Chapter Two

Her

            My shirt had risen up above the waistband of my jeans just enough to where I could feel myself getting goosebumps as a result of my bare back touching the hood of my Volkswagen. I didn’t even realize that I had forgotten to bring a jacket with me on my little joy-ride until the cold air slapped me across my face as soon as I walked out of the gas station door. I guess my anger had been keeping me warm up until now.

Honestly, considering how long I’ve been using and abusing nicotine, I’m shocked cigarettes still have the ability to provide me with any sort of relief. Not that I’m complaining. I’m fairly proud of the fact that I have a cigarette in my hand right now as opposed to a needle in my arm. Or a straw in my nose. Or a- eh, you know what? I’m just going to stop myself there. You know, quit while I’m ahead. Not that I’ve ever been good at that. It’s just that sometimes, if I think about my past too hard, I end up doing more romanticizing than I ever intended to do originally.

I’m starting to feel like my life is a continuation of mishaps that always lead me back here. Not “here” as in, like, this specific gas station or anything, but definitely “here” in a figurative way, I guess? Christ. I’m just saying that I’ve invested a lot of my free time into relatively deserted parking lots.

I felt my nipples harden beneath my shirt so I started having an internal debate with myself regarding whether or not I should just chainsmoke from the comfort of my car. I decided against it; fuck my comfort. I wanted the young guy from the inside of the 7-Eleven to give me his attention, not necessarily his respect.

I arched my back and groaned in an effort to get more comfortable. Well, and to get him to look at me. Or at least raise an eyebrow in my direction. Something, anything.

“Are you alright?” I heard him shout. I don’t know if he’s genuinely concerned or if he’s starting this conversation strictly because he wants it to end with his dick in my mouth. I hope it’s the second one. Lord knows I have dirty laundry that I should air out– that I need to air out,– but things are a lot less complicated when my emotional baggage stays packed up and put away.

“What a loaded question,” I shot back as I sat up, subconsciously making sure that my shirt didn’t re-adjust itself. I wanted him to see. He was facing the pump about twenty feet away from me, but he was visible enough for me to know that he was sort of smiling in a sly way. Like the kind of smile that you give someone while you’re jokingly rolling your eyes at them as if to say, “I hate you, but holy hell you’re cute.”

I don’t hate you, Gas Station Boy, –not yet anyways– but you’re definitely cute. I looked him up and down, examining the parts of him that I could. He had lengthy dark hair that curled up into little ringlets at the ends and his olive-colored skin looked smooth. I took a long draw of my cigarette and watched as he finished pumping his gas, anxious to find out just how willing he is to continue talking to me despite being done with what he came here to do.

“What’s your name?” He asked me. His voice is nice and I wonder what his laugh sounds like.

“What’s with the personal questions?” I was worried that I might be coming across as too much of a bitch until I heard him chuckle. Good, a sense of humor. “I’m just kidding. My name is Avery,” I told him.

“Avery,” he repeated as he walked towards me and my dainty, beat-up bug. “Nice to meet you.” My name sounded better leaving his lips. Maybe I should shoot my mom a thank-you text for taking my scummy (ex) boyfriend off of my hands.

I nodded and took another drag of my cigarette. “Hey, I swear I’m not always this dramatic,” I lied. My life is a shit show and I’m always this dramatic.

He shrugged and said, “I believe you.” How dangerous. “I’m sorry about all of that shit you have going on with your mom and your dog and your incarcerated drug dealer.”

Now I’m the one shrugging. “It’s alright,” I said, “the dope man will be outta the slammer in a week, so I just have to hold it together until then.” I wonder if he thinks I’m joking. Hell, I even wonder if I’m joking.

“You don’t look like a junkie,” he said while looking me over and I let out a little laugh.

“Well shit, guess that means I’ll just have to try a little harder next time I go on a spree,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Curtis,” he said.

I stuck my hand out and he shook it. Somehow he’s even softer than I thought he would be.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” I said. “Why are you getting gas at 3 AM?”

“I dunno, just needed to get out of my head and my house, I guess.” Obviously, I understood that.

“Makes sense,” I replied. I gestured towards the 7-Eleven. “You probably got more of a distraction from your shit than you bargained for, huh?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, for fucking sure. I definitely owe you one,” he said. The wind picked up a little bit and I watched as Mother Nature ran her fingers through his hair and moved it over just enough to where a tiny scar above his right eyebrow was made visible.

“You could buy me a drink sometime,” I suggested. I was smiling and so was he, but then his smile disappeared and he looked confused.

“Does drinking not interfere with your two months of sobriety?”

“Yikes, are you policing me already?”

He laughed and I started fucking swooning. “No, I guess not. But wait,” I put my hands up like a cop had just told me to freeze and he started laughing again. He shook his head and continued, “I could’ve sworn you said you weren’t 21 yet.”

“I’m not, but I will be tomorrow,” I explained.

“Oh shit,” he said.

“I know, right? Happy birthday to me. Maybe my mom will get me a new dog.” This time we were both laughing. I know that none of this is necessarily funny, but I’ve exhausted all of my other coping mechanisms, and making tasteless jokes about my inner turmoil is pretty much all I have left. Aside from the cigs, of course. It was then that I realized that I was so busy talking to Curtis that I had let my cigarette go out. There was more than enough left worth smoking, but I flicked it into a few bushes instead. Interesting. Maybe Curtis will be my new coping mechanism.

I know how ridiculous and far-fetched my thinking sounds. You know those “crazy” girls who meet a guy and have their children’s’ names picked out almost immediately? It’s like I do the same shit, but in an entirely different and almost more fucked up kind of way. I meet a guy and I start imagining all the different ways that it can—and will—go wrong, not right. I earned my “crazy” title fair and square just like those other nutcases though, okay?

My phone rang and I told Curtis that I was sorry with my eyes. “What the fuck do you want?” I wasn’t screaming, but I might as well have been because I sounded just as pissed off despite keeping a fairly calm tone. I know I’m kinda scary when I’m cranky, but I wasn’t in the mood to walk on eggshells anymore.

Brad’s insincere apologies flooded my ears. “Look, I’m sorry, alright? Don’t get your panties in a wad, Avery,” he says. And then the justifications begin. “You’ve just been so distant lately and I missed you. I don’t know. I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry.But we can work through this though, right? I mean, we’ve been through much worse and it’d just be stupid to throw all of this away over some dumb mistake,” he urged. Somehow, his whiny pleading annoyed me even more than how nonchalant he was acting.

“Don’t get my panties in a wad?” Now I was getting loud. “Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, I’m not even wearing panties.” I scoffed and glanced at Curtis, who was clearly shocked. “You’d probably know that if you were taking my fucking pants off earlier and not my mom’s.”

I had absolutely no desire to continue the conversation with Brad, but I was thankful that he provided me with the opportunity to casually make an announcement about the lack of undergarments I had on beneath my clothing.  Brad went on for another two minutes or so with his begging for forgiveness tactic, but I’m not a confession booth and he can go to Hell. “I really don’t want to do this with you right now so I’m going to need you to fuck off. Enjoy your little slumber party with my mother, asshole.” I hung up and realized that even if he was already back at his place, my mother was definitely still home and I didn’t really want to see her bitch ass either.

“Your life is a mess,” Curtis said. I guess I made a weird face or something because then he began to verbally backspace. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be rude or anything. I’m just saying that, like, I just met you and you’re already the most interesting person I know. Like you should have a reality TV show or some shit.”

I giggled. I always think it’s really funny when people that I don’t know very well make comments like, “your life is insane” or “honey, have you ever tried therapy?” after interacting with me for a short period of time. It’s almost sad how often I hear it too. It’s even sadder that the last person who suggested I get help for my mental health was my fucking gynecologist. I mean, her job title clearly suggests that she’s qualified to help and heal one body part, and last time I checked that one body part was supposed to be my vagina, not my head. Like shit, did my pussy lips whisper, “hey doc, all good down here; her thinking is pretty fucked up though– send some help, will ya?” to her when I wasn’t paying attention or something?  

“You’re fine, I promise,” I assured him. “Honestly, I agree. It’d be nice if I could profit off of this bullshit…” I trailed off and reverted back to my thoughts because I was involuntarily giving myself flashbacks. I’m usually good at refraining from dwelling, but every so often, I just wind up sitting in my shit for a little while. At first it’s on accident, but then I just start to do it on purpose. I think of every bad thing that has either happened to me or around me and I just let myself get really, really sad.

Having an outburst in front of Curtis and a cashier was one thing, but I was not cool with the idea of getting vulnerable around people that I hardly know. Or people in general, really. I audibly sighed even though I didn’t mean to. I know I thought I wanted dick about 10 minutes ago, but now all I really want is a hug and the two people in my life that I can usually receive comfort from were entangled earlier. Fuck my life, holy shit. I had to leave before I started crying.

I broke the little moment of silence.

“Hey, I have class tomorrow. Or today, I guess,” I said, looking away and trying not to make it obvious that tears were welling up in my eyes. I opened my car door and reached for the gum wrapper and pen in my cup holder. I quickly jotted down my phone number and handed it to him. “Just call me next time you need another break from your head and your house. I’m happy to be an escape route for you,” I told him.

“Thanks, that’s nice of you,” he replied as he slipped the wrapper into his pocket. I let myself stare into his hazel-colored eyes for a second before I began climbing into my front seat. “I’ll give you a call as soon as I get home then,” he said.

I laughed and shut my door. I waved goodbye to  him and watched as he walked back to his old, rusty Honda. I took a deep breath, put my keys in the ignition, and cranked the bug up. I needed sad music and a cigarette.

So that’s exactly what I did. I lit up a ciggy and maxed out my radio’s volume in an attempt to muffle the sound of myself crying as I drove to another empty parking lot that I could freak the fuck out in.

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