about the author

Sarah Carson is currently an editor at Chicago-based Rhino. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Barrow Street, Cutbank, DIAGRAM, Limestone, and Strange Machine, among others. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Before Onstar (Etched Press, 2010) and Twenty-Two (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

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For Valerie
who is, in fact, a bitch

Sarah Carson

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You come from a place where one girl can still grab another by the breast, push her up against a construction barrier and hold her breath there in her throat until her tears (or something worse) belie her panic, but this, unfortunately, is not that place. If it were, you’d have more options—a tire iron, for instance, or broken lightbulbs; you could get crazy Johnny to give her herpes, but no. All you’ve got for the time being is walking coldly out of the kitchen, not offering to refill her lemonade. After all, people have been telling you for months that the place in which you find yourself now is filled with things much more valuable than an old fashioned screaming match across a parking lot or the time it would take to explain to the cops that in this case it definitely was not your fault. Besides, you know you couldn’t get Valerie to squabble with you if you tried (which, of course, is the problem with her and certainly not the problem with you). So for now you’re just going to have to pass her the napkin she’s been asking for and hold onto the hope that maybe if you let go of it quickly enough, the edges will papercut the insides of her fingers. You’ll have to hold onto the memories of when things were different, like that day in second grade when you chased down Rhonda Robinson halfway between the tetherball and foursquare courts and slammed her head against the concrete so hard several of her barrettes let go of her hair in pieces. The lunch lady grabbed you under your arm, dragged you away from the other kids, and screamed, “Why would you do something like that?” and you were too young to know the answer was, “because I want to, because I’m bored, because some days I hate being alive.”

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