by Caroljean Gavin
I’m not like the other girls. The other girls know things I don’t know. The other girls know the rules.
Tangerine’s whipping eyeliner all over her face. She started with her eyes, but she drew the lines all the way out to her ears. She didn’t stop there. She’s drawing lines from one side of her forehead to the other, covering her whole face like that. “The thing is,” she says, “Is not to highlight your features. You want to cover them up a little. You want to look like a painting. People won’t know what they’re looking at, but they’ll feel some kind of deep emotional response.”
“That’s how you get them to like you?” I just smeared cherry Chapstick on my lips. I thought that was enough. I am nineteen. I focus on my studies.
Periwinkle whirls around in an office chair, dagger in hand and stops with the blade pressed against my throat. She’s wearing a paper crown tipped in blood. “You do not want any of those creatures liking you. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I say because I can’t nod.
“Open your hand.”
I unclench my fist and she drops the dagger into my palm. Even though I slip the dagger in at an angle, it has a hard time fitting into the pocket of my cargo pants. Every step I take is at knifepoint and the twine-y snake hilt is sticking out. I feel dumb.
Vermillion straps her hands and her feet into mittens and slippers made from synthetic tiger skin and claws. It looks like a hard thing to do by herself but she doesn’t complain. She rends the air and chuffs from deep in her throat. Her rhinestone studded cellphone rings, blinking, and hopping and Vermillion swipes at it sending it flying across the bathroom into one of the showers with the slimy tile floor.
Chartreuse rubber bands troll dolls to her arms.
Marigold blares guitar feedback from a speaker in her pocket.
Umber ties plastic spiders in her hair, and sprays them down with a can of Raid.
I staple a stuffed flamingo to my t-shirt; it doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m from the suburbs. I didn’t even go to prom.
Iris crashes two giant cymbals. “Let’s get this party on the road.”
“You’re not ready,” Indigo grabs me by the wrist, and plops a plastic Viking helmet on my head. It looks just like the one my brother had when he was five.
“Before we go,” Tangerine says, “Let’s review. We don’t look them in the eyes.”
“We don’t talk to them,” Periwinkle snarls in my direction.
“We don’t take food or drinks from them,” Vermillion.
“We don’t laugh at anything they say. Unless they show vulnerability by sharing something personal.” Chartreuse.
“We don’t let them touch us.” Marigold.
“And we do not touch them.” Umber.
“If they approach us we yawn and then spit on their shoe.” Iris.
Indigo throws her head back and howls. “And if you get shit on your hands…run!”
“Why are we even going?” I ask.
Ever since I left home things have not made sense.
Dad ugly cried.
Mom bought me a vibrator.
My little brother let me have all the onion rings at my going away dinner.
Every day my mailbox is full of credit card applications.
“If you want to stay,” Iris answers, still howling, “and suffocate on your own breath, be our guest!”
I follow the other girls out of the building.
We march for blocks uphill in a fog shrouded, evergreen lined darkness until we get to the address.
Someone with spiky hair and sunglasses sticks their head out of the door and says, “Password.”
The other girls shout “Serendipity,” like their mouths are full of bubble gum.
Their mouths are full of bubble gum.
I didn’t know we were supposed to have bubble gum.
I follow the other girls. Inside we are swallowed by deeply thumping music, and dizzied by bright lights sabering the blackness.
The other girls scatter into the party like birds.
It is a warehouse.
A swing of a noose hangs down from the rafters.
A black and white television screen plays the footage of a heart beating.
Eyeholes of a cow skull stare through my skin and into my soul.
A lounge of couches in the middle of the room squat and exhale as they take the weight of the bodies on them.
A glowing warmth reaches out from behind. It smells like beer. “You all alone?”
It is one of them.
A guy. A dude.
He looks so weaponless and soft.
I walk away, but he follows.
“Hey! Maggie? You were in pre-calc with Mr. Jones last year. It’s me, Brian. I didn’t know we got into the same school!”
I glance around, but the other girls are nowhere.
“That’s some look you got going,” Brian says, “Is it like a sorority thing?” He holds out a bottle of beer.
His eyes are clean, eager, blue, tempting.
The other girls would know what to do.
I am not from around here.
If I talk to him will I be under his spell?
If I reach for the beer, will teeth shoot out of his hand?
“It’s kind of awkward,” Brian keeps talking, “But I had such a crush on you. Well, have.”
I like him too. I do. But this place…
If I touch the walls, they might melt under my fingers.
If I sneeze, the whole party might flick into the air, spin like a basketball, and land on the roof of a taller building.
“It’s good to see you.” I smile.
The flamingo flutters against my chest.
The dagger in my pocket hums “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
The plastic Viking helmet floats off of my head like a balloon, bobbing and rising, the plastic horns scrape, and scrape against the ceiling to be let back out.
Caroljean Gavin started her MFA at The New School and finished it up at Queens University of Charlotte. Her work has appeared in The 2011 Press 53 Open Awards Anthology, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, The Ampersand Review, and Winston-Salem, NC’s Poetry in Plain Sight. She is currently working on a novel, a story collection, and on becoming a librarian.