I remember teaching you to drink. You were ready, you had said, to experience a different perspective of life. Cross country wasn’t fun anymore, and you and your mom were fighting again. There was a small, weak part of my conscious that said “Stop, she’s too young,” but I ignored it. We were the same age; you only looked years younger. Your Justice pants matched perfectly with your sparkly flower shirt.
Before we left for the woods, you had to give your sister the four leaf clover you had found earlier that day. Scyler and I waited impatiently by the bus stop. We called out, told you to wrap it up so that we could catch the 3:17 bus. Your hands were still stained with dirt. You hugged your sister anyway and told her to go home and be with your mother. You watched her walk away - the whole time until she was out of sight.
When we got there, the trees blocked out the afternoon sunlight. For a couple moments, it was dark. We sat. Our seats were rocks in the wet, sandy creek. There was green all around us and the strong aroma of alcohol as we opened the bottles.
You couldn’t stomach the taste. “It burns,” I remember you saying. Your face crinkled, and your eyes squinted until barely visible. I laughed it off, thinking to myself how much of a rookie you were. I had suggested you guzzle it, and so you had: downed your first beer in less than 15 seconds. A sip missed your mouth, splattered onto that purple flower shirt. I pretended not to be notice.
What I didn’t tell you was that it was my first time too. I had never been drunk, but passed off this discarding of innocence like it was nothing. In reality, my whole world was different, new. My peripheral vision began to blur, and my thoughts grew cloudy. The sour taste of alcohol drowned out the noises of cars beeping outside the woods, the feeling of my phone silently vibrating in my pocket.
When our stolen bottles were empty, we competed to throw them the farthest. I don’t remember who won. What I do is the sound of the empty, hollow bottles clang against the wet rocks of the creek. It echoed through the small clearing like a scream in a cave.
You then turned to us, me and Scyler, with a weird expression on your face. A noise not unlike a kitten’s whine came out of your mouth. You kept your face locked in a position I have never seen anybody make: your nose scrunched, your eyes shut just enough, and your lips curled upward. You stayed that way for a while.
Later, after you tried to fight Scyler, you disappeared. Where, I do not know. One moment, you were sitting, staring at the sky. The next you were gone. We found you crying, but for what reason I do not know. You started gushing about anything and everything. In the midst of your slobbery, rambling rant, you called me pretty. I was too flattered to pay attention to what you were saying.
I remember teaching you how to lie in the back of the 32C bus, going downtown. You wanted people to believe you, but you were a terrible liar. You just got tripped up every time, you said, clearly upset. When you talked about your family, your neck became buried in the large grey sweatshirt you so often started to wear. You would run your hand through your hair as your face started to get red and your voice strained.
I decided to help you out. What little conscious I had insisted that it was for the best. I laid out the necessary things you needed to know: slip the lie in with truths; be casual, don’t appear like you’re trying to force the audience into believing anything; believe your lie.
We practiced on each other, telling lies and truths about our lives. I told you my cat died. You said your uncle was moving back in, and you couldn’t be home anymore. I responded with tales of my make-believe summer boyfriend. You tilted your head back and laughed, showing all of your teeth and making onlookers on the bus turn around.
You had dreams of being in theater. I could tell you enjoyed this, even though you couldn’t do it right. The lie was too blatantly obvious whenever you spoke. I told you, one last time: “Slip the lie in like it’s nothing, adding it in like a tiny detail. Who would lie about something so small?” I was showing off my knowledge of lying, and you were buying into it, with your wide, open eyes. Finally I had found a use for the pointless lies I had told since fifth grade. Our conversation dwindled off. I found myself staring into the grey material of your hoodie.
It didn’t even cross my mind that I shouldn’t be teaching you this. I was enjoying the attention, basking in it like a snake does the sunshine. It was only a couple months later, when you told me you were fine, that I believed it. That was the only time I couldn't tell if you were lying or not.
The cloudy green substance in my palm stank up the air like stale perfume, a month after the first woods incident. Scyler, you, and I all stared at it with undivided attention. “I’m not sure…” you started to say softly, but after catching sight of the glint in our eyes you stopped talking. There was nothing else to be said.
Upon returning to those woods, the bush acted as our shield from the outside world as we blew cloud after cloud. You swirled your fingers in it, making odd shapes and patterns that only made sense to you. It was funny, it seemed, and we all laughed harder than we had in months. At one point, there was a comfortable silence as we all stared at our surroundings; I had my eyes locked on a brown leaf on the ground, Scyler gazed intently at the sky, and your eyes were focusing on my face.
You broke the silence, something you were starting to do frequently. “We should run away.” Normally, a statement like that would have annoyed me, but right then I couldn’t have cared less. I laughed, enjoying the airy feeling in my head. I tried to respond, but my words couldn’t travel to my tongue before I forgot what I was going to say. The quiet whisper of the trees took over.
We must have been there awhile, because what seemed like minutes led to your mom texting you, “Be home now or you’re grounded for two weeks.” The smiles flipped on our faces as we all figured out what in the world we could possibly do to cover. The smell? Our behavior?
In the end you slung on the shirt you kept in your bag for cross country practice. You didn’t need it anyway, having skipped practices for weeks now. You didn’t know what to do with the shirt you had on, so in a spur of the moment decision you decided to throw it in your neighbors dumpster as we walked you home. It was the same shirt from the first day in the woods. I could almost see that purple flower on the front wilting as it was thrown next to cat litter and dirty tissues, and the sparkles on the front seemed to stop shining.
On March 8th you were rapidly talking about something you did while you were high. I was not there that time. I had to hear the story while slowly cranking out algebra after algebra problem. I was halfway paying attention, only enough to catch the idea of the story.
You were adamant that I know not only the ending, but the beginning and every detail in between. Your eyes were wild. You kept swinging your dyed hair over your shoulder for emphasis. Even though you were a private person, your tone kept getting louder and louder, only to have it shushed as I tried to focus.
“But then when I got home, it was-” My attention dropped off every couple seconds as you kept talking. Your voice had dropped to a reasonable level, but I hardly noticed. “My mom just kept going-” Scyler was to my right, asleep in class as she used to be most of the time. My patience was waning but I didn’t have enough energy to bother doing anything about it. “Hitting and threatened to-” I couldn’t figure out the second to last problem on the sheet. I was so close to finishing it. So close. “But then I didn’t-” your voice had dropped to a mere whisper at this point, so soft the people beside you couldn’t hear. I could focus on my work a lot easier. I was almost done. “Was over.” You finished talking, but I didn’t know. Not until I interrupted with a harsh tone of shut up. I didn’t look at you, instead focusing on the paper in front of me.
You started to walk out of class. Scyler called after you, suddenly awake, asking if you were alright. You turned around, face red, eyes narrow, saying “I’m fine.” For once, I couldn’t tell if you were lying or not.
You were. I only realized it after, but after was too late. The last time I saw you was when you gave me a look filled with hatred and rejection. I haven’t seen you in 8 months, but your face still appears every time I close my eyes. They tried to replace you with a photoshopped, filtered memorial picture in the yearbook, but that will never be you. You were of unbrushed hair, liquid eyeliner, and that ugly flower shirt. But when you walked out of math, your previously favorite class, you walked out of life forever.