This Place
by Prophecy Girl

"Oh, fuck.. B! Fucking.."

Her voice is loud enough to wake the dead, if they weren't already awake and attacking us in pairs and threesomes. It's late, two in the morning, and for some reason the moon's light seems as warm as the sun's. It doesn't burn the vampires though, and so we run and jump and flip and kick and then we win.

Her skin is slick with perspiration and blood and the guts of some demon whose name we didn't stop to get. The only sound piercing the solid night air now is that of our own pants and grunts and I wish that was as dirty as it sounds but the only dirty things to talk about are our clothes and bodies.

She says come on B in that oil-spill slippery tone of hers, that fuck me now tone, the one she always wishes I'd take her up on instead of grabbing a few french fries and beating ass home. I follow her obediently, two paces behind because she's always faster than me by this time of night.

Then we're home, and I'm so exhausted I can't breathe and I collapse on the bed while she orders pizza and showers. We eat until our bellies are hard and distended and I worry as I always do and she tells me it's fine as she always does. Your metabolism is so fast, she tells me, you need to fucking eat, fucking anorexic she says, she went down that road before but time changes a lot. She's smarter than she thinks and somehow I know she understands even as she curses at me about it.

She asks me to stay and I get in the shower, turning it as hot as it goes and scrubbing until my skin is raw. I come out in a towel to ask for clothes and I guess she expected me to take longer because there she is like a deer in headlights, with a rubber strip tied tightly around her bicep and a syringe in her arm, just adding to the many scars there already.

And it never hit be before how similar clawmarks and trackmarks can look when you don't want to see the truth.

I'm quiet, receptive, understanding, breathing her in. Listening, not accusing.

She tells me what it was like that time a year ago and I try to picture it, picture her at fourteen chasing the dragon in a crackhouse livingroom with the twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight year old babyfuckers that gave her the shit in the first place. I try to see them, but their faces are blurred and there's smoke everywhere in the room I imagine.

I see her dressed in faded torn clothes like an abandoned rag doll, hair pulled back in a tight ponytail to keep it away from the flames and ashes everywhere. Empty liquor bottles rolling around, old potato chip bags and candy wrappers.

I go deeper and then I am her, inhaling smoke from the foil and feeling some guy's hand on my breast and knowing the whole time what would happen. We pass through the sheet in the doorway and fall onto a mattress on the kitchen floor. He's so beautiful, all sinew and muscle and deep brown skin and eyes and I start picturing how wonderful our child would be. Pale dark skin with hazel eyes and light ashy brown hair all snarly and tangly-wild.

Jungle fever, my mother's husband always says. That Faith, she has jungle fever.. always coming home with dreads or cornrows and look how she dresses and oh what he'll say when I come home with my little kink-haired cocoa baby to show my mother how beautiful she is and what a good mom I am, so much better than her. I know he'll say nigger baby, that's what he calls me, that's what he'll call her, and I almost make this beautiful boy wear a condom but I'll take my chances again.

I feel like bursting, the heroin rushing through my system as he gives me the best fuck of my life. And weeks later, when my period doesn't come, and I don't even know that boy's name and I'm all alone. So I wait. And I wait. And I pray to a god I don't believe in that this thing inside me will die, that this amazing child that I would love so much would soak into my womb.

Female rabbits absorb their young when they know they're in danger. They become so nervous so stressed so scared that the babies just disintegrate and I think this is what will happen, that my body will draw this new life back inside it.

I am me again, and I am listening to her tell her story in whorls and loops and vivid patterned colors. She paints a picture that is at once ethereal and terrifying, as she describes in detail how it felt to be clean, to be off drugs for that one week after she found out.

And then I was back, she tells me, and nothing feels as good as going back. You never feel as high or as light or as good as when you go back to it.

And you always go back.

Overnight, three months were gone and I picture her belly rounding out, just hinting at what was growing there, and how the vomiting didn't bother her because she was so used to it from drinking so much. And how she woke up one afternoon on that same mattress and took in the stench of liquor and weed and piss and vomit and suddenly reality was there, snapping against her like a rubber band.

I was going to be a mother, she tells me, her eyes distant and dreamy. I was going to be a mother and my child was going to be wrong. It wasn't going to be a beautiful sleek jungle cat baby, it was going to be deformed and retarded and addicted. It was going to be broken because of me.

And my mother told me to go to hell, that she didn't get to escape when she got pregnant with me and why should I have a choice she never did? You're going to have that junkiebaby, Faith, she told me, and you're going to keep it and deal with it for the rest of your pitiful life, the same way I had to deal with you. I should have had you in a hospital and left you there with all the other crack-babies to be put in a home where you belong.

She pauses in her story, and I realize I have been her again and she knows but doesn't seem to mind.

This guy lived behind the A&P, she continues and I close my eyes, wanting to feel her pain and absorb it for her. In a green van. He took care of shit like this for twenty dollars. He had things all over that van, hangers and pliers and stolen medical supplies. Bicycle spokes. I sat for an hour and looked around and got sick at the thought that this was where my child would die. This was where I might die.

He offered me something; he said he usually just did it and got it over with, but he liked me and hadn't seen anyone so young in a long time, so he got me high as a kite. I lay on pillows and stained towels and shut my eyes and when it was over I was sobbing and bleeding and he felt bad, I knew, because he kept telling me how sorry he was but that I could adopt when I was grown, and I didn't know what to say because I never felt older in my life.

I walked home with a hand towel in my jeans to catch the blood, and I lay down in the basement and cried for hours and hours. The blood kept coming and my stomach turned red and rashy and it ached down to my bones, everywhere, and I felt empty and broken and all I could do was scream and apologize over and over again.

My brother brought me ecstacy, and I just kept swallowing the pills and for the first time in years I really loved him because he was trying to do right and he baby-sat me while I rolled. But it was dull, and everything was far away, and all I could think was that something else came out when the baby did. Something that was supposed to stay with me, but it was gone. In a dumpster somewhere. Some part of me beaten out with a rusty bike spoke.

Tears rolled wet and warm down my cheeks as I listened to the end of her story and watched her. Emotionless. Matter-of-fact. This is how it happened, this is why I block myself off and never let anyone inside. Because anyone I allow inside might get beaten out, too. I read her mind, this is what she says and I regret everything.

Take my life after all, I think to her silently. Take my not-boyfriend, my french fries, my milk, my mother. Trade places and let me bear your pain for awhile. I want to carry her on my shoulders and never let another human touch her for the rest of her life.

Keep her in a glass jar, in a box somewhere. In a snowglobe where it's beautiful and white and pure all the time. Her eyes are like shards of mirror, cutting right through to my gut and slicing me open. They've never known innocence.

I lean over and kiss her and she resists before letting go.. floating free. We spiral down to the bed together and then my hand is cold on her stomach, making it ripple and clench as little goosebumps rise all over her body. She lets out an animalistic moan as my lips trace a path down her body and between her legs, where everything is warm and wet and musky-scented. Faith-scented.

I've never done it before, but it seems to come naturally and she cries when she comes, tears trailing down her neck and soaking into the pillow behind her. Those brown mirror-eyes closed, lashes resting on her cheeks, lips relaxed into a slight frown. She shakes. I reach out to hold her, and she pushes me away.

"Don't touch me," she bites off, her eyes open and sharp again.

I back down. Shut down. I try to understand, I try to get into her head again but the door is shut and all I see is the scars on her wrists and the light reflecting from her eyes, flashing like identical switchblades. I touch her wrist and she reflexively pulls away. "Just go."

Then I am just me again, me with a new weight on her shoulders. Me with matted blonde hair and Faith's scent on all my pulse points. Saturated, like when I was four and soaked myself in my mother's expensive French perfume. I stand back against the wall of the motel and the rain pours down around me, washing her scent away. I cry. Not for my loss, but for hers, because I know I would love her truly and fully and she knows it too.

I sob, the rain streaming down and washing the salt from my cheeks. I try to understand but the rain makes everything blurry. Slowly I wash her away, wrapping my sweater tight around my shoulders and heading out through the parking lot. I let her slip, let her go, let her fall away from me.

It's what she wants.

It's the least I can do for her.



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