Before I take their guilt money, my parents meekly mention rehab again. It should be a four letter word, and I sing “no, no, no,” amused with myself, and slam the door on my way out. Not that they got the reference. My ride is almost here, and my fingers and forearms are numb, giddy with anticipation. I won’t be back for days. My steps quicken to meet them, and I’m already ashamed, as if I have anything left that my parents don’t know. As if anything could be worse. The good thing, and the problem, I guess, is that I’m no longer scared to die. It’s all been done before.
I finger the familiar cigarette burn holes in the side of my seat. The conversation is fake in the car. I’m mumbling responses, but I’m not here. These are not my ride-or-die peeps, just the latter, I suppose. We all want one thing, but other than that, the only thing I know that we have in common is hating ourselves. I want to implode, devour myself into nothing. The brakes squeak, and I know I chose to kill myself slowly instead. We park down the block, because we invented being discrete.
Sometimes when you get what you want, it’s not what you think you asked for. Everyone knows what happens here. My boots clunk up the three wooden steps that slant to the left. My feet feel too heavy for me to lift as I pass the threshold. The smell of cigarette smoke, weed, and piss fill my nostrils. It’s too much. All I wanted was to go away for a bit, be that girl in a crop top at the party that all the girls wanted to be and nobody could touch. The parties I go to are different now. And I definitely get touched. I can feel where people have been the next day. I get what I want either way.
I pass a cracked mirror and refuse to turn my head, catching a quick, slanted glimpse of myself. My greasy dyed-black hair clumps together and mascara from yesterday is my eyeliner. The grubby feel of my skin isn’t a bother, and that bothers me. I come to the familiar room with people sliding into the sticky floor: mattresses, bottles, papers, filth. There are some plastic chairs but no one is in them, and even with my own intentions for the night, I won’t touch the couch that used to be a lighter beige. Some people are laughing too loud, but at least I’ve seen most of them before. A dismal comfort. I am long past this being fun, but maybe they aren’t.
The ritual is almost complete. I’m drunk. Settling in and tying off, my eyes fall to the far wall of the room that looks a darker shade of grey. Someone wrote “she’s not me” in white spray paint. I used to think that was the coolest, most edgy thing for reasons I don’t understand, but now it’s sobering and I’m repulsed.
And suddenly at peace, but my mind doesn’t stop. I see a girl’s face, but it’s not my own. She has dirty blonde hair and is smiling in between my parents. The smile is genuine. Why shouldn’t it be? We were somewhere in Florida. I was off to the other side of my mom…I’m getting fuzzy and heavy and my face is flushed like the blushing bride I’ll never be. I can’t think of what my face looked like in that photo. It’s blurred. Was I smiling, was it fake even then? There may be a happy girl stuck in time in Florida, but she’s not me.