Polyphony H.S. In her spare time, she enjoys reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, sewing historical costumes, and baking (usually cupcakes).

Leave a Reply