My nose is bulbous in the Christmas ball, and as I lean closer, it grows and the planes that make up the bridge expand grotesquely. This, I think, is what I might have looked like if my dad’s bone structure had made its way deeper into my DNA. A small blessing, I think. My eyes have shrunk to red-rimmed beads, my chin recedes into oblivion, and I eye the giant-nosed gnome version of me in the glass ornament. The silver stud in my nostril winks at me, and the little ring through my septum could be the flashing silver hoop the tigers jump through at the circus. I am a freak indeed. Merry Christmas.
I sigh and flop back again, the bangles up my wrist jangling. I do love it here, though – no one does Christmas like a department store. I’m sitting on my favorite sectional, a warm burgundy plush thing that wouldn’t last ten minutes in my own house, but somehow here at Sears it looks perpetually new. My mom insists on a leather couch at home, because it’s the only thing you can wipe clean. Maybe it used to look classy but now it’s so marked up and has splitting seams and it’s always cold when it touches your skin in the winter. Not like this one. I stroke the warm fabric and watch the shoppers amble by. No one is hurrying yet – it’s still only December 7.
No one has kicked me out yet, either. Maybe the employees are used to me. This is the third time I’ve come to Sears this week just to sit, to soak up the Christmas atmosphere which, despite everything I am supposed to be rebelling against, makes me happy. A man is crooning through the speaker system, letting me know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and even though he was probably dead before I was even born, he’s connecting with me deeper than Marlene can these days, with her stupid new boyfriend and the sides of her head shaved down to her sad, pale scalp. This is rebellion? This is the first guy who ever looked twice at her and suddenly she’s acting like she’s on a teenage soap opera. I told her she might as well join the cheerleading squad if she’s going to sell out like that and she stormed off in her combat boots.
Which pretty much match the ones I am wearing now. I’ve loved these boots – they lace almost up to my kneecaps. I can kick the crap out of someone if I need to, but they don’t slow me down if I’ve got to run, either. I want to change up the look these days, but I feel kind of stuck. My boots and my crazy ripped clothes and what my mom calls my dramatic eyeliner worked so well for me the past few years, giving me my air of toughness and crucial non-conformity (my dad calls me “anti-establishment”), but now that I’m sixteen I think I just I’m starting to look like any Baltimore crack whore. It’s disconcerting, realizing that rather than just delivering adults that small, uncomfortable pause that fed my power so deeply in middle school, I am now just pissing off strangers who are annoyed by my torn-tights and much-pierced presence. Even when my presence is small, and calm, like it is now.
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