I’m in the bathtub listening to old Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong records on Mama’s player. The vinyl is scratching against the needle and there’s a fuzzy little glaze to the music. I’ve got my hair wrapped up in an old green towel because I dyed it dark and I don’t want Mama to see it just yet. She’s gonna get real mad when she finds out—always used to say her favorite part of me was my sandy hair.
I’m brushing my teeth with one of those electric toothbrushes with the big, thick bottom. My lipstick is coming off on the edges of the brush and for a second I think it’s blood. My mouth’s been sore lately and I’ve been having dreams of my teeth all falling out. All at once, scattering onto the floor. When I go to smile at a boy all my teeth will just spill out of my mouth and they’re met with a bloody, gummy greeting.
Mama’s downstairs making a lotta racket, doing God knows what. I try to focus on the music so I can’t hear her, but there’s a saxophone solo and it’s too quiet to block out the clattering and crashing downstairs. I wonder if Daddy’s home yet, if that’s why it sounds like she’s breaking plates and spitting glass.
Daddy works late and we both know he’s gonna leave us for his receptionist, but neither of us mention it. I saw them kissing each other behind his office door once, when I was at the office when I wasn’t supposed to. Sometimes I go down there and flirt with the guys who work down at the copy room. I cover my lips in a dark red and wear the dress that makes my body look best, skipping class to meet them.
Sometimes they kiss me right away, but others want to take me out on lunch dates at fancy cafes where they serve baskets of bread and butter. I always order Long Island iced teas and pretend I’m an old housewife, off on a lunch date with her workingman husband. Sometimes I let them touch me under the table, but usually I save that for after they pay the bill and we leave the restaurant.
I spit the toothpaste out in the bathtub and watch the minty mess slowly dissolve into the bath water. I snuck a boy into this bathtub once, when Mama and Daddy were fighting a few months back. He slept in my room until the next morning because we couldn’t figure out how to sneak him back out without getting caught. I didn’t sleep that night, didn’t like the way his breath felt against my shoulder.
I know Mama would be mad if she found out I was sleeping around. She’d call me a bad girl or one of those other names parents use: adventurous, edgy, too modern. She’d blame her age for not being able to understand, but that doesn’t make sense to me because I’ve seen pictures of her at feminist rallies in the 1960's.
I take my hair out of the towel and sink it deep into the bathwater, feeling my skin curl into itself as I squish to fit my entire body underwater. The dye from my hair seeps out and turns the water a sort of reddish brown.
I think about calling a copyboy to go out later tonight, but the thought of squeezing myself into yet another tight outfit makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I’m sick of trying to force my skin into clothes it barely fits in, sick of tucking in belly flab and peeling off bras to reveal lines on my flesh from where it dug into my ribcage. Even my pants leave marks down my legs, so tight that they fuse their seams into my skin so it’s like I have them too. One more layer to undress.
I want Mama to come wash my hair and soap me up like she did when I was too little to do it myself. Back when my hair was light and she used to sing old songs to me as she worked the suds into my head. Blue skies smilin’ at me, nothin’ but blue skies do I see, bluebirds singin’ a song, nothin’ but bluebirds all day long… I used to think her voice was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. Daddy tells her she has a bad singing voice and she gets yelled at for singing around him, now.
I had a miscarriage over the toilet once. And another time in the backseat of my car. A copyboy helped me clean up the blood both times, as it seems they were always waiting just outside to help me when I needed it. Mama and Daddy never found out about those, though.
The record ends and the needle starts to spin off the record, hissing in a slow way that reminds me of the static on the radio when you can’t find the right station. Daddy took away my car keys when he found out I wasn’t a virgin— damn copyboy ratted me out a few months back when he realized whose daughter I was. I miss driving down the roads late at night, when there’s nobody left outside. I would turn up my music high, so I couldn’t even hear the engine of the car growling around me. I’d stick my head out the window and let the wind lap against my face, brushing my hair back out of my eyes. The street lights above me would dance as they passed by. All the windows of the houses were blackened, the curtains pulled tightly shut.
S. MAKAI ANDREWS is a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She tends to spend her time jumping between lake and ocean, and is never seen without a mason jar filled with caffeine. Her work has been recognized in multiple genres in the 2015 and 2016 Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards and has been published in Teenage Wasteland, The Nosiy Island, and Beautiful Minds Magazine, among others. In the future she hopes to further her studies in creative writing and psychology.