They play poker on their phones during fire drills. They hold dead rats in their hands. They are apathetic with curiosity. Some have lost their heads, others have lost their shoes. In their pockets are ring pops and bullets and broken chargers and red lace thongs. That is not their real name. Assign them no sex, no destiny. They are distracted and tender and high on cherry, Molly, sweat. They like the way rain soaks into worksheets and lifts the perfume of deodorant and potential into the air. Has the city always belonged to them?

On the subway they are walking between cars, cutting each others’ hair, deciding who deserves a mauling. They are vogueing in the cafeteria, hands like black doves. They are painting murals in the third-floor bathroom, scratching flowers into the stalls, making shrines to Billie Eilish, knowing no God watches. They need only themselves, only dancing. They savor in 30-second spurts. This is their war against forgetting, their campaign for eternal life. Forget Achilles—look at her face today, eyelashes on point. There is no such thing as history, only bluetooth speaker and report card and loose-rolled joint and first kiss and second fuck and livestream and free throw and group chat and forever awake now here always.

The teenagers are bored to death with our lessons. They’ll remember what they want to. They stay out early and wake up late. They keep their hoods up. They wear all purple. They glide along the block, new Nikes like solar sails. They harmonize with pursed lips and two-inch fingernails and boners tucked into the elastic band of doubt. They smell of cranberry, punk show, detergent, Sour Patch Kid. They shoot webs from their wrists and lasers from their eyes and wear long sleeves to hide the scars. They fold the corners of books they never read. They slit holes in their jeans with shards of tradition. They expect justice and refuse to be punished.

They are afraid. They yearn to be cradled, hate to be touched. They curl up like cats on the counters of the food hall, unable to penetrate the thick glass, wanting. Some feast on the spilled bowels of trashbags. They are always hungry.

They interpret the color of each others’ auras—tangerine, mint green, hazelnut. They want a puppy, but their parents won’t allow it. They intimidate for approval, beg for responsibility. Their futures are still multiple-choice. They steal stray Citibikes, ridicule our choice of emoji, demean our syntax. They laugh at our expense. They are Cambrian, Jurassic, Postmodern, Metamodern. They are gaining experience points and preparing to evolve.

Driving with a temporary license, they steal stop signs and barricade driveways. They gather provisions. They wear beanies to avoid detection, eyeliner to expel optimism. Under the bridge by the river, while we sleep, they chew on their cuticles and rest heads in each other’s laps, dreaming of birthday cakes that look like coffins. When the meteors approach, they won’t pretend to act surprised.


Lauren Cassani Davis is a writer and high school teacher based in New York City. Her work has appeared in No Contact, Monkeybicycle, and Peatsmoke Journal. 


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