My mouth felt heavy and thick, as if my tongue had licked all over and around a dirty ashtray. I could hear Mike in the kitchen making breakfast. Julie’s friend from camp was nice and we’d all gotten used to his habit of walking around naked.
It didn’t even phase us anymore.
I loved Julie’s house. Bigger than mine with way fewer people and her parents went out of town quite often. I practically lived there. Julie and I went grocery shopping and watched videos while doing homework. We put spinach on our pizza and drank wine. We sprinkled tomatoes, onions, and sour cream on black beans and yellow rice. We ate fancy salads and swam in her pool.
Marc made fun of us a lot, saying to Michele one day as they watched me and Julie cross the parking lot at school,
“Look at them, walking like they own the place…I hate them both.”
Michele laughed. No one hated us. It was impossible.
During Julie’s parties, I could disappear into her father’s back office and exercise or finish research papers. Sometimes Julie or Cathy, all hopped up on X, would call my house in a panic.
“She’s at Julie’s,” my brother would say.
Cathy then paused and thought for a moment.
“Oh shit. We’re at Julie’s.”
They always found me.
I rolled over and stared out the window of Julie’s guest bedroom, knowing I’d have to get up soon and go to school. I stretched. My tongue felt nasty. Last night, I’d made out with a guy and smoked too many cigarettes.
What was his name?
He wasn’t important.
Marc was important, but Marc was dating Babette. Julie called her Babar, but she wasn’t fat or anything. Babette was thin, cute, talked about nonsense and put out. I didn’t care. Marc should be allowed to get his youth out of the way while he’s young.
And so should I.
But I didn’t like the way my mouth felt. Funny, after nine years of smoking, I couldn’t remember ever feeling so grossed out. At eleven, I thought cigarettes made me look incredibly cool. At sixteen, someone taught me to properly inhale. Cathy disapproved, for several years, until senior year and then she started smoking, too. I’m not sure when Julie started.
I got out of bed and looked in the mirror. Lovely. Purple tie-dyed shirt and yellow pants.
The day before, I ran into Marc in the Social Sciences building. He always smiled when he saw me. This time he had a question.
“Do you ever wear makeup?” he asked. “Or one particular hair color? Or other clothes?”
I laughed, then got pissy. Two reactions Marc was adept at producing.
“I wear baggy clothes because it shouldn’t be ABOUT MY BODY. And makeup is for girls with low self-esteem.” I made announcements, rather than conversation. “If you are looking for some kind of trophy bimbo whose self-worth is wrapped up in her appearance…you have the wrong girl!”
Marc got a kick out of me. He chuckled and asked about my plans for the weekend. I’m sure Babette dressed in tight clothes and fixed her hair every day.
Hopefully, Marc used protection.
I smelled bacon and my stomach urged me to begin the day. So I did.
Mike was indeed naked.
And I never smoked another cigarette again.