Flannel is a movement. The cheerleaders I aspire to be are the ones in Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit video, not the gum-smacking Girl Scouts with puffy painted backpacks I'd observed under Ms. B.'s watch. I've seen Malcolm X, read the autobiography and have taken to sporting a yellow tee with a giant X even though Jeff rails at me. "Do you even know what that X stands for?" he'll say, his voice rising to a squeaky pitch. "Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look?" "All women are black, we're all not white men," I like to reply icily before absconding to my bedroom to blast Tori Amos whilst scissoring images of Polar Bears out of National Geographics for surrealist collages to hang, like a banner, above my bed. I'm into dressing backwards, like Kris Kross. The highlight of Junior High was the lunch break when Lori Stefano braided my hair into Four Non Blondes dreads and drew a tattoo on my arm like Left Eye's.
It is Jeff who has concocted this absurd idea of me trying out for Frosh cheerleading. Obviously it's time he got his glasses fixed. They're taped together at the bridge. He assumes the flaw makes him even more attractive, as if he's above the average person demands of optometry, and somehow it does. Twice already Jeff has been nominated for Twirp Prince, with two Burger Crowns gathering dust on top of his media cabinet to prove it. Still, he must be blind. Or maybe his hormones have finally separated him from reality. Chickenlegs, the 8th grade boys chanted whenever I'd been required to run the mile. Beanpole, my grandma has called me since I was a child. I've got knock-knees, an E.T. neck, and what one of Jeff's bonehead buddies not so discretely described when I was trying to exit the car one afternoon as childbearing hips.
Also. Our father has officially moved out, a leave-taking that's been brewing since I can remember, a slow vanishing that's transpired over several years, bit by bit, one so-called business trip after another, until one day it's clear he's not coming back. Our mother keeps reminding us how relieved she is. "Finally things can start getting better," she keeps saying. She's drinking pretty much all day long. Now that Jeff can drive, we can handle ourselves. Go to the grocery store. Get home from school. Pick up our younger sister Jenny. Not that our mother deigns to break into our dad's well-stocked wet bar. As though to prove an empty, not to mention ill-informed point about who's got good taste and who doesn't, she purchases her own boxes and jugs of chilled white wine. →