It was the third time this month I had woken up in a puddle of my own sweat. This time I was at my high school reunion. Some people would probably say that you can’t smell in a dream, but I swear the familiar odor of Axe body spray and pencil shavings wafted through the illusive hallway. Everyone was cramped tight against the lockers that lined either side of us. I felt like I was in the middle of a heard being shuffled into the gym while the crowd chanted a deafening, “Oh eight, oh eight.” That stood for our graduating class of 2008.
I caught a glimpse of my old locker as the crowd came to a halt before we reached the gym doors. The word ‘virgin’ was engraved into the side of it with a box cutter. I pushed my way outside of the crowd and dug in my pocket for a key or something to scratch it out with. When I pulled my hand back out of my pocket the tips of my fingers were a deep red like an ink pen hand broken inside my pocket.
The chanting had stopped. Looking up I realized I was at the center of the horde once again. I saw so many familiar faces laughing at me or staring in disgust while pointing at my pants. I looked down in what felt like forced slow motion to find my jeans had become soaked in blood. My eyes followed a thick trail of red down the hallway that pooled at the top of the stairs.
A man in janitor’s clothing appeared from the stairs holding a mop. I remembered him. His name was Mr. Halkey, always very pleasant. He was unnaturally bent climbing up the stairs leg over arm repeatedly. When he reached the top of the stairs where the blood had formed a puddle, he threw himself down and began lapping at the puddle with his tongue. I looked at the people around me to make sure I wasn’t the only one seeing this and froze in fear. Their pupils had engrossed their eyes so wholly it was as if they were black. Mr. Halkey was at my heels in an instant as he had moved to me in an untraceable pace. He breathed heavily on the backs of my legs which were suddenly bare, forcing every little hair on my body to stand on end. The janitor exposed his rotten teeth beneath me and screeched as though he were a dying animal.
When I woke up I had soaked the sheets. “Shit.” I murmured as I wadded them up and stumbled out of the bedroom. I took them to the washing machine that lived inside a small folding closet in my front room, and stuffed the sheet in with a load of laundry that had already been sitting in there for two days waiting for me to bring home some detergent.
I fumbled around in the dark feeling for the light switch in bathroom and pulled a towel from the basket that was only mildly dirty. I turned on the water and let it run until the room was steamy. 3AM showers were nothing new for me or most likely any of the women on my Dad’s side of the family. Mom always told me my Belgium roots came with, “Heavy flows and birthing hips.” I stood in the shower half asleep for an unnecessarily long time until the water started to run cooler. I dried off with my towel that smelled faintly of mold and reminded myself again to pick up some laundry detergent.
I walked into the kitchen with nothing but underwear on, and if it weren’t for Aunt Flow that wouldn’t even be present. The air conditioning in the entire apartment complex had been out since June and it was late July. In Indiana the heat starts to really cook in late June to early August. I was more of a fall girl. Hoodie weather…bonfire weather… drunken weather, with the two maybe three people I could tolerate being around in this town or any town really.
I got the broken bottle of Peppermint Schnapps I had swiped from the dusty deep of my dad’s bar and poured a glass. It was disgusting. Here I am turning 26 in three months and I was still stealing my dad’s garbage booze. I thought as I chased it down with a half empty, flat can of Diet Mountain Dew.
Across from me, outside of the sliding glass kitchen doors I saw the neighbor boy’s toy cozy coup roll beneath the bright LED light of the back porch (I don’t know if it can really be considered a porch, it’s more like a weed infested cement slab). I was afraid of a lot of things, but locking my doors never felt like a priority. I regretted that then, but Bremen wasn’t exactly a lock your doors kind of town. Half of all 1,500 people that resided in Bremen were related by either blood or marriage. If you weren’t a Burkhelder, Heani, or Cluff you were most often considered an outcast. I was proud to fit into the category of outcast, or at least I told myself I was.
Still I could hear the voice of my best friend Kirk telling me for the hundredth time to lock my damn doors. I walked toward the sliding glass door that was foggy from all of the moisture in the air. I turned over the dead bolt and wiped the moisture from the glass so that I could press my face against the cleared spot so and see towards the neighbor’s patio. The glass felt cool and I was tempted to put my entire body against it to escape the heat for a moment, but thought better of it. I considered the possibility that maybe their cat could have gotten out for the tenth time, trying to talk myself out of the feeling of unsettlement building in my gut. This, after just having another horrific dream.
“Hey bitch let me in!”
I jumped. “Damn it Ashley be quiet you’re going to piss off my neighbors again!” I told her in a hushed form of a yell.
“Nice jugs, I knew you had a decent pair under there but wow the symmetry!” She joked and gave me a hard poke. I had forgotten completely that I was topless and quickly ran to put on an oversized t-shirt. Body shame was one of the many fun things I had the pleasure of living with.
Ashley Nunebaker was at my door and suddenly in my house without invitation. Ashley was also known as Ashley BOOBebaker throughout school circa 2000-2004. How can you not have a nickname involving tits when you have full ‘D’ cups in the fifth grade?
She hadn’t been around in a few months but that was normal for her. After high school I guess she got bored and decided to start doing smack. She dabbled in a little bit of everything from crack to meth, pissing away her inheritance money her Aunt Becky left her. She was one of the only friends I had before moving to Bremen and still one of my only friends after, so I felt I owed it to her to provide a safe place to crash once in a while. Honestly, I think I was just still scared sleeping somewhere alone though I had been out on my own since I was 20.
Ashley crashed her abnormally sweaty body (even for this heat) onto my 1970’s style flannel couch my Nan had given me before she was relocated into a nursing home. I say relocated because my mom didn’t grant her much choice.
She was asleep before I could even offer her something to drink, though there wasn’t much to choose from. “Good talk Ashley, nice to see you too.” I said to no one who could hear me. Ashley’s bleach blonde hair lay perfectly over her nipple that had become exposed from her tube top and ended like the tip of an arrow guiding my eyes. Some kind of fluid was still weeping from the needle point inside her arm. Selfishly I just hoped she didn’t puke on the couch in her sleep.
She and I were different in almost every way except one. She was a skinny, tall, blonde who got rid of her fears of adulthood with sex and a needle. I on the other hand was a short brunette with a stocky softball player’s body, somewhat muscular but not in a masculine way, at least not to my standards. As for chasing away my obvious lack of adult success… refer to the Peppermint Schnapps, which would soon be empty and replaced with whatever else I could get my hands on next.
At one time I had put effort into the prospects of my future, mostly to please my mother. I attended a bottom of the barrel community college full of people in their forties and fifties. Most of them had been laid off by the local hummer plant that was on the brink of extinction. At that time anyone on government assistance could go to school for damn near free so they came by the bus load, literally. I actually admired the ones that put that kind of effort in so late in the game, but many just came to class, signed in, and took off so they could use the school funds for whatever else. I’m not one to judge, they did what they felt they had to do, it was just an observation.
I got my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with the idea that I would change my cowardice ways and become a cop. I usually got along with guys better than I did girls in school so the thought of working predominately with males seemed natural. With a name like Andi I was born to be a Tomboy. Apparently I missed the Tomboy trait for toughness though because when it came time to actually go to the police academy I got scared shitless and backed out.
I collapsed onto my coverless childhood mattress I had taken with me when I moved out of my mom’s house and looked at the clock. 5:30AM. If I fell asleep then I could get about an hour of sleep in before I had to be at Dad’s Pizza Place (literally called Dad’s Pizza Place). It was my “responsibility” to get the boxes off of the delivery truck. My dad liked to use that word “responsibility” to make me feel like I was doing something important and worthwhile. Working for dad was an easy out to actually going into the world and making something of me. It was a hiding place in plain sight if you will.
My eyes had only closed a moment when I heard the relentless squeak, squeak, squeak coming from the apartment above mine. “Oh yeah baby harder!” I sighed and rolled my eyes. The complex had recently gotten new renters. It was a younger couple maybe 20 or 21. He worked at Premiere Painting in town, an RV custom painting shop. Every morning they did a quick, but loud humping before he left for work. It always sounded as if they both had watched too many porno’s and thought that was how sex worked. But what did I know? Besides the basics I hadn’t a clue, but it all seemed like too much of a performance. I usually hoped to be passed out drunk long before I would have the pleasure of hearing these “special moments.” Awake it was!