Six. Skinned knees, two brown braids, cartoons. Shopping with mom, her high, white boots that clicked on the pavement when we walked together, hand in hand. Sneaking into her bed at night to stay warm. Mom’s tickle fights. Long car rides with her, too. At the beach, digging our toes into the sand. Pancakes on Sundays.
Eleven. Sleepovers with girlfriends. White, cloth bras from the mall underneath my shirt, just to say I had one. Sneaking into mom’s makeup and trying all the eyeshadows, lipsticks, mascara. Long arms, long legs, gangly pre-teen. Mom’s tickle fights. Long car rides with her, too. At the beach, digging our toes into the sand. Still, pancakes on Sundays.
Fourteen. High school. Real bras, hormones, puberty. First kiss, at the freshman Valentine’s Day dance. Hiding red lips from Mom, though she had that sly smile when I climbed into the car. Trip to the mall to buy my own makeup. Growing into my C-cups. On Halloween, my first drink. Tequila. Long car rides, only with mom. At the beach, digging our toes into the sand. Still, pancakes on Sundays.
Seventeen. “Almost an adult.” C’s in school. Doing more than kissing in the car parked on the overlook. Steamy windows. Tap, tap, tap, from the cop, chasing us away. Getting drunk off six-packs of beers. Smoking weed on the weekends. Legs crossed, propped up, sticking through the window. “It’s all happening.” Still, sometimes, the beach with mom. Toes in the sand. Wishing I had a drink in my hand. Still, pancakes on Sundays.
Twenty-one. Bars and booze and men who buy your drinks. Staying out until three. Waking up on the wrong side of town, walking two miles in six-inch heels. Boozy brunches, weed to take the edge off. In April, coke, just this once, to get through the day. Days turn into weeks. Into months. Baggies, empty with a white dusting on their edges. Rolled up bills in our wallets. Laughing. Fucking. Crashing. Crying. Wishing my toes were in the sand. Coming down, and eating pancakes on Sunday.
Twenty-four. Belts, rope, whatever it takes. Syringes, cluttered in corners. Dark tar, rusted spoons, unrolling those bills to pay for more. That word, ‘rehab,’ thrown around so casually. Help is for suckers. Nobody understands the high. Melting into the bed, flying high, exhilarated. Don’t want to change, mom. You know I’m no good. We’re broke. Withdrawals. Rocking back and forth in the fetal position, vomiting up my pancakes on Sunday.