I was nothing before I met Tim. Tim had shyness about him that you wouldn’t expect from someone so tall. I would see him in the halls at school, never minding all the girls gawking at his good looks. To me, he was pretty average looking, but had the most wonderful smile. I always wondered if he knew it. He was also well built and had this amazing ebony hair that he would let the bangs fall in his eyes, always running his hands through his hair. But that smile was his most distinguishing feature. He even had a dimple on the right cheek that always cratered when he would smile or purse his lips together when he was thinking.
I was always the first to arrive at school and the last one to leave so I could avoid the crowds. I did not think of myself as beautiful because I had my mother’s wiry hair, and I could stand to lose a few pounds. I wasn’t at all popular like most of the girls in school, and I was beyond being bullied. The one thing I did have going for me though was anonymity. If it weren’t for role call, no one would know I was alive. It was a good thing, too, that my locker was in a hallway near the exit of the school. It was so easy for me to slip in and out without anyone noticing. I guess you could say that I was a loner. That’d be okay by me.
I met Tim the day I decided to skip out of the pep rally. I slipped out of the door near my locker like I usually would do in the afternoons to sit on the bleachers near the softball field; only this time Tim was standing there smoking a cigarette. I tried to pass by him when he asked me if I wanted one. “Sure,” I said. Even though I didn’t smoke.
He just stood there looking at me while I tried to light the wrong end of the cigarette. That was when he took the lighter from my hand along with the backwards cigarette, put it in my mouth and lit it.
“You know you are really pretty.”
“Really?” I said. The cigarette was hanging from my lip when I decided to take a puff; the cigarette tasted like polluted frost on my tongue and when the smoke filled my lungs they became as if they were on fire. God, I must have looked like an idiot hacking and wheezing. I pitched the cigarette as far as I could throw it before the wind blew the lit end back into my face. Tim just stood there calm and collected. He just stomped out the cherry from the cigarette and smiled.
That was it.
That was the exact moment of my downfall. It’s not often that a person can pinpoint the exact moment of the biggest mistake of their lives. In hindsight, I should have kept on walking.
We were inseparable from that moment on. Tim was my first everything. When I took him home to meet my mother, she was polite, but I could tell that she wasn’t at all pleased. She never liked anything or anyone that made me happy.
“He reminds me of your father,” she snapped when he left after dinner. I took my seat again at the dinner table. I knew what was coming. I stared down at the picture of the Road Runner my mother drew with a black permanent marker when she was a little girl. She sat next to me and began to trace the drawing with her pinky finger while she still held a lit cigarette between her fingers.
“You’ll see.” She said as a matter-of-factly.
“You’ll see that chicken’s don’t breed phoenixes.”
I didn’t believe her.
I didn’t want to believe her.
It was my turn to live.
It was my turn to love.
Tim was my one love, and for a time, my one life. Just as my father was to my mother and just like my mother, it was my turn to become abandoned by love. Now, I have to learn to live a life without him, as a muse for my memories, and raise the flesh of his flesh alone.
Illustration by: Grace Gao