A Blackwater Story
"You lie there, an innocent baby. I feel like the thief who is raiding your home, entering
and breaking and taking in every room. I know your feelings are tender and that
inside you the embers still glow. But I'm a shadow, I'm only a bed of blackened coal.
Call myself Jezebel for wanting to leave."
I don't know why I'm here.
I should get up soon. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to poke around in your dark room for my clothes without waking you. I don't want to wake you.
I don't know why I even came. But you said you loved me and, I guess, I couldn't say no to that. I think I'd have gone with any guy who claimed to love me. 'Cause that's what you were supposed to do.
A perfect life. That's what I was supposed to have, to make Mom and Dad and everyone happy. Go to school. Get good grades. Play sports or cheerlead. Have a perfect boyfriend; wear his high school ring. Go off to college. Get a degree in something that may bore you to tears but sounds good. Marry your high school sweetheart. Pop out two point six babies. Raise your daughters to be the kind of girl boys want to marry. Raise your sons to be the kind of guy worth marrying. Grow old. Dote on grandchildren. Die as soon as your usefulness is ended.
No one said, of course, that this was what they wanted, but everyone knew. I'd done items one through three on the list, and had anyone asked at that point, I'd've gone with them. Because that was what I was supposed to do.
I rebelled against everything else. I cut my hair to shoulder length sophomore year and dyed the ends blood red, instead of keeping it long and loose or braiding it like every other girl on the Rez did. The red was gone now, but the hair itself is shorter. Mom and I always are getting into fights over it. But it's only hair. It grows back. It was the same when I got the second piercings in my ears, and the hoop on the helix of the right... Those are gone now too. Mom saw to that. And now the only freedom I have in my own life is to choose whether to get cookie dough or mint chocolate chip ice cream when I go to the store in Forks for Mom on Tuesday afternoons, the one day a week when I don't have track practice or some Student Government meeting or some other shit that I couldn't care less about but do so I can get into college and complete step five.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised I'm here. Everyone said we should get together. Your dad was some big-wig in the tribe, until he ran off with that woman your mom calls "The Blonde Bimbo." Dad's an Elder. We were both single and you were captain of the basketball team and I was captain of the girl's volleyball team. Our moms are on the PTA together, and were some kind of cousin that meant we'd see each other a lot 'round Christmas and, occasionally, Fourth of July, but not since we were little and your dad was still around.
I shouldn't be surprised that it happened. It was prom. It was expected that teenagers did this kinda thing after prom. And you had asked me to prom, and I had said yes, because I was supposed to be the perfect daughter and you were the one who'd asked me out two years previously and every Friday night since then.
I'm supposed to love you. We're supposed to go to UW-Seattle together next fall. We both know that, unless things change drastically, we'll graduate and marry and move back to La Push and have two point six kids with black hair and hazel eyes whose black-haired, brown-eyed children we'll one day dote on. We'll be buried next to each other in the cemetery at the top of the street, the one where everyone anyone here has ever known has been buried, and where our children and children's children will join us.
Your school jacket is in my closet. I'm lying beside you in your bed, feeling cold and empty and wondering if this numbness is all I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, lying next to you. I hope to God it's not.
I don't want perfect. I don't want a Model-T life.
I want someone... I want someone who won't care if my ears are pierced twelve times over or if there are red streaks in my hair – or, if they do care, who has better arguments against it than "not normal". I want excitement. Adventure. Hell, I'll even settle for something where I don't feel so empty laying in bed beside the person I'm supposed to love, wanting to know if all love is the rutting of two animals with lock-key genitalia.
So I slip out of your bed, and I poke about in the dark for the perfect dress Mom found for her perfect daughter to wear on her perfect night with the perfect guy. I could go out the door – your mom has to know I'm here, has to expect it; has to plan on being surprised but having extra blueberry pancakes ready for the big reveal in the morning, when I'm supposed to try to slink out of your room while you're in the shower, wearing one of your over-large hoodies and a pair of your sweatpants – but your room's only on the first floor, and the window's open anyway.
It's raining softly, and there's a gentle, cloaking fog hanging over the town. There's no one awake in the Rez but me, and that seems a fitting simile for my entire life: Is there no one else awake here?
If I could run away-
If I could-
No, not that either.
It would be so easy to go back, and pretend I never left. Or go home, and try again, with another school jacket and perfect plan. So very, very easy...
Rachel and Rebecca have been gone for a year now – Becca to Hawaii with her own escape, a Samoan stockbroker with pe'a tattoos and a handful of surfing trophies; Rachel to the University of Oregon where the dictates of tradition were far enough away that they don't seem quite so real – but their window is still unlatched. They used to leave it open for me, before they left, when we were just three girls who shared the same dream, freedom.
I've practice sneaking in, of opening drawers and trading soaking clothes for someone else's dry extras. I can do it without making a sound. The sleeping bag I used to crash on when I stayed is still there, under Becca's bed, too.
I'm not sure why I came. It's not like Rachel and Becca can help me. They're gone. All that remains in their room are a few old clothes, some stuffed animals who'd seen better days, and two empty, twin-sized beds.
I feel like crying. I never cry. But-
But is it so much to ask for to have one person I can go to, one person who understands I don't want the cookie-cutter life? That I love the Rez, but the expectations are-
The door glides open softly, giving only the slightest moan of protest, and there's no time to dive under Rachel's bed or move my wet, ruined dress from its puddle on the floor.
"I thought it was you," he says as I whisper his name, clutching a hand to my heart, which had been beating furiously.
"Jake, what you doing up?"
He raises his eyebrow in a way I'd give most anything to be able to do myself. He's a freshman now, their little brother. God, he must've started spurting up the moment they left, 'cause he certainly doesn't look only fifteen to me. "Could ask you what you're doing in my house, Clearwater."
"Missed your sisters."
"Figured..." he disappears from the doorway for a moment, and returns an instant later with a towel from the hall closet. Handing it to me, "I always knew when you came over. Dad, he can sleep through anything, but..."
I took the towel, one of those ones every family has lying around from ages previous, this one a thin and fading Garfield print that's obviously seen better days. Still, it was dry, and I ran it through my hair, mumbling, "Sorry for waking you." I felt nervous, being this close to him in only one of Becca's threadbare grey t-shirts and boy shorts, my underwear lost somewhere in the maelstrom I created in my boyfriend's room, and he's just in a pair of sleep pants whose pattern I can't make out in the yellowy light from the pole outside. I don't know why. I've known him for as long as I've known his sisters – which is to say, forever – but he's never made me feel-
I can count the number of guys who've made me feel anything other than angry or empty up to this point in my life on one hand, and I'm related to both of them.
Maybe I'm just tired, but I find myself smiling at him.
He gives me a wide smile back, then delicately picks up my dress by one of its thin straps, and sheets of water poor off the satiny purple fabric. "I'd've given anything to have seen you in this."
"You didn't go to prom then." It wasn't a question. I knew he hadn't gone. I'd've remembered seeing him – at least, I think I would've. This makes me smile even more.
"I despise all school functions."
Almost shyly, "Then why'd you go?"
For some reason, I'm almost embarrassed to tell him. "Sam wanted to." It's stupid, considering everyone knows we're together, but I'm embarrassed nonetheless.
He looks down, suddenly dropping the dress back to the floor. "I imagine he did."
I'm looking at the floor, at the dress in the puddle, and my own bare feet – his bare feet too. I can see the arm of a stuffed bear sticking out from under the nearest bed. There's a funny feeling in my stomach, fluttering about and demanding recognition. I don't know what it is, only that its demanding recognition. Suddenly, I look up and meet your eyes as they raise to look at mine. "I don't love him. I- I'm breaking up with him tomorrow."
"Sure, sure," you say. I don't know whether you're doubting me our edging me on. I don't know which I want, and it scares me.
"Thanks for the towel."
There's silence that I don't know how to fill, and that feeling I can't name. At last, you turn to leave; as you say goodnight with another of your wide, carefree smiles, the butterflies in my stomach go into a frenzy, and it is all I can do to whisper back the same as my mind reels. I don't know what this is, only that it's not the cruel numbness any more.
I like it.
"I'm not saying I'm replacing love for some other word to describe the sacred tie that bound
me to you. I'm just saying we've mistaken one for thousands of words.
And for that mistake, I've caused you such pain that I damn that word.
I've no more ways to hide that I'm a desolate and empty, hollow place inside."
10000 Maniacs "Jezebel"