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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Suburban Gothic

In the hot summer sun of midday the cracked and uneven pavement at the plaza took on a dusty, old timeless appearance and the high concrete curb on which she sat was molten. The only spot to sit at that hour of day was under the sparse branches of a stunted tree that was planted in the concrete. The little tree continued to exist in the boiling, littered environment choking on the fumes of the fast food joints and the exhaust of the custom-built, tricked out vehyicles that cruised that decrepit strip mall all day and all night.

The kids who hung out at the plaza were like that tree, determinedly going through the motions of being alive. To look at the tree today, now, at this hour of day, its screams of agony were almost palpable, it needed water, grass and fresh breezes. The kids around here were the same way, but to look at their hooded and glassy eyes, they had long since given up whatever it was they had once desired. Their lives were merely commercial transactions, beginning and ending with the posted business hours of the lousy stores they wandered in and out of all day long.
Despite the hopeless depreciation of this place their lives were almost unbearably structured. The day began early for those in summer school, some made it in while others fielded calls when they were absent. She had never been to summer school, but she understood that every day held greater value than during the school year. The teacher who called that morning pretty much supplied Minx with the answer.

“What happened? Did you have a rough night?”

This a the greatest thing an adult can say to a teenager. It gives the allusion that we had a life that mattered. To which she gravely responded, “Yeah” and took a drag of her cigarette. And that was it.

Minx always had the apartment to herself. It was a natural meeting spot since you smoke there and it had air conditioning. The walls were painted a shiny white double gloss so it always seemed fresh and clean. In the cool of the morning they watched television; there was a daily, not-to-be-fucked-with schedule beginning with Maury Povich. The girl loved the “Whose the Baby Daddy?” episodes but she never let on because they sometimes touched a nerve in the group. Then The Price Is Right, then Jerry Springer or Judge Judy. Any guy in the room automatically got the remote. During the commercials there was the manic flip, flip, flip through the channels always coming to Muchmusic for one second and darting away again. They smoked and sat around quietly until summer school ended or someone got hungry or it was time to go to Kai’s.

Because of Minx, her mother had received so many eviction notices that people weren’t supposed to be in the house anymore. Of course, the girl didn’t count, no one minded or even noticed her, but if things got tight she simply floated down to visit Mia and Luis. It was less popular because their mom was always there but more fun for the girl. Mia’s mother worked at the Revlon factory and had lots of samples of products. The girl was especially fond of Fire & Ice but when her birthday rolled around, her mom couldn’t get it that week. Their cousin Hender lived on that floor, too, with his single mother and Stephanie and Travis were a brother and sister that lived a couple of floors above. But Minx was at the top and whether that determined the social hierarchy, or it was just a coincidence, it remained true all her life.

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