Fuck, Marry, Kill
We tattooed our names into the beech tree behind the school, its smooth gray skin yielding to the metal nub at the end of my pencil. We stole a giant bag of gummy bears from the gas station and I walked home pregnant with it, both of us reaching down my shirt to sample our corn syrup love child. We played M.A.S.H. on bus rides, burning through mansions and apartments and dozens of love interests: pop punk singers, teachers, older boys, older girls. We laughed until we cried, or maybe cried until we laughed. It’s hard to remember now. We were both ill-fitting pegs—you, too weird and poor, me, too smart and shy. The centrifugal force of our strangeness pressed us together, a tangle of limbs. At the county fair, we stretched and shrank like saltwater taffy in front of warped mirrors, buried our faces in elephant ears soaked with butter and sugar. We broke into the foreclosed house next to yours, a wasteland of hypodermic needles and floral-patterned furniture and glass bird figurines. When I stepped on a hummingbird, its beak driving straight through the flimsy sole of my flip flop, you pulled it out for me. Relax, you said, unconcerned by the blood pooling up under my heel, you’ll be fine, as though your mom being a nurse made you an expert. You tossed the shard away and licked a smear of my blood off your thumb. In high school, we graduated to Kiss, Marry, Kill, and then its older sister, the kissing replaced with fucking. We watched old movies in my basement, wrapping ourselves in blankets. We hung out with other friends, at other houses, but always left together. We kissed once (notes of salt and sour fruit), but only because an empty Jones Soda bottle told us to. Green apple. Radioactive looking, almost glowing, until we drank it down. The bottle spun and spun and then slowed. I knew exactly where it would stop.
The summer after freshman year of college, when you came over for hot dogs and fireworks, you seemed to crackle like a sparkler. My mom was happy to see you. You look so grown-up, she said, making me wince. You had a tattoo of a crescent moon on your inner wrist, a blunt, black-dyed bob that made you look French. Remember when we stole that bag of gummy bears? I said, grasping, and you smiled like you used to smile at all the rest of them. Did we? That’s so funny. In different cities, two hundred miles apart, we fucked. I married. Years later, I went behind the school to inscribe our date of death, but the beech tree was gone. Nothing left, not even the stump. It was as though it had never been there at all.
Lately, my 4-year-old has become obsessed with the crescent-shaped scar on the bottom of my foot. She keeps asking about it. I stepped on a hummingbird once, I tell her, for the fifth time. Did it hurt? she asks, and it takes me a few seconds to realize she means the bird. No, I say. She didn’t even feel it.
My daughter looks comforted. I don’t tell her about the splinter of glass in my foot, trapped beneath healed skin, the reason I walk with a limp on rainy days. I don’t tell her about the summer after sixth grade, the opening day of the fair, when we rode the Tilt-A-Whirl for ten minutes straight. Do you remember? It was a drizzly morning, no one around except carnival workers in blue shirts. We twirled around and around on the metal track, both wearing short shorts, our thighs pressed up against each other. The ride slowed, and we waited to be released. The blue shirt grinned. Then he stabbed a button and everything started spinning again, both of us pinned in our red clamshell pod. Faster, faster. That might not sound so bad, but rides are only fun when you know you can get off. Our backs were sweating against the cracked vinyl padding, the steel bar crushing our laps. I thought I might die or throw up—both possibilities seemed equally likely. He sent us into orbit a third time. A fourth. You gripped my hand and repeated fuck over and over. I prayed in my head and kept my teeth jammed shut. When our momentum waned, I braced myself for the whir of mechanical parts, the inevitable jolt back into motion, but the ride stopped. The safety bar sprang up.
It should’ve been a relief. Staggering down the metal steps like we were drunk, clutching at each other while the colorful lights and carousel music and the smell of fried food tumbled around us. The worker was laughing. The stratus of cotton candy was almost a sunset. You flipped him off and we stumbled toward the Ferris Wheel, both of us still spinning. I’ve been chasing the high ever since.
Lindy Biller grew up in Metro Detroit and now lives in Wisconsin. Her fiction has recently appeared at the Lumiere Review, Trampset, and Perhappened. She works as a writer at an indie game studio.