We fight in the parking lot of our old elementary school and by “we” I mean the guys, because they never let me fight even though I ask every time. They just look at me and laugh when I ask, and I wonder is it because I’m a girl or because I’m younger or because I’m small? Whatever it is, they shake their heads and tell me it’s not for me but smoke my weed anyway, smoke the joints I roll on an atlas someone keeps in their trunk, and we all laugh at that: an atlas, really? I mean, haven’t you heard of Google Maps? The way the guys fight could be mistaken for dancing, how they two-step and circle each other; it could be mistaken for a mating dance, more specifically, but I would never say this because they only let me watch because I bring the weed and roll it on someone’s atlas and let them smoke it down to a singed nub, and if I implied that any of them were gay we’d have a real fight on our hands. So I just watch them circle each other like birds or squirrels or feral cats, watch them swing and miss, watch the way their faces get red and veiny when they miss. They’re all chock-full of teenage angst and something else, something more, something white-hot and looming just behind their gritted teeth and bulging eyes, failed tests and strike outs on the baseball pitch. We’re all angrier than we’re letting on, which is exactly why I want to fight. I won’t get mad if I get hit. That’s part of the game, that’s part of the allure, that’s the whole reason we drove out here in the first place: we need to get that anger out before we have to shove it all down again and make it home by curfew. Tomorrow morning we’ll wake up to our mothers’ hands brushing the hair away from our sleep-flushed faces, their coffee breath washing over us saying good morning, darling good morning, baby good morning, angel and then we’ll have our Wheaties or our Captain Crunch while hiding our red, raw knuckles from the ever-watchful eyes of our parents, except for me that is, because no one will let me fight. I’m ready. I feel like a goddamn bench warmer over here, but instead of filling water cups, I’m lighting joints and puff, puff, passing them. I can do it, I assure them and they glance at each other then smile at me and they look like sharks or lions or something equally hungry and bloody-jawed and then I’m up to bat and it’s only then that I remember I can’t dance: I don’t know the steps because none of these boys have asked me to prom because I’m just the girl who follows them around and lights their joints, so it’s no surprise I trip over my own feet and pitch forward, face-first into a steely fist, and my god it feels like I’m hit by bus, it feels like my mother waking me up, it feels like everything and nothing I’ve ever wanted.
Hannah Gordon is a writer and editor living in Chicago. Her work has appeared in Hypertrophic Literary, Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, and more. She is the managing editor of CHEAP POP. You can read more of her work here.