Tuesday, January 23, 2007


We're in Aaron's Lexus. Aaron's driving and Erik's sitting next to him pushing buttons on the radio and changing the radio-stations. I'm lying in back with my head against the window. The seats are brown leather and very slick. It has begun, slowly, to snow, and the cars around us move carefully along the road and the people in the cars around us look very concentrated and angry and one man with a red moustache moves his lips aggressively and stares at me in a challenging way so I look away and stare down at my lap.

I think, 'How old is Aaron? He seems very old.' "How old is Aaron?" I say.


"This is a nice-ass car," Erik says. "I'll have a car like this sometime. Did it cost a lot?"

I watch Aaron's hand as it shifts the cars gears. Thin blond hairs line its knuckles. "Do you feel old all the time?" I ask. "Does it hurt when you wake up? When you wake up, do you roll out of bed and feel sore and tired all the time?" I think about these questions. "Do you think all the time or do you stop thinking when you're old?"

"I don't know," Aaron says with a rough voice. Aaron is very intent on the road. His little clear eyes are focused and hard and I want suddenly to poke Aaron's eyes and test the hardness of Aaron's eyes, to rub Aaron's pupils with my fingertip.

"I love cars," Erik says. "I could make cars. I should be a car designer. I could design this car."

"I'll be old soon, but so what?" I say. "It probably doesn't matter."

"I put the rims on her car, tell Aaron how I put the rims on your car, and the stereo, I did the stereo." Erik moves around in his seat. "Tell him about the woofers," Erik says. Erik touches the dashboard and the window and the windshield and the seat. "I can design," Erik says.

Aaron says, "I have life insurance from my employer. I never thought I'd have life insurance, but now I have insurance for everything. Car insurance seems kind of useless. But you have to have insurance. Anything could happen is what insurance agents want you to think, and it could, anything could happen, like smashing a person, a pedestrian, with your car, or getting robbed, like home-invasion. I worry about home-invasion sometimes. I saw it on the news, and these guys just smash you and take your stuff, like televisions and computers, and these home-invaders just want to sell your stuff for heroin or crack or methamphetamines, is what the television said."

"Stuff," I say.

Erik watches out the window. "I used to make model cars."

"Anyone could be a home-invader the news says. Home-invaders look like anyone else but they want more stuff than anyone else, I guess."

I say, "I could be a home-invader."

In my imagination home-invaders are very hairy with goatees, hard brown hair, and dirty Levis. Home-invaders have dragon tattoos and heart tattoos and naked-mermaid-giving-head tattoos, maybe. I think, 'Mermaids,' then, 'Invaders.'

"Where are we going," asks Aaron.

Erik says, "Don't know."

I think about driving, about my mother driving, about the backseat and Anastasia and Merna and the seatbelts and crisscrossing the seatbelts and the knees, the exposed knees in the summer, bumping together, and the wind from the window-crack and the very warm very yellow sunlight through the window and the relaxing just-before with sleepy eyes and deep body-yawns in the late afternoon. I was ten-years-old when we drove through the Rockies to Montana. My mother drove the rusty mini-van. My father slept quietly in the front-passenger-seat. Merna read to me and Anastasia from teen magazines, about manicures and dating and hair-styling tips and how to be beautiful girls. I let my head flop to the side and sat very still and made my eyes flutter then close and stopped my breathing and waited for my sisters to shake me.

Anastasia said, "Don't."

Merna said, "She's dead." Merna pushed me.

I didn't react, but remained as still as possible while allowing Merna's pushes to move me.

"She's dead," Merna said. "Anastasia, you killed her."

"Stop," said Anastasia.

Later we stopped at a gas-station and I hid behind the very backseat, beneath our backpacks and tents and travel gear. I made myself very still and quiet and relaxed and spent my time smelling the things under which I had buried myself, which smelled like mold and mildew and dirt. I thought, 'This is probably what death smells like.' I thought, 'Nobody will ever find me.' When the mini-van had been moving for an hour, I un-hid myself and climbed over the middle-backseat in between Merna and Anastasia and took a long nap.

"Stop here," I say. It's an AM/PM.

"We don't need gas," Aaron says.

"Stop here," I say. "I need to go to the bathroom and I don't want to go on your dead-leather seat. It's probably disrespectful or something."

"I could get a soda," Erik says. "I could get some Twinkies."


Inside the AM/PM, there are many rows with neatly stacked snacks and medicines and magazines. Near the cash-register there are hotdogs and sausages slowly turning on long metal rollers beneath a heat lamp. The cashier is very young with a shaved head and a very narrow chin. The young cashier stares at me when I walk in and I stare back at the young cashier, and, at the same time, I am conscious of Aaron and Erik behind me. Aaron's holding the door open and Erik's moving toward the Twinkies, his fingers twitching in a typing motion.

I say to the young cashier, "Where's your restroom?"

"Over there." The young cashier moves his large brown eyes toward a little dark hallway off the corner of the store, next to the beer cooler.

I move to the restroom. I lock the door. The restroom's dirty. There are tiny hairs in the sink. The mirror is scratched. One scratch says, 'I love tampons,' and another says, 'Eat monkeys bitch.' I sit on the toilet in a peculiar way, holding my body inches above the seat. I think, 'Home-invasion.' I think, 'I don't understand anything.' I think for a while about monkeys and tampons. When I'm done, I scratch a message into the mirror with my knife. I scratch, 'Birthday-invasion.' I don't know what this means but it makes me feel very energetic and wide. I feel like I'll have to walk side-ways through doors, like I'll walk very straight through narrow hallways and smash elderly men into walls and ignore the little grunts of pain and the little angry glares and just walk very straight until, finally, I must stop.

I'm in the narrow hallway. Erik's at the register with money. Aaron's reading People magazine near the door. I watch the back of the young cashier's head. I move down the store's aisles and reach with my hand and grab snacks and medicines and anything nearby and carefully place the snacks and medicines and nearby items in the waistband of my skirt and in my shirt and everywhere I can think. When I move, I make small crackling noises but I ignore the noises. I move behind Erik, and breathe on Erik's neck. Erik is still paying the young cashier and the young cashier is staring at the counter. The young cashier's bald head has many tiny black hairs pushing out of its skin like little burnt sticks.

I say, "Have you ever been robbed?"

Aaron starts to laugh.

"Have you ever been robbed with a knife?" I say. "I bet people come in with knives all the time and point them at you and say something like, 'I'm taking the Twinkies. Close your eyes or I'll stab your face.' That's what I'd say, I think, if I wanted free Twinkies. I mean look at Erik, ready to pay for his Twinkies, but he could just pull out a knife and suddenly stab you in the face, or throw gasoline on your head and light the gasoline with my lighter, you know."

Erik looks at me sideways and says, "My name is Todd."

"No," the cashier says

"No what?"

"No, I've never been robbed or stabbed or anything. People are mostly nice in the store."

I push Erik away from me. I say, "Put your hands up bitch, this is a robbery." I pull out my knife.

Aaron is laughing. Aaron grabs my arm and pulls my arm. "Let's go," Aaron says.

"She's kidding," Erik says. "Don't worry, we'll take her home. She's drunk. Whole bottle of vodka in the last hour. She's small, but an amazing drinker."

"I'm going to stab him in the face! Punk-bitch."

"We're sorry," Erik says.

"Don't call the police," says Aaron.

Together Aaron and Erik pull me from the store. I wave my knife. I want to scare the young cashier. I want the young cashier to be full of fear, in pain with fear, to wonder whenever a girl walks into the store if this is the day he will be stabbed in the face.

As Aaron drives out of the parking lot and merges onto the highway, I begin to pull snacks and medicines and other items from my waistband and shirt and other places. "I got all this stuff in my clothes," I say. "Want some stuff? It's good stuff" I open a Snickers bar. "Why did you stop me? I had a plan," I say.

"Don't be ridiculous," Erik says.

"Stop being crazy," Aaron says.

"I'm not crazy. I only wanted to scare him a little. I wanted to say something. Don't you want to say something ever?" I slide down onto the floor. "I'm hiding," I say. "You can't see me."

"You're totally immature," Aaron says.

I don't respond.

Outside the window the trees are tall and shadowy. 'I could climb the trees,' I think. 'I could climb the trees with special spiked climbing-boots and live in the trees and depend on little pigeons to bring me food. I could steal little pigeon-eggs from nearby pigeon-nests and make my own person-nest and live warm and alone.'

"I wanted to say something," I say. "It's my birthday and I wanted to say something beautiful and paralyzing to the little cashier so he'd remember me forever and think of me sometimes and feel this great paralyzing fear and then later dream of little girls with knives and gasoline. Now he's just a bored little boy behind a cash-register forever."

Erik looks out the window and sighs very loudly and moves his fingers and touches the window with his fingers and leans his head against the window.

"Stealing only hurts poor people. Costs increase. It's immature. You talk a lot about doing stuff but you don't do stuff, you just steal and annoy people and make them feel weird. If you were a man, you wouldn't get away with it."

"Oh yeah?"

"You're a little girl who gets off on pissing off people. Shit. Probably people are always nice to you cause of your tits. Whatever."

Erik doesn't say anything. Erik's eyes are closed and his breathing is very even.

"You don't know anything," I say.

"I know no one takes you seriously like this. I can't believe anything you say. Don't even know your name. You'd probably just lie anyway."

"I thought we had a deal. I thought you were taking me to Lisbon."

Aaron watches the road. It is late afternoon. Traffic has become thicker and the cars moves slowly, heavily forward, like little robot-glaciers.

"Take the next right," I say.


"Please. You'd probably just think I'm lying anyway."

Aaron turns right. The road curves gently and slopes down among large gray houses and thick brown trees.

"Turn right again," I say. "There."

Aaron turns again. The road curves gently and slopes down among large gray houses and thick brown trees. Each house looks like the same house with little green lawns and large two-car garages and red-brick facades, and the road curves and slopes in precisely the same way as before, with the same angles and grades. Some houses have lights and people, inside and outside, and some houses are dark and empty. I hum through my nose and move around in my seat. "Here," I say to Aaron. "It is."

Aaron glances at me, then at Erik. Erik is sleeping noisily against the window. Aaron says, "I'm sorry about what I said. I shouldn't have said what I said."

I make a complacently happy face.

"Where are we going?"

"Home-invasion," I say.


amber said...

Effing Sweet!

MadisonGlass said...

What's it like to be brilliant and hardworking at the same time.

Tao Lin said...

i'm glad she stole a lot, i want more stealing and more stealing lectures

Ofelia said...

I'm glad your glad she stole a lot. Thank you Madison. Thank you Amber.
I think I want stealing, killing, and wanton destruction because these things are entertaining, but I don't know if I'll write them in because I sometimes feel embarrassed when I write that kind of stuff.