I leave for the liquor store as soon as it starts to rain. The sky is oddly bright and it’s thundering, rumbly and far away. A man stands under the awning outside the condo across the street, smoking a cigarette and watching me with my red jacket and clear umbrella. I am wearing a backpack and no makeup which both make me feel about ten years younger.
I spent the afternoon at a clinic in downtown Brooklyn. I waited two hours before my name was called, despite my appointment. I fidgeted nervously in a scratchy chair, running my hands through my unwashed hair in the crowded waiting room. All the nurses were bored and tired and unfriendly. I was the only white girl in the place, and I felt sure everyone else could tell that I wasn’t from there, like some suburban teenage tourist on her first trip to the big city. Mariah Carey came on the speakers and the girl beside me sang along for a line or two. “And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on.” I got that album for Christmas in 7th grade.
In the examination room, I stared up at the ceiling tile, counting the spots in each square. The doctor was Russian or Czech and she called me baby once when she could tell I was uncomfortable. When the ultrasound was over and the nurse turned her back, I glanced at the computer monitor and memorized the words there so I could look them up later.
At the liquor store, they are having a wine tasting. A large, quiet man offers me a glass of chardonnay. I down it while hunting for a bottle of red on the bottom shelves, where they keep all the cheap stuff. The cuffs of my jeans are wet and they drag. “Who’s got the sweet tooth?” the female cashier asks, and I shrug and say something like “Right? It’s just me,” and leave without looking back at either of them.
It’s raining in earnest now. I shuffle from foot to soggy sandaled foot at the crosswalk, shifting my backpack full of wine. I think about 15 year old me, my last ultrasound. I had never kissed a boy. I was skinny and skeptical of my own hips. I wrote poetry in a composition notebook decorated with magazine cutouts and spent every weekend at the mall. Would she even recognize this version of me? This teeth-gritting, wine-drinking, Brooklyn girl living on her own?
At home, I step into the shower. I turn the water on hot and steam up the mirror and scrub off the day. I think about my first best friend - a bossy, bubbly brunette in second grade with rich parents, who moved away in middle school and experimented with everything I was afraid of. In 8th grade, I watched her shoplift at the fair and stopped inviting her to my birthday parties, or she stopped inviting me. She’s a nurse now somewhere in Florida, and tan as hell. Looks happy.
It’s strange to think now of all the lives we had inside us, all of the selves that still might be. If I had been the one to move, or the one to touch a boy’s crotch over his pants, or steal a lighter at a booth at the state fair, would I be different now? Could I have changed this afternoon, this evening killing spiders in my messy apartment? And what would I tell us, two ten year old girls, acting out scenes from Clueless in her giant backyard? I’d tell us it’s all acting from here, so keep up the practice. I’d tell us not to be too disappointed in seventeen or twenty-three. I think I’d tell us to be good. As if I ever needed telling.
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