| Lucy transferred schools during the coldest week of the year. Her California legs were visible in one-inch diamonds through the shawl she wore as a skirt. Some of the kids called her a freak, but mostly they were perplexed by her. Lucy took taxis. She smoked cigars. The school nurse tried to have her expelled. She claimed the hair in Lucy’s eyes obstructed her vision and was a distraction to the other students. Lucy’s mother, excited by the controversy, threatened to sue the school board, and Lucy’s blanket bangs stayed.
There was someone the kids urged Lucy to meet, a girl they described as easter and norther than even the land went, as if she’d risen from the cold, black Atlantic Ocean. Those weren’t the words they used, but that was the image Lucy came to have of the girl. Her name was Rachel.
It was in the cafeteria that they finally came together, by chance. Rachel was sitting alone, wrapped in a green cloth and hunched over her tray, a hand-carved walking stick propped on the bench beside her. Lucy approached from behind. That girl looks like Yoda, she thought. Then Rachel swiveled around, revealing a pretty face under dyed-gray hair.
Lucy was halfway through a lollipop. She walked up to Rachel and gave it to her without a word. When Rachel stuck it in her mouth, the students behind her stopped laughing. Somehow embarrassed, they picked up their forks and stabbed at their food.
That first day after school, Lucy and Rachel lay on Lucy’s bed, their legs dangling over the edge. “You’re going to be my best friend forever. I know it already,” Lucy said. Rachel raised her head but said nothing.
Greg Golick claimed he had a three-way with them.
They kept staring at a point on the ceiling. “I have to go,” Rachel warned, and she hopped down like a child remembering to tell her kidnapper that an adult surely would be coming soon.
The winter dragged on. The two of them snuck into an abandoned mill so cavernous even their whispers echoed. They took pictures of each other inside with all the dust and their crystallized breath and no clothes on, a sheer curtain over the lens to make them look like ghosts. But when the pictures came back from Horton Drug, they just looked out of focus.
Lucy moved into Rachel’s locker, and they exchanged notes between classes. “I’m sucking ozone!” read Rachel’s note to Lucy one morning after science. When Lucy looked up, she saw Rachel howling silently at a rectangular florescent light built into the ceiling as if it were the moon. For the rest of the day, Lucy was sucking ozone too.
Lucy kept asking Rachel to ride the bus with her to Boston, but Rachel liked things always to be the same. They slept at Rachel’s under a gold baroque bedspread her great-uncle brought back from France after the war. In her headboard, Rachel kept old cans, ash from Mount St. Helens, four unmatched buttons, a matted feather and three rubber-banded clumps of hair. She wouldn’t tell Lucy whose hair it was, and she seemed extra angry at being asked.
Otherwise, they told each other everything. Lucy wrote down their many plans on a piece of parchment she bought at the Hallmark store during a calligraphy craze. They signed at the bottom solemnly, with blood procured with a sewing needle sterilized in Rachel’s mother’s boiling tea water. At Lucy’s, they looked up dirty names in the phone book and made crank calls. There were a number of Kuntzes and two Harry Balls.
“What are you two doing in there?” Lucy’s mother called, sounding accusatory and already horrified.
“Tell her you’re going to name your firstborn Lucifer,” Rachel whispered.
“I’m going to name your grandchild Lucifer,” Lucy yelled.
Her mother muttered that they’d be the death of her and drive her to drink and that Lucy’s priorities were shit.
“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway,” Rachel said after thinking it over for a minute. “Because I’m going to eat your firstborn.”
As winter faded, Lucy felt as if her star were being eclipsed by Rachel’s even stranger one. But that didn’t really matter: something came out of them when they were together, something that made the wind pick up and the grass whisper.
Other people had a less weatherly interpretation. Lucy’s mother was best friends with an eighty-year-old quadriplegic, Mrs. McKinney, whose son was a teacher at Horton High. He told Mrs. McKinney, who told Lucy’s mother, who told Lucy, that the girls were prostitutes. At school, Greg Golick, a senior with a tomato body and a big red tomato head, claimed he had a three-way with them.
In fact, the girls were virgins. But they very much wanted to harness their combined energy to trap boys. Lucy said she would “figure out love like a math problem.”
“Does that include me?” Rachel said. “What number am I?”
“No, you’re different,” Lucy said.
“I just don’t trust you to take this seriously,” said Rachel, and the air was stiff. “What if you decide I’m number two?” Rachel jabbed her elbow into Lucy and laughed sleazily. “Number two, get it?”
Once they had a fight about the Indians. Rachel said America should be given back to them. Lucy said, Well we’re here now, where do we go? The past is dead. Rachel got up and left. They didn’t speak to each other for three days. In the hallways at school, Lucy would catch sight of Rachel’s dark eyes right before the lids closed, and she’d feel like the chocolate Easter Bunny her parents had just given her: all hollowed out. Lucy ended up apologizing, but in her heart she still felt there was no place for a conquered race. That little corner of her heart — the dry and vicious piece of it — she knew to keep that hidden now.
While roller-skating with Rachel one cold, sunny Saturday in the sidewalk maze of the graveyard, Lucy spotted two boys about their age. They were sitting on a long gravestone, drinking something wrapped in a paper bag. One had liberty spikes for hair; the other had red hair and a scowl.
Rachel tried to skate away from them, but Lucy held her tight by the arm so that Rachel would either have to go along with her
So this is how it feels to be drunk, Lucy thought. It feels like someone else.
or fall. She fell. That’s when the boy with red hair called them over. “You look like two queens,” he said when they glided up to the gravestone. “You have your little hair crown” — he pointed to the silver tufts of hair that had barely escaped Rachel’s buzzing razor “and you . . . ” He shot his chin at Lucy. “What are those things tied to your head? Cellophane? It’s like a halo!”
He offered them Haffenraffers and clove cigarettes. Then he took off one shoe and showed them how he kept grass inside, so he’d always feel like he was walking on the earth. Lucy found this unhygienic, but Rachel was intrigued.
While the boys talked about prom and how stupid it was, Lucy took an overly enthusiastic guzzle from her can. A warm stream ran along her jawline, down into her hair. She felt like an elderly male bum, which seemed unbelievably sexy.
Now what’s so sexy about that? she asked herself, making her words slur inside her head just for the pleasure of it. I guess because I am a girl feeling like a man, she answered. An old-man alcoholic seemed about a thousand times more masculine than the boys she went to school with: they milled about en masse, never went anywhere alone, looked like a series of half-finished drawings. No — now I know who I feel like: How Rachel looked when I saw her the very first time – bent and decrepit on the outside, with that secret soft face underneath.
The four of them sat, side by side, on the extra-long gravestone. After the stupidity of prom had been decided on and dispatched, conversation became spare, as in a Western. Lucy concentrated on the clinking sounds made by the chains the boys had wrapped around their waists, necks and arms. She closed her eyes and listened to four throats swallowing, the chirping of crickets.
So this is how it feels to be drunk, Lucy thought after finishing her second paper-bagged Haffenraffer. It feels like someone else. No it’s me, but more solid. Like there were all these holes, these open windows all over my body that I can’t close. I’d never noticed before because they were just always there, and now it’s like they got all filled in. She seemed to have grown a sense of direction as well. Rachel was the one who always knew where north, south, east and west were, and she remembered everything. Lucy kept getting lost and misplacing things. A few years earlier, she lost three sweaters in one week, and her mother made her go to a psychologist. His diagnosis was that Lucy was just an oblivious person, but he asked her mother to come back for regular visits.
Now Lucy felt like she could find her way anywhere and she could say anything at all.
“I have to hitch home,” the boy with liberty spikes said. Telepathically, Lucy said No, don’t!
Instead of answering her, he said: “Does anyone have a cigarette I can bum for the road?”
“Douglas, you’re a leech,” the red-haired one said.
So his name is Douglas, Lucy thought, and it seemed like this miraculous thing to learn.
“Scott, you’re a hoser,” Douglas said.
Scott gurgled something.
Douglas said, “Do you wanna step outside right now? I’ll be glad to fight you.”
Scott shrunk a little, then replied, “We are outside, hoser.”
“Oh,” said Douglas, and the confrontation was over.
Scott wandered off toward the railroad tracks. Rachel leapt off the gravestone and skated after him. “I’ll meet you back here a little later,” she called back to Lucy.
Lucy was surprised by the way Douglas showed his anger: he just bristled up, then got over it. This was unlike Lucy’s father, who pretended to be friendly even when he was offended, because he was always selling something even when he wasn’t on the clock. Or her mother — who called her anger “being sad” and warned that she would have to go to the hospital. Or Rachel, who simply said good-bye more quietly than usual. Or Lucy herself, who wasn’t sure she had ever been angry with anyone.
“How do you get your mohawk so stiff?” Lucy asked and reached up to touch it.
“Toothpaste.” Douglas frowned at a hangnail he was trying to rip off. “Hey,” he said. “You know that Violent Femmes song about ‘Oh man I just saw the most beautiful girl in the world’?” Or that’s what Lucy thought he said. The crickets were really overwhelming her now.
“Well, I did it,” Lucy said. “The first thing on our list.”
And then Lucy noticed how hard the spring earth and rocks felt under her back and how Douglas looked in the cemetery light — one of those London streetlamps from the last century — when he bent over her. She realized it was dark now and Douglas’ shirt was open and his chest seemed to narrow even more as it approached his underarms. Ovals of night were visible between his rib cage and each arm. He’s a little boy, Lucy thought, one who’s been put on a stretching rack till he was six feet tall.
She wanted to remember everything. Tiny nipples. Pointy mohawk. Penis big and hair sparse, pushing against. Cartilage. Isn’t it cartilage in that thing, like a nose? Like a shark? It wouldn’t go in. “Here,” Lucy said, and without remembering how she’d learned this, spit a couple times on her palm and wiped it between her legs.
The thing fit inside maybe an inch and got stuck. Lucy didn’t feel as if she were being entered as much as punctured, and all the air was rushing out of her new hole. She could feel herself changing, then she collapsed into herself, her skin heavier now that all the air she’d been carrying around had swooshed out. The boy was sawing at her, trying to climb into her new, empty skin. Then his lips were on hers, flattening her head into the rock it lay on, and Lucy was aware of being happy like it was a physical condition, like being a certain height or color. “Try it this way,” the boy said, and he flipped her over on top of him.
Later, walking down the street with Rachel and Lucy and Douglas, Scott predicted the girls would miss their bus. Lucy tried not to reveal her hope that this would be true.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked Douglas quietly.
“What are you thinking about?”
Lucy said, “Sex.”
Douglas said, “Me too.”
Rachel said, “I was thinking about bugs, and how much they’re like people.”
On the way home, Rachel and Lucy were the only passengers on the bus. When the driver stopped at the train tracks and opened the door, it produced a squeaky gust of air that sounded like a complaint.
“Well, I did it,” said Lucy when they started moving again. “The first thing on our list.”
“Yeah, I kind of noticed,” Rachel spat. “You might want to get some of the dirt and leaves out of your hair before you’re home.” She paused, staring hard at the window. “I’m saving myself for Chris Jimo.”
“Who’s Chris Jimo?”
“You know that hair that I have over my bed?”
“It’s his. From when he was six, seven and eight. Then his parents moved to Africa. He said he’d come back.”
“Rachel, that’s ridiculous. He doesn’t even remember you.”
“He’s sixteen now!” Rachel said, as if that made him as real as them.
Lucy felt betrayed. She had thought Rachel and the red-haired boy were doing it at the same time she was. The lurching bus made her feel nauseous. Had she done something unspecial? Maybe waiting was cooler. But Lucy didn’t have a secret Chris Jimo to wait for. And what about the rest of the plans on their list: to go to Europe, to wear hats all the time and somehow turn beautiful, to become real lesbian lovers? Did Rachel not mean any of that either? Lucy kicked the bus heater. “Ow!” she cried. It was really dark out. Not one headlight from a passing car.
Lucy thought they were being entered for the very first time under the same sky, on the same cold ground by boys with twin, shiny chains, mere feet from each other. She and Rachel were both becoming solid, almost merging into one girl at that moment, Lucy thought. Instead, Rachel was breaking off from her, floating away away from Lucy, all the way to Africa.
“Chris Jimo’s never coming back,” Lucy declared. n°
©2003 Lisa Carver and Nerve.com