By T.A. Burkholder
- Go two hours south to a small college on a hill because a boy you like wants to go there (though the boy won’t go there and the boy won’t like you back).
- Before leaving, dig with glee through dusty mounds of dead people’s clothes at the “dollar-a-pound” warehouse. In a sea of jeans and t-shirts, be the one in flowered polyester.
- Fall immediately and awkwardly in love with an unattainable, moody artist. Renew this heartbreak regularly with other unattainables.
- Stop shaving, stop wearing a bra and repair your glasses with duct tape. Pretend this is because you don’t care what people think.
- When you accidentally attract a boy who serenades you, don’t speak. When you show up at his door later, don’t say why. End the year untouched and return home for the summer to watch Jeopardy! with your parents.
- Blame everything on your tiny, isolated school and start fresh at a big, city university. As a joke or a social experiment or a cry for attention, tell everyone your name is Bob and stick with it the whole, mostly friendless year. In the fall, return to the gem-green grass of that first small school.
- As a joke or a social experiment or a cry for attention, shave your head down to the scalp. Keep it that way even when people call you Sinead. Keep it that way even after your mother worries that people will think she’s a bad mother.
- Smoke one cigarette a day while standing in your room singing along to the same Laurie Anderson song. We’re gonna save ourselves. Save ourselves.
- Promise yourself, on a regular basis, that today will be the first day of many when you find perfection in silence. No stupid questions. No wrong answers. No conversations that require the treachery of words.
- Threaten yourself on a regular basis with the fact that you know where your father keeps his gun.
- Instead of kissing the beautiful, complicated, black-haired woman you eat lunch with, pick a fight and never apologize.
- Streak frequently in groups both large and small, each time running back towards your clothes a little slower.
- Allow a mutual acquaintance to broker a hook up between you and a guy you don’t really like. For a few weeks, let the raw mechanics of your bodies bring you a tight, silent thrill. But remember, he doesn’t need to know your heart is raw and easily bruised. Or that your nerves are mostly burnt-wire black. Or that want – so close to need – winds through you like blood.
Rub just enough lonely off your skin to survive before sending him from your room for the final time.
Wait for his hallway echo to recede then close your eyes and breathe.
Move out into the night alone.
Enjoy the solitary slap of your feet along the sidewalk and take comfort in the way the ground grows soft as you step from the pathway onto the damp green.
T.A. Burkholder is a writer and massage therapist living in Portland, OR. Her writing has appeared most recently or is forthcoming in PANK, Vinyl, and Nailed Magazine. She lives in a nearly perpetual state of personal challenges which she blogs about at notuntilnow.blog.