FUCK IT! + you don’t need them.i. young blood - the naked and famous. ii. let’s go - matt & kim. iii. shut up and let me go - the ting tings. iv. malmo - strfkr. v. better off without you - summer camp. vi. i love it - icona pop. vii. call it what you want - foster the people. viii. sleepyhead - passion pit. vi. genesis - grimes.
she is fast cars whizzing by and empty liquor bottles clinking amongst discarded fast food wrappers and wads of paper towel on the floor. she is one hand trailing out the window at fifty miles per hour, wind whipping through platinum blonde hair, eyes barely peering over the horizon of grey dashboard melding with foggy windshield. she is, “val, all appendages in the vehicle, full speed ahead,” eighty-four in a fifty-five, swerving in front of a red minivan and gracefully looping around an old man driving half the speed limit (if that). she is sipping diet coke and whispered, “don’t tell mom!”s and trying to beat the sunset home.
she is three days older and he is still lying on the couch, she is desperation pounding in her ears as she hides the remnants of his night out in the cupboard underneath the sink, she is pulling woolen blankets over his ears to keep the monsters away after dark, she is crossing her fingers that tomorrow they will drive down to the lake, just a girl and her brother, and everything will be better.
the phone call comes in the middle of the evening, half an hour after soccer practice, half an hour before dinner. her legs are folded up beneath her, eyes trained on a pre-teen sitcom about high school (a faraway land where the boys are intriguing and a pretty, underrated blond consistently places herself in the way of trouble). her father scribbles semi-coherently in books of sudoku puzzles and her mother crochets by the fireplace. they are picturesque in that moment, a wholesome american family unit doing wholesome american family things.
it rings three times, barely audible above the shrill whistle of water boiling in a red kettle on the stove, firewood crackling cheerily, metal needles clicking together while her mother whispers elaborate patterns under her breath, a mundane mantra. valerie answers (“hello, day residence, this is valerie speaking. may i ask who is calling?”) and extends the phone to her mother, lips pressed together.
“it’s the police department, mom, they want to talk to you?”
begrudgingly, she dresses up for the funeral, her face permanently in distress, puffy and wet and stained with lingering bits of facial tissue. her new frock is black lace, far too elegant, she feels, for a ten year old with a gaping hole in her heart where her older brother should be. she fastens her hair back with a black bow and wraps herself in his favorite blanket. it smells like his breath after he staggers into the house at four in the morning, collapsing on the sofa while she watches from the corridor above until he begins to snore and she can conspicuously tuck him in. sometimes, she would read him a passage from her favorite book, and she breathes the words into the wind over his casket.
she is six textbooks and an overflowing backpack and a poor shoe choice on the first day of middle school. she is five feet tall, fingers grasping for the spinning plate on her combination lock just as the bell rings. she is disgruntled and completely taken apart, a plaque on the wall with her brother’s name engraved in shiny gold. she is walking down the corridor and out the door and all the way home while the wind makes her sorry.
three years later, she has learned how to do her makeup, wave a mascara wand and draw within the lines of her eyelids. she has rummaged through her mother’s lipsticks enough to know which shades are complimentary to her dismally pale palette. she is, “hey, val, nice boots!” as she saunters down the hallway, slipping nonchalantly into her seat as the two-toned bell chimes from the intercom.
tenth in her class, SAT’s well above average, interviews already lined up with her three top choices (blowing smoke rings in the backseat of her boyfriend’s old toyota, swallowing breathmints by the handful before returning home at night, leaving lipstick-stained cigarettes at the bottom of the garbage bag on tuesday nights). valerie isgood, completely and totally good (and she tries so incredibly hard not to be).
she drives his pick-up truck at eighty-four in a fifty-five, music blaring as she arbitrarily chooses an exit and moves towards it. she is the soft ‘clunk’ of aluminum beer cans discarded on the dirty floor, the rustle of paper as she reaches for a french fry in the passenger seat. she is fast cars and waving to passersby who shake their heads goodheartedly. she is singing (wailing, really) at the top of her lungs for all of beaufort to hear.