You liked me first because of that one day when Mr. Donovan asked me what I thought about some story I hadn’t read and I said it was wicked proper and when he asked me to elaborate I said it was wicked fucking proper and got sent to ISS for the rest of the day. I could feel you watching me as I walked out and that wasn’t why I did it, I was just so goddamn bored, but it was a nice side-effect. And then you got to go on that field trip to the museum and we were talking a little bit before and I said, Make sure you don’t get caught up in any line dancing or group sex or anything, and you told me I should ditch and come with you because the art teacher never double checked the list anyway and I said What for, the sculpture garden or the group sex? And you said The group sex in the sculpture garden and I thought maybe I could tolerate you after all for a little while before I lost interest, long enough to figure out why you were always alone and why you seemed to never be around at lunch and why you were always chewing up your fingernails and why you always wore your winter coat indoors and there was something in the way your eyes shot away from everything you looked at seconds after you looked at it that told my dick you’d be into it. Like you were distracted enough to fool or something, like tricking a dog into the car to go to the vet. And that’s mean but I was pretty much right.
It became very clear very quickly that you didn’t eat and in a way I kind of knew that’s one of the reasons why you were with me because really I was nothing special but there was something about me that was harsher than most people and you liked rubbing yourself up against harsh things. Like the first time we really fucked around it was freezing outside and we were in the back seat of my car with the shitty heater heating nothing and I got my ice cold hand up under your coat and your sweater and your t-shirt to bare skin and wrapped it full around your ribcage really sudden and you freaked like someone had burned you and screamed into my mouth but you also got a whole hell of a lot more turned on. I don’t know why I did it. I guess I could tell. Instinct I guess. So trying to get you to eat became a kind of cruel project for me, I mean it didn’t start out that way. At first it seemed like a basic thing, trying to get the girl you’re messing around with to eat drive through chicken nuggets with you in your car or share some fucking Skittles after a blow job but you wouldn’t do it, so it became something I could fuck with and pick at. Something I could use to make sure I was the one in charge. Anyway, it might have even worked, right? Because peer pressure got you into this mess so maybe it could get you out. It didn’t turn out like that though.
So I need to address some bullshit here. You pretend there was something intentional about all that time we spent fucking in my car, in your room, in the empty auditorium. You pretend it was about something when my fingers were going all wrinkled and pruny inside you and your palm was giving my dick underwear rugburn in the band hall under those carpeted bleachers and then the bell rang and there was a class coming in and I had a hard on that could piledrive through brick. But it definitely wasn’t you I was thinking about when I jerked off in the boys’ bathroom before fifth period. So it didn’t really mean anything to me and I really don’t think it did for you either. We did that stuff, like to pass the time and because it was what people did. I did it because I was sick of jerking off. You did it because it made you hate yourself and you felt better like that. Does anyone in high school fuck for any good reason? I doubt it. And I think you know it even though you keep telling everyone you loved me, I think you know that happens to be bullshit, because I’m pretty fucking sure the whole time we were whatever you never once looked me in the eyes for longer than like a second. Hey not that I cared. But you didn’t.
This is why I didn’t think about you when I jerked off: because your body was a fucking wasteland. And showing it to me was another way you hated yourself, and another way you let me hurt you so you didn’t have to do it. We didn’t pretend you were beautiful any more than we pretended I was nice. I mean your face was okay, I was okay walking around with you and with people knowing we were messing around, but that was mostly because you always had on that winter coat and jeans and boots and your body was hidden. But Jesus. Under all that you looked like the Holocaust. And the insides of your arms had those thick puffy scars that looked too soft to touch and they had sections in them like the earthworms we dissected in Biology. I guess once Jordan Bell saw you in the locker room and she told everyone so one day this prick from the football team was saying, What does it mean when you see a girl with a bunch of cut scars, and everyone was like, What, and he said, It means she swallows. And then he looked at me and said, Right? And everyone looked at me because they all knew that we were fucking around or whatever, and I said it, I said, Yup. Because you did swallow. It was like the only thing you would swallow. I said that too and it got a laugh and I didn’t feel bad about it. Here’s the thing: I didn’t really care about you. But I’m not a fucking monster. If you had loved me I would have known and I would have got the fuck out because like I said I am not a fucking monster, but it was obvious you didn’t so my conscience – my fucking conscience is clear.
The day before you wound up in the hospital was that day we were at your place and your mom wasn’t home so we fucked in your room and then came out and your older sister was there. And it was really obvious that she had heard us because I was kind of loud about it and she was smirking all over the fucking place and you got all weird and annoyed. And she was kind of hot because, I mean, she weighed more than 80 pounds and her hair was clean so she caught me looking at her, I guess, and she started flirting with me to get you worked up. She put her hand on my shirt like on my chest and said something stupid about what it was made out of, it was just a fucking t-shirt, but still it felt pretty good to be flirted with and touched like that by some girl who was way older so I must have reacted. And you lost your shit. It was obvious it was really about her, not about me, but you flipped your fucking shit at me anyway so I got the fuck out of there. And then the next day you weren’t around and there was all this stuff being said about you drinking antifreeze or throwing yourself on the highway and shit like that, so I went to text you or whatever, and there was one I hadn’t seen from right after I left your place that said, Call me. But of course I didn’t and I wouldn’t have even if I’d seen it because talking on the phone was a pain in the ass I wasn’t willing to put up with from anyone. And the truth is that even though you swallowed all those pain pills of your pillhead mom’s and told everyone it’s my fault because you loved me and I tried to fuck around with your sister, I’m still glad I didn’t answer because I know it would have been nothing I wanted to hear.
Once you did it and they pumped your stomach or whatever, I mean obviously they had a chance to look you over and it was very fucking clear that you weren’t eating shit ever. So you were stuck there for months and it was a goddamn relief not to have you around after what you said about me being the reason and people calling me the Grim Reaper and shit but also it sucked because even though we weren’t some kind of romantic couple we did hang out together almost constantly and we fucked around almost constantly so without that, I was bored as hell and jerking off all the time again. It’s not like I miss you but it’s close and it’s not like I’m sorry because I did not do shit to you that you didn’t do to yourself, but it’s close.
This is what I think about. We went on that field trip to the downtown library in one of those big old buses that smelled like sweat and already chewed gum, they were always taking us on fucking field trips like they don’t know that’s where half the pregnancies in this fucking school come from, and I had this box of gumdrops like in the yellow box from the movies. And I was eating them and giving you shit about not eating them and you were acting all big-eyed and tragic and saying Stop in that whiny voice which was making me worse and I was being mean about it all quiet so no one could hear me. Then I don’t really know how it got hot, but it got hot and it got to be about control and I always won that battle because that’s how you wanted it. When you took that gumdrop from my mouth it had my spit on it so the sugar was melting and the jelly of it was kind of soft. I opened my mouth and made you come get it, I made you crawl across the bus seat to where I was leaning with my head against the open window and the fact that you didn’t want to made it better for me and better for you, it was like that with us. You took it with your teeth, I felt them against my tongue, and then I closed my mouth without kissing you and watched you chew it and you told me later you pretended it was an eyeball because that’s what it felt like, and that you thought about my head against the open window getting hit by a low streetlight or something and flying open and all the blood coming out and going down the side of the bus. You told me that way later, when I couldn’t stand it anymore and finally cut school and went to see you at the hospital, after we weren’t talking anymore, after everything. Whose eyeball? I asked, and you said, Mine. After you swallowed the gumdrop I still didn’t kiss you but you stayed sort of kneeling like that on the bus seat and I slid my leg between your legs and bent my knee and pressed up and you ground down on me and looked back over the other couples on the bus. They were all making out or getting handjobs or touching each other’s faces or something. We were always doing something different. We were always something else.
Chelsea Laine Wells is a graduate of the Columbia College of Chicago fiction department whose work has appeared in PANK, Bluestem, wigleaf, Evergreen, and the short fiction anthology Nouns of Assemblage. Honors include first place in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Awards for Traditional Fiction, a nomination for a Pushcart Prize as well as Best of the Net, and first place in the Guild Complex Literary Awards for fiction. She is the fiction editor for Hypertext Magazine. Currently she lives with her husband and daughter in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, TX and is a high school librarian who, among other great things, leads a stone-cold pack of weirdos in a kick ass student writers' club.