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Michelle Tea

“We entered the cool cave of the practice space with all the long-haired, goateed boys stoned on clouds of pot and playing with power tools. I tossed my fluffy coat into the hollow of my bass drum and lay on the carpet with my worn newspaper. A shirtless boy came in and told us he had to cut the power for a minute, and I thought about being along in the cool black room with Joey. Let's go smoke, she said, and I grabbed the cigarettes off the amp. She started talking to me about Wonder Woman. I feel like something big is happening, but I don't know what to do about it. With The Straight Girl? I asked in the blankest voice possible. With everything. Back in the sun we walked to the edge of the parking lot where a black Impala convertible sat, rusted and rotting, looking like it just got dredged from a swamp. Rainwater pooling on the floor. We climbed up onto it and sat our butts backward on the edge of the windshield, feet stretched into the front seat. Before she even joined the band, I would think of her each time I passed the car, the little round medallions with the red and black racing flags affixed to the dash. On the rusting Chevy, Joey told me about her date the other night with a girl she used to like who she maybe liked again. How her heart was shut off and it felt pretty good. How she just wanted to play around with this girl and that girl and this girl and I smoked my cigarette and went Uh-Huh. The sun made me feel like a restless country girl even though I'd never been on a farm. I knew what I stood for, even if nobody else did. I knew the piece of me on the inside, truer than all the rest, that never comes out. Doesn't everyone have one? Some kind of grand inner princess waiting to toss her hair down, forever waiting at the tower window. Some jungle animal so noble and fierce you had to crawl on your belly through dangerous grasses to get a glimpse. I gave Joey my cigarette so I could unlace the ratty green laces of my boots, pull them off, tug the linty wool tights off my legs. I stretched them pale over the car, the hair springing like weeds and my big toenail looking cracked and ugly. I knew exactly who I was when the sun came back and the air turned warm. Joey climbed over the hood of the car, dusty black, and said Let's lie down, I love lying in the sun, but there wasn't any sun there. We moved across the street onto the shining white sidewalk and she stretched out, eyes closed. I smoked my cigarette, tossed it into the gutter and lay down beside her. She said she was sick of all the people who thought she felt too much, who wanted her to be calm and contained. Who? I asked. All the flowers, the superheroes. I thought about how she had kissed me the other night, quick and hard, before taking off on a date in her leather chaps, hankies flying, and I sat on the couch and cried at everything she didn't know about how much I liked her, and someone put an arm around me and said, You're feeling things, that's good. Yeah, I said to Joey on the sidewalk, I Feel Like I Could Calm Down Some. Awww, you're perfect. She flipped her hand over and touched my head. Listen, we're barely here at all, I wanted to tell her, rolling over, looking into her face, we're barely here at all and everything goes so fast can't you just kiss me? My eyes were shut and the cars sounded close when they passed. The sun was weak but it baked the grime on my skin and made it smell delicious. A little kid smell. We sat up to pop some candy into our mouths, and then Joey lay her head on my lap, spent from sugar and coffee. Her arm curled back around me and my fingers fell into her slippery hair. On the February sidewalk that felt like spring.”


Michelle Tea
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