Whatever she says, it’s what she doesn’t mind you knowing because it can’t hurt her. And that scares me because what she says is so fucked. Like when she said, “I don’t have daddy issues; I have dead daddy issues. They’re just like daddy issues except they can’t be resolved.”
She was standing outside the movies, her friend already departed, when a boy came up and offered her a cigarette. She thought she had time before her grandmother picked her up and figured, why not. He handed her a cigarette and lit the lighter, holding it before her. She leaned forward and placed the tip of the cigarette in the fire. She inhaled then coughed. She said she was sorry. He thought it was cute. Boys like that.
She saw her grandmother’s car and flicked the cigarette to the ground and bounded off. She looked back and said, “Thanks, bye,” before the boy knew what happened. Boys also like that.
She got in her grandmother’s car, an old green station wagon with wood paneling. When she looked over to her grandmother, she noticed she looked upset. She thought, oh-no, she knows, did she see me? Oh god, can she smell it on me?
“Look,” she said, “It was my first and last time.”
Her grandmother shook her head.
“I swear. Honest.”
Her grandmother reached past her and opened up the glove-box and pulled out a pack of Pall Mall’s. She pulled one out, and put it in her lips. She offered one to her granddaughter, who declined, scared she was being tricked.
“Grandma?” she said, “I didn’t know you—”
“Listen,” her grandmother said, “next time a boy lights a cigarette for you, you don’t lean forward. You grab his hand and pull it toward the cigarette. It’s a cheap trick they pull to stare down your shirt.”
“Look, I’m just saying, whores lean and ladies pull.”
That’s the kind of stories she told me. This was her Georgia upbringing, the kind that went to finishing school and learned how to set a table and curtsy. Where she learned what kind of a woman she didn’t want to be. She wasn’t going to be a whore, but she certainly wasn’t going to be a lady. She was she, and everyone else could go fuck themselves.
And I loved her for that. But she would never accept love from me because as she said, “I’m all full up. Why not go give it to that blonde at the end of the bar. She seems to be running empty.”
I laughed. I stood up to go. She reached out and placed her hand on my arm. I looked back. “I like you. Just be careful. When they’re empty like that, they’ll suck you dry and leave when they get what they need.”
I nodded. I said, “I know. I used to be empty too.”
JOSE DIAZ is a writer, philosopher, and Navy veteran. He’s attending UMass Boston for an MFA in creative writing, is an assistant editor for Consequence Magazine, and works as an ESL tutor. He enjoys unrequited love, sitting in the rain, and hearing about people who keep trying despite having failed.