Lovesong of a Columbiner
Maybe it’s the gift - rainbow paper, silver bow - swinging from Aurora’s locker that lets him slither back in her head. Of course the gift isn’t from a boy. Still, she hopes, as she sweeps her bangs from her eyes. But once the paper is free and she cups the plastic dog food tin—purple and gold foil: Cesar's Canine Cuisine!—that evil scorpion of hope stings her and scurries off. Her face burns, more shame to store away, while unseen laughter rattles in her ears.
"I know just what their evil feels like," Dylan whispers in her head.
Or maybe it’s when her bleached wraith of a mother launches an early, lonely happy hour, her scratching voice trailing behind—"Aurora, God damn it, you're just like your father. Now gimme some more ice"—that lets him slip inside again.
"Mine never listened either," Dylan's words drip with sadness.
So she fortresses herself in her room and pulls the manila envelope from the sacramental space beneath the loosened carpet. Like all those times before, she separates the clippings and reads them as if they’re scripture. Then his yearbook photo, the one she downloaded and printed on genuine Kodak paper. Dylan, with his crooked smile, waves of sunshine trees behind him.
She floats away from her aquamarine room, from the sinking ranch house, from the pirhana-filled school and the town she never liked much anyway. She vanishes to somewhere new.
She watches as Dylan sits for his yearbook photo, crooked smile, sunshine trees. Click and it's over. He sneaks off to the parking lot where Eric waits on the hood of his Honda, black trenchcoat, hands in jeans, and then on to Eric's basement: jalapeno pizza, vodka and Tostitos. In their riptide of rage they conspire over theories of natural selection and craft their revenge.
"After what they put me through, can you blame me?" Dylan tells her, voice cracking.
She imagines his hands on her body, first her shoulder, then caressing lower, the thrill so new. But it’s wrong. She’s wrong. No way could he want someone like her. Instead Dylan wraps Eric in his arms, Vodka and Reb, together, and they kiss, stubble scratching lips, hands and limbs tangled in history, kissing everywhere. Naked perfect love, like only Dylan could understand, like only Dylan could give.
She pulls her hands away and fingers a random clipping. It’s the one with photos and names of the kids he.... She shoves it back in the envelope. She can’t bear to let them in. It couldn't have been the real Dylan who...
Dylan steps through her mirror. His trenchcoat is white instead of black, but the grin is the same. He grabs her hand and they hop on his purple Harley. Off to California! Sunshine and palm trees and pretty women who smile at you because you're one of their kind. Dylan takes her to the aquarium and they race through the halls leaving smashed glass in their wake. "Go free, all you manatees and seahorses, all you lobsters and angelfish. Learn to swim again." They scream with the joy of a thousand birthdays.
The last fish wiggles into the Kool-Aid blue sea when Taylor Swift swoops down in her jet, as clear as ice-cubes on a last-school-day picnic, and they soar like ghosts. "Let's go to Applebees for cappucinos and creme brulees," she coos to Dylan in her vanilla bean breath. But Dylan only laughs. Aurora’s the only one for me, he croons and together they parachute into the sunflower sky, tumbling through the air until they land smack center in the cafeteria of Columbine High. Dylan’s white coat falls like angel wings down his back as he showers the students with roses and Red Bulls and Ritalin. They all cheer. Forever their hero.
"Aurora," he takes her hand in his, "Be my queen." At last she feels real.
"Aurora! Where you at, girl?" Her mother's voice is a witch's slap.
Her eyes snap open and she swallows curses, soothed by imagined gunshot lullabies. She shuffles the papers but the bad one slides free, black and white faces that will never see a wrinkle, and in one face she sees something she never has before. A girl with a name she refuses to remember – they could be sisters. It could be her! Her hands tremble.
"God damn, girl!” her mother calls out. “You seen my lighter?”
Her eyes dart around the room and she spies the red Zippo on her dresser. That scorpion of hope is back, but this time she’ll ride its stinging tail. She smiles. “I don’t know, ma. Maybe you left it at the bar again.”
She brushes her bangs from her eyes and slips the lighter into her top dresser drawer, wondering how long it would take for a sinking ranch house to burn to the ground.
Kevin Singer is an Army veteran and former journalist who spends his free time running, collecting tattoos, renovating his house, and snowboarding. His fiction has appeared in the literary magazines Rind and Trysts of Fate and the anthologies Young Adventurers, Playthings of the Gods and Realities Perceived. He lives in Jersey City, though he’d rather live in Hawaii. Bienvenue au Danse, Kevin.