The smoke is thick in Dirtball Dan’s living room and the baby coughs in my lap. I hand her over to this girl beside me named Jessie so I can get high. What’s funny about this girl named Jessie, besides her Salvation Army clothes, is that her real name is Jessie. Not Jessica. Just Jessie. It’s freaking weird. I don’t like it.
And no, I’m not some freaking snob. It’s not like I don’t have Salvation Army clothes. I got plenty. Thing is, you couldn’t tell. My clothes might not be the newest crap or nothing like that but they are normal. Jessie wears the kinds that are like seriously old or something. Not cool old, like camel-colored pleather, or a nice yellow linen-like tank top. Today she’s wearing a Mexican-looking peasant shirt with kindergarten-colored embroidery that looks totally handmade. And I’m not talking about Mexican hands. It’s some cheesy, fake Mexican crap. My clothes are like, a current style but with lint. And maximum fading. My shirt today has a small hole in the armpit but it is the brand they sell at Maurice’s which is like, a pretty nice store.
The baby’s name is Teah. I wanted to put an accent, like one of those up in the air commas, like an apostrophe or whatever, like French, like La’ James School of Beauty— after the “T” and before the “e” so it would be T’eah, but my grandma wouldn’t let me. She said I was too young to know any better, and okay, so I’m fourteen. So big deal. I am a mom. Grandma’s a drunk barfly that named her daughter, my mother, Jerilyn. There’s a dumbass name. So since I’ve got no say in nothing because no one respects me as a person, I spell it like Teah, without the French thing. Now everybody says Tee-ah. Like Leah with a “T.” I hate that crap. It is supposed to be like Tay-ah. Probably how I should have spelled it, but that’s the way my life goes. One freaking mistake after another. Now I’ll be explaining her stupid name forever.
When I hand the baby over I don’t look at her for nothing because if I don’t make eye contact I won’t need to break eye contact, and there is less of a chance it’ll cry. Jessie coos as she takes the baby to another room. Probably the baby won’t cry because the baby likes that goo-goo ga-ga gunky bullcrap. If my face was pressed into that Jessie girl’s smelly Salvation Army clothes I would cry. That Jessie girl smells like dirt. And infected mucus. Sometimes, when I go home, I can still smell it. The scent is like paste or something, coating the inside of my nose. I sniff the baby sometimes to see if it catches the smell, but the baby mostly smells lightly of piss, or totally of crap.
My lungs burn from the dirty weed I suck and the sourness turns my already twisted stomach. I’m freaking starved. Earlier, I’d been so anxious to get to Dirtball Dan’s that I didn’t grab anything to eat. Not that my grandma has crap for food. Dirtball called around 11:00am to tell me he was up early. I was so excited to have somewhere to go I didn’t even shower, which I regret a little. My hair gets greasy by the end of the day, and when it gets into the next day, if I don’t wash it, it looks like total crap. Usually it’s pulled back because the baby always freaking grabs at it when I have it down. When she is older, everything will be easier because I won’t have to carry her everywhere.
My hair is thin, and so my ponytail is skimpy and small spaces of scalp show through the strands. I know I’m not real pretty. My nose is chubby looking which is weird because the rest of me is like, real sharp. Like how books always say pointy or bony or sharp. But I have a fat nose, like one of those dolls, those freaking tubby, butterball, fatty-cakes fatty-cakes dolls. Thanks to genes and Grandma’s crap-for-food lifestyle I’m no fatty-cakes. I don’t know how much it really matters. I’d rather be skinny and ugly, than fat and pretty. I think. I guess I wouldn’t actually know, but I find myself running over the thought, at least I’m not fat, at least I’m not fat. Before the baby I always wore tube tops in the summer to show off my belly button ring. About 6 months in I took the silver hoop out from my belly button but the hole stayed, present and in constant production of whitish sour-smelling quick-to-clump goop. The scar tissue dangles down a little into what was once a nice, average, pinky finger-wide belly button. There’s also a space on my lower lower stomach where the skin looks crinkly. Pale lines of flesh zag across, racing from hip dip to hip dip. I don’t wear tube tops anymore. I don’t wear a belly button ring either. I freaking hate my stomach.
I hate the taste of crap weed, but I like the way my face feels when I get high. A numbness creeps from the bottom of my nose and spreads up across my forehead. Every time I smoke, I get the munchies, but I don’t admit to it. I don’t know why. It just feels embarrassing. I’ve never eaten a piece of food in front of a boy. Never. Not even in front of my mom’s boyfriends. Maybe before I can remember I did. That’s possible. Readjusting my leg, I knock over an ashtray that rests beside me on the loosely-woven sofa cover.
“Oh crap,” I say. “Sorry.” But the truth is— I’m not.
I could give a crap less about this dirtball duplex. It freaking stinks like cardboard boxes and body odor. Dirtball Dan is an old tweaker with a twist of hippie about him. I come to get high. I always come here.
The people here today are the usuals. Bink, a blonde-haired hottie I had a gym class with last year in middle school, is mostly spaced out watching the muted television. Tanya, who wears pants with leather criss-cross crap lacing up the sides and a fake-suede belt around her waist with ties that dangle down to between her knees, is trying to get everyone to take shots of Five Star vodka. Real skinny. Big boobs. Real skanky. You know the type. Always shoving her hips around this way and that, daring someone to rip open those jeans with the whip-like strips of fake-suede that seem so freaking sexual it’s just uncomfortable to look at.
Bonk is Bink’s older brother. Bonk’s a senior in high school and he is not as hot as Bink. Bonk’s spot is in the recliner that is patched with pieces of duct tape. His hobby is dealing with pimples by looking in a tiny round mirror propped against the bottom of a lamp on the sticky ash-covered table beside his recliner. Bonk puts the mirror away in the drawer. His face is covered with puckered hills of red and pink. Can’t be more than a minute before he opens the drawer, pulling out his little mirror for the second time since I’ve been here. He props it against the lamp, and leans to look. Bonk also keeps a black plastic comb in his back pocket that he yanks at his dirtball brown-blond hair with when he’s all twacked out. Bonk tweaks. Bink doesn’t. Bink is nothing but a hottie stoner. Bonk makes fun of Bink for carrying a skateboard more than riding it, but I still think Bink’s freaking hot, poser or not.
Nobody cares if I hit the bowl till it’s gone. The last of it’s mine. I got skipped because of the baby, so it’s fair. The stereo blasts Lynard Skynard. What freaking crap. If my home was something other than a crap-hole room in my grandma’s duplex down the street, I would leave. But it isn’t, so I stay. If it wasn’t for the baby I would go— well, there’s a lot of places really. I can’t think of anything specific at the moment, but things would probably be better somewhere else, without the baby. And no, I don’t think admitting that makes me a bad mom.
Maybe I’d have a job or something if the baby wasn’t around. Like a job at the mall. Like at one of the nicer department stores. Like at JC Penny’s. And I’d meet hot guys. At least one hot guy. One day I would meet one older hot guy who would take me on a date to Pizza Hut. He’d actually work at Pizza Hut and we’d use his discount so that we could have breadsticks and salad and pizza and pop. I’ve never gotten to have all of that together. Only one or two of those. I would tell him that and he would laugh. Not like I was stupid but like we were really in on something together, living large, beating the system. On the date I would be wearing something I bought with my employee discount. Something black and tight, but not real slutty. My boobs wouldn’t have any stretch marks. When I was pregnant my boobs got super huge. Even Jason, the sperm donor, said so. He said Damn, your tits are huge. It felt really good when he said that to me. I’d been lying on the bed in my room at my grandma’s. Jason wasn’t supposed to be there, but Grandma was getting drunk at the lounge in the hotel where she worked as the bookkeeper. Same as every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and recently, Sunday. Of course my boobs didn’t stay like that, they shrunk down like leaking water balloons, and when I bend over they look like crumpled wads of newspaper in my bra.
The Pizza Hut guy and me’d get married. We’d have some money because he’d be like a manager and I’d work all the time at the mall. I’d go to the bar for fun on the nights when he worked late. A decent bar. Not like the shitholes my mom was always going to where everyone there walked or drove motorcycles or rode garage sale ten speeds. Not like the crap-hole my grandma sits her bony butt in all the time, where everyone is freaking ugly and boring. I’d go somewhere like Salty Dog’s where I hear they have a real good jukebox with Eminem and Marilyn Manson on it. And I’d dance, but just like, a little. I’d drink a lot. My husband would pick me up after his shift and we’d go home and eat pizza for dinner. I’d never get tired of pizza. We’d joke about that sometimes, getting tired of pizza. After we smoked a thin joint and were sitting in front of our antique-looking but pretty big television, Indian-style, eating out of the box and sharing a liter of mountain dew, I’d ask, Don’t you think we’ll ever get sick of pizza? He’d say, Nah. And I’d ask, But what if? And he’d say, I’ll transfer to KFC. Then we’d laugh, because that’s crap. You can’t transfer from Pizza Hut to KFC, but that’s just us. That’s just our sense of humor.
But none of this will happen for me.
I’ll always have to worry about my boobs. I’ll always have to wear a bra when I have sex. I’ll always have to apologize for them. Them as in my white-bumpled stretched-out nipples. As in my tiny dangling tits that still fit in size A cups. Not well. They don’t fit in there real well. But B cups are not an option. No wonder I don’t ever hook up with anyone. Too much freaking stress. I can’t bend over, can’t lean over, for fear of my boobs coming out of my bra. What part of making out doesn’t involve bending or leaning? Lying on your back. You can’t get away with that forever. So that kills it. My boobs kill it. Well, my boobs and the baby.
Teah’s alright really. Sort of good, in a way. Later on I will probably learn to appreciate her and love her more. Probably some hot guy will fall in love with both of us. He will probably see us in the checkout line at Walmart and follow me out to the car to help me load all the diapers and groceries and stuff. He’ll probably feel sorry for us since all me and Teah got is each other and a crap life. I’ll be wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top that looks cool old and tight cut-off jean shorts. Nothing trashy, just a little bit messy. Distressed and sexy. He’ll probably have us come live at his house with him because his place is so nice because he makes real good money, or will make real good money, once he moves on from his apprenticeship with the electrical contractors. Probably we’ll grill out sometimes, and the baby will be a girl with blond hair, and she’ll swing, and he’ll love her so much we won’t even think about having any more children. We’ll just enjoy his house. On Sundays we’ll go to Walmart and just put whatever in the cart. So what if there is already ketchup at home, and that brand isn’t on sale like the one next to it? We aren’t going to have to think that hard about everything. We’re just going to throw crap in the cart. Movies, candy, socks, fingernail polish remover, quilted placemats with roosters on them, snack cakes, just whatever. It won’t matter.
It won’t happen.
Bink never looks at me. He looks at the television. If I talk directly to him, he will look at me, but nothing more than a conventional sort of looking. I freaking hate this about him.
“Bink,” I say. “You want any of this before I kill it?” I ask even though I already killed it. He doesn’t look at me for more than a few secs, says, “nah,” and now he’s back to watching the tv on mute. Freaking great guy huh? Pretty plain to see he’ll never be interested in me. Maybe I need to make myself seem more sexy. More like I’m just looking to have sex. Not go out, as in boyf and girlf. Just sex. I’d really like to have sex. I have time. I could. Then who knows? If me and Bink start doing it, he could think that I’m really cool.
I heard on the news once that it is a known statistic the more you have sex with someone the more you feel towards them. Feel as in love. I mean, this was on the news so you know that it’s legit. It’s science. This is what would happen, probably, with Bink and me. He would just be amazed with how good it went between the two of us, as far as sex, and how good I gave blow jobs. That would keep him coming back, and pretty soon he’d feel more towards me. He’d start coming over every day and calling me in the morning before school so that we could talk a little before we start our day.
His parents, very nice people they’d turn out to be, would watch Teah while we went to prom together in the Trans Am his older brother Bonk is always head-tripping about getting. I’d wear something black and really freaking short. My face might not be so great but my legs are freaking good. My hair would be so poufy from the curlers my grandma’d use on it that it’d actually cover up my pointy ears. We’d leave the dance early and go back to Bink’s place where his parents said I could stay the night since the baby would be asleep already. In the basement we’d drop two tiny paper hits of acid a piece and take hours to undress all the way to naked. We never would find his bow tie the next day, which would make his mom a little pissed because she had to pay $25.99 plus tax penalty for not returning it which seems like a bunch of crap. Bink doesn’t usually do drugs like that, and somewhere inside, I will know that the only reason he does the acid is because I have a baby and he doesn’t want me to think that he thinks he is better than me. Doing something like acid on prom night evens us out. Bink likes to be even. He doesn’t want to be too good, but he doesn’t want to be too bad. I’d really love that about him.
I set the pipe down on the table. Bink doesn’t even notice that I lied about there being anything left in the pipe. I lie so much its crazy. Teah is fussing a bit in the back room. Probably she is driving that Jessie girl a little nuts but I want to smoke a cigarette and enjoy at least two minutes of my buzz before I have to go pick her up and play mommy. Not the nicest thing to think, I know. I know, but I don’t care. Oh, sure. Being a mom is so great, they say. Changed my life— for the better. Saved my life. It’s not like, abusive to be honest. It’s not like, a freaking crime. I wouldn’t hurt my baby, but did I want her? No. Did her dad want her? No. Should I have had an abortion? Maybe. Who knows? There’s just feelings, moving in and out of you. So there’s no shame in anything you think.
Sometimes I think I’d like to find where my mom lives and poison her crappy generic-ass coffee creamer. Never freaking food in the fridge, but we always had that freaking creamer. Ever ate generic cereal with generic creamer on it for breakfast? Well, it tastes like shit in case you wondered. Oh, and the slap across the face you get for using the last of your whorish mother’s generic creamer feels like freaking shit. No money for lunch, but Mom always had make-up. Lots of make-up, and coffee with crap-creamer breath. How her dirtball boyfriends stood it, I’ll never know.
Dirtball Dan comes out of the room with Jessie and the baby. She’s holding the baby in that way that says yep, been great, but I’m done. I wish I was Jessie. Infected mucus and musty cheap fabric. Handing off a baby. I haven’t even finished the first half of my cigarette. It’s too quick to catch what they are talking about, but there seems to be something fatherly about the way that Dirtball Dan looks at Jessie. Is that how he looks at me? I want to try and think about that, but I’m too high right now. Maybe if I take the baby home and lay it down in the play pen that is wedged between my bed and my moldering wall, the baby will sleep for 30 minutes and I can lay on my back and enjoy my high without having to hold anything. Although as soon as I get there I will need to go pee. Then I will want a cigarette. By the time all that is done, I’m looking at about 15-20 minutes of enjoyment. Give or take about 10 minutes depending on how well she sleeps. Just one day where I didn’t have to hold or carry around anything would be freaking great.
Dirtball Dan says, “baby is cute as a bug’s ear.” Which is totally annoying because he always says it and I don’t get what it means. I don’t feel nothing too fatherly coming my way from Dirtball Dan. Weird the way all of his friends are mostly young. There was one older lady for a while but she went to prison. He was married before. You can tell that because of frames around the faded copies of Grant Wood’s fields of strange little haystacks on the wall. They are old, and wooden, and ugly as fuck, but they are too fancy for a man’s taste. Hard to imagine him with anyone. I can’t even do it. His hair is so thick, and fuzzy, and gray. It is like, mostly greasy. He smiles at me in a way I ignore. He smiles at everyone like that, with a slight grit about his jaw and a tilt of the head. At least I imagine he smiles at everyone like that, because if it was only me I’d probably never be able to come back here again. He’d never tried nothing weird. I’m basically sure he never will. He’s just like this cool older guy that is nice to enough to let people hang out. We’re all friends. We’re like, the type of people who have to stick together.
The baby’s in my arms. Jessie gurgles a buh-bye. Talking for the baby. Putting words in the baby’s mouth about how she missed her mommy, how everything’s better that she’s back with mommy. Sure. Everything’s better. Everything. Every freaking thing. It would be nice to put the baby up for adoption but I wouldn’t even know how to do that. It hardly seems worth it anyways. Think about it. The kids never stay gone. About the time you’ve moved on with your life and started to come to accept that you gave the baby up, oh look, a message on your answering machine from Oprah, or Jerry, or Montel, or Dr. Phil, or the Today Show, and oh fuck, the baby’s all grown and wants to meet you get answers about why you were such a piece of shit and abandoned her. Seems like totally ungrateful. It’s like look you little fuck, obviously shit was bad and you weren’t wanted, but then these other people really wanted you. It’s just life, not a Lifetime movie. Everyone’s just looking for a reason to be hurt or upset. I figure I’ll just do the best I can, and that will probably be shit unless I get married or something. And the baby’s going to grow up to resent me, just like I resent my mom, but at least she’ll resent me to my face. At least I’m not going to live my life always wondering when the day will come when I will have to pay. I’m like, totally facing reality here.
Sara Gerot lives, and writes in Iowa. She is writing her third novel DOPE. Her work has been published in Black Clock, Bookslut, HTML Giant, Pank, Thought Catalog and A Bad Penny Review.