This post continues my idea of blogging about single-word suggestions. Today's suggestion: flaccid. I don't mention the word specifically in here, but you can feel the word there, lingering. This is actually an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, the one that agents keep rejecting. Whatever. I have a story to tell. Here's part of it.
In a small town, when you are fourteen, and it’s 1987, and your stepmom is in the crazy house and your dad is all depressed, there isn’t a whole lot to do. The boys play sports or hang out with their friends. My sister Sookie hangs out with her friends too, or meets her boyfriend when no one knows. She cheers at football games, but Sookie is skipping this one to hang out with me. I don’t really have any friends besides Sookie to hang out with. I’m still too new here. I’m a freshman now and have been put in the smart classes with all the other social misfits, but it’s lonely.
Sookie takes pity on me and says we should go for a walk. Our brothers have already taken off and we don’t want to be in the house where it’s dark and smells of cigarettes. We can walk and shake off our visit to Pine Rest where we saw my stepmom and the bandages on her arms.
Sookie and I start our walk, even though it’s slipping into night. We walk downtown (two blocks) and stop at the Quick Stop. Larry is behind the counter. Lisa, my stepmom, sends us down a few times a week to put cigarettes and sometimes milk on account. Today, we decide to be rebels and ask to put what we want on the tab. We grab two of everything: pink Charleston Chews (because they are the biggest candy bar out there even though they are just made of marshmallows), Mountain Dew, Corn Nuts, and Rocket Pops. “Just put it on the charge,” Sookie says. She doesn’t look at me or Larry and I try to study the videos in the new section they’ve just opened. We aren’t looking at him because we both know Mom and Dad haven’t paid the bill in a while.
Larry coughs and then says, “Okay, kiddos. This time. But tell your parents that…” Then he just stops. Maybe he sees that our eyes are red and tired looking. Maybe he can just feel the pain coming off us in waves. Maybe he knows where we’ve been. Whatever the reason, he bags all our treasures and hands them to us.
We shuffle out the door, into the thick Coopersville air. Sounds from the football game echo in the air. It’s only half a mile away and I think I can smell hot dogs and testosterone.
You’d think we’d talk about Lisa and our fears and how we both know things are changing, but we don’t. Instead, Sookie says, “You’re going to have to get a boyfriend eventually or everyone will think you’re a lesbian.” I choke a little on the strawberry flavored marshmallow. “But I’m not a lesbian. I’m not anything,” I say. Romance makes me mad. I don’t want to end up like my mom, dating one guy after another after another. And I don’t want to end up like my dad, where you’re so in love with someone and so desperate to hump them that you forget about good things in life, like your children. I have this crazy idea that I need to get through the next four years and get a scholarship to college. If I can get a scholarship to college, I can have a good life…and a guy isn’t going to get me there.
“Well,” she says, “I’m just saying. If you were a lesbian, I’d still love you. I mean, it wouldn’t be a big deal.”
“Oh. Okay. But I’m not.”
I imagine for a minute there’s a movie camera right in front of us and I see us the way it does: there’s Sookie in her tight pants rolled at the bottom, with the white shirt that shows off her budding breasts. Her hair is brown and thick and wavy, her eyes a deep brown. She’s part Native American and you can tell by the soft glow of her skin. She’s exotic and beautiful. I am wearing clothes three sizes too big, my t-shirt to my knees. My hair is shaved on one side because I want to look cool, but really I just look like the dude from Simply Red. I have breasts and hips and there is hair where I don’t want it and I don’t want anyone to know.
We pass the funeral home, heading towards the football game, before she asks me if I’ve ever even seen a penis. Immediately I think of my mom’s old boyfriend, sitting on the toilet, his flesh hanging over itself, his tiny penis poking out from between his legs, like a tiny depressed gopher. “Yeah,” I say, all confident like. “They look sort of like an alien creature or something.”
Sookie laughs. “They are. And when you touch them, they grow. Thank god they don’t have teeth. When you’re ready, when you get a boyfriend or whatever, I’ll tell you how to hold them and go down on a guy. That’ll keep him happy.”
I feel nauseous. I can’t breathe. The thought of touching one of those things, of putting one in my mouth, makes me break out in a cold sweat. And, frankly, I’m a little mad. Anne of Green Gables never talked to Diana about giving a blowjob to Gilbert, and I really thought my life in Coopersville would be like that Canadian fairy tale.
Sookie unwraps the Rocket Pop and looks at me and I know. She’s going to teach me right now, as we walk to the football game. She works slowly on her popsicle, but I take big bites out of it. That’ll teach ‘em, I think.