Whoops. I missed Friday’s post. Fortunately I have some new material for Last Days of Loneliness, something I put together in response to questions from my workshop group at Simmons.
I guess it wasn’t really a mistake, not yet, not then, but I can’t believe that I was bored when I moved to Loneliness. I can remember scrawling it in my sketchpad, B-O-R-E-D in big block letters with weird little filigrees that I added over the course of an hour. It’s what you do when you’re sitting in the backseat with your giant dog, ignoring your parents, watching hills roll by the car while your phone’s signal slowly dies. And eventually your phone is dead and your music is gone and you’re stuck with whatever horrible combination of channels is coming through on the radio and you’ve filled the page with nothing but ugly doodles.
Because even that’s still better than staring at the sketches of your friends, of your boyfriend, that you’ve just left behind for good.
I could have gotten out of the car and run away, maybe. I could have never come to Loneliness.
Maybe this is really on my parents, for bringing us there. On my Dad, my consulting geologist Dad, for dragging us around behind him instead of finding somewhere to settle.
Fucking HELL, Dad.
Before Loneliness, we lived in southern Illinois. Before that, we lived everywhere. I’m only just barely exaggerating. We moved almost every year of my life until I got into school. Then we varied between every six months and almost two years.
But we’d lived in southern Illinois for a while. Clearly I shouldn’t have believed my parents when they told me that we were going to stay there until I graduated high school.
I remember the morning I found out.
But I really remember the night before I found out.
It was Saturday, August, just a bit before the start of school. Hot, in the nice way that makes you feel lazy and that stays comfortable outside through the night.
I was over at Mouse’s, up in his old treehouse with him and four of our friends. The treehouse was kind of awkward and dumb, since it had been built for a little kids and still had Disney figures scrawled everywhere which was part of how Mouse had gotten his name. But a little while after we’d started dating he’d invited me up there and it had been my favorite spot ever since. It was big enough to hold a bunch of people, it was still solid as long as you avoided the railing closest to his house, and it gave us some actual privacy because all the branches and other trees blocked people’s view of us. If we were quiet, sometimes people never knew we were there.
It was a truly excellent spot for making out.
“Come on Amanda, try some!” Mouse passed me the bottle that Robbie was trying to wave in my face. Mouse had that little grin that I liked so much, the one he made when I surprised him with a kiss.
“It’s almost your birthday, this party’s in your honor. You’ve got to have some.” Robbie sounded stupidly serious. He’d gotten his older brother to buy a bunch of six-packs, because his brother had a fake ID and could grow some facial hair. He’d said that the beers were my birthday present. He’d started getting drunk as soon as we’d gotten up the ladder.
“Jesus Robbie, lay off her!” Edie laughed and slapped Robbie on the shoulder.
“Sorry, sorry!” Robbie hunched up and looked so pathetic that Edie snorted her beer through her nose. We laughed as she started coughing and making wretched noises. I did take a sip, but mostly just to make Robbie shut up. Besides, his beer tasted like piss.
I didn’t care.
Tee and Paulie were sitting on the other side of me, Tee watching intently while Paulie rolled something up. Paulie loved making her own smokes. You could tell. I’d drawn her face while she was rolling once, and given it to her. She had it hanging on her wall.
“In honor of your birthday…” Paulie waited for the rest of us to settle down, white cylinder resting between her fingertips. “I have made this especially for you.” She smiled and bowed her head, lifting it towards me resting across the pinched fingers and thumbs of both her hands, like it was a very small katana.
“You are such a weeaboo.” I picked up the cigarette as carefully as I could, then bowed in return. “Am I supposed to smoke it right now?”
Paulie shrugged. “You can do whatever you want with it. It’s yours now.”
I tucked it behind my ear and smiled. Tee looked flustered.
“I’m sorry Amanda, I didn’t bring anything for you.” She blushed. It was hard to tell with just the reflected glow of a flashlight and dim moonlight filtering through the trees, but she was definitely blushing. My heart felt kind of gooey and I couldn’t help but smile.
“It’s fine Tee, really. This thing was kind of a surprise.” That was putting it mildly, but there was no way I’d say no to a last minute invitation from Mouse to hang out with our friends. I patted her knee. “Besides, I’m having a real party next weekend.”
“Oh?” This was Edie. “Then what are you doing tomorrow? That’s your birthday, right?”
Mouse cleared his throat.
“We already made plans.” I said.
That got a low “oooooooo” out of everyone, complete with appreciative chuckles. I blushed, but only a little. It wasn’t like the fact that we were doing it was a secret. Not that I was going to tell Dad.
“I’ll bet you’ve got a good present to give her tomorrow, eh?” Robbie nudged Mouse with his elbow, big dumb grin on his face.
I groaned. “Oh my GOD, Robbie.” I thumped my head against the railing behind me. My shoulders twitched a little as I tried to stifle my laugh.
Mouse looked like he was struggling to frown at Robbie. A little grin kept tickling around the corners of his mouth.
Robbie shrugged. “I only say it cause it’s true. And she could kick my ass if she wanted to.”
I leaned forward and flicked him in the nose, shouting, “Hi-yah!”
Robbie fell over backwards, beer miraculously unspilled in his hand. “I surrender!”
The party dissolved into laughter.
As we were lying next each other in the dark after things had died down, a blanket and the snores of our friends for cover, Mouse whispered in my ear.
“I do have a present for you tomorrow.”
I smiled in the dark. I rolled over and snuggled up against him, little spoon. “I’m looking forward to it.”
I fell asleep curled up on his arm, the smell of his skin filling my nose. It was perfect.
My parents told me we were moving the next day.
We were gone before the next weekend.