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Some Cindy Talking photo


She was always looking in the mirror.
"I'm so hot," she would say.

I hated the way she said it.

Hawt. I'm so hawt.

As if I didn't know. As if the word needed emphasis. As if I didn't burn when I looked at her.

She would swivel, bat an eyelash at the mirror, bare a few teeth—sure to catch a lip, as if by accident, on her crooked incisor. The little accidents she worked so hard to perfect.

I hated her so much, but I couldn't breathe when she wasn't around. I looked for any excuse to propose a sleep-over, a hang-out. Any chance to inhale her air for an extended period of time.

I had only been drunk, sort of, once, I think—at Fred Jacobs’ house. And that was all the way last summer and I had fallen asleep before I had gotten properly drunk. Right? Anyway, I felt drunk in her presence. But not sleepy drunk. Drunk like in the movies. Drunk like it was the only thing that mattered.

Cindy got drunk. She got some college guy named Ziggy to buy her tiny bottles of liquor. Airline bottles, I heard my mom call them once. "Cause they help you fly," she said as she brushed the bangs out of my eyes. I hated when she did that. I hated her for so many things, but I wasn't quite sure why. She didn't do such a great job, but you could tell she tried. Any idiot could see that.

I'm not sure what Cindy did to get those bottles. I'm not sure I wanted to know.

In addition to the limitless supply of miniature Bacardi, Absolut, and Southern Comfort bottles, Ziggy always gave her a thin little joint. "A pinner," she would call it, sneering as if it was just a step above garbage. That didn't stop her from greedily sucking the smoke into her lungs.

After our ten block walk to the Haversford Town Mall ("The finest in shopping experiences since 1981"), we would slip behind the Spencer's Gifts trash door. We would crouch behind the dumpster, giggling and teasing each other, like children again; hiding in our fort, us against the world. Trying our hardest to push back against the onset of maturity.

Cindy liked to talk fast and move even faster, but I could still see the braces she used to wear, like a phantom on her teeth. She must have had a hack for a dentist because her teeth were still crooked, misaligned, but she used that to her advantage.

She used everything and everyone to her advantage.


Once inside the mall, we would raise holy hell. Skipping, running, jumping, crashing into things. Kicking over ashtrays, smashing gum onto arcade screens, cursing out old ladies just to see their shocked old faces. We laughed so hard we would almost pee our pants, tiny yellow droplets squeezing out.

But the burn-outs always shut us up. Just one look from the heshers roaming the mall like it was their territory, just one glance and we would clam up. Even though we knew they weren’t shit compared to real gangs—city gangs—we still held them in awe. They wore jean jackets with cut-off sleeves, smelled of cigarettes and cheap beer, and they ruled the food court like it was their sovereign nation.

The burn-outs were as if a National Geographic spread leaped off the page—a near-extinct tribe wary of outliers, to the point of violence. They’d been smacked around; either by their parents, or friends, or any asshole in general (society). They were constantly circling their wagons (GTOs). Smoke seemed to trail them at all times. They were minor suburban magicians, appearing and disappearing, mysterious in their comings and goings. Wizards of weed, horsepower and the electrical arts.

The burn-outs were the bottom rung, yet everyone respected them—even their enemies. In combat, in parking lots, they were a force to be reckoned with. Many a fool football star or entitled upper cruster found themselves sobbing like babies beneath the onslaught of burnt fists. Having already experienced plenty in their brief lives, burn-outs seemed to feel no pain. They were fueled by unknown quantities of drugs—from cheap OTC highs like white crosses to serious shit like angel dust, which led to one kid—a junior named Dom Klino—going to prison for kicking in a cruster’s head with his steel-toes. The kid never saw straight again; his vision permanently re-aligned, his perspective shifted irrevocably. Lindsey Shapiro said his friends now call him “Wally,” a shitty play on “wall-eye.”

Cindy was always yapping about these little intrigues.  I pretended to be interested, but mostly just listened to the sound of her voice. It got extra-squeaky when she was gossiping about some poor soul who had the misfortune to be born without good looks, or money, or confidence. Defying the odds, Cindy had been blessed with all of these totems. She was truly one of the chosen few.

As we stepped into the mall’s arcade, I could hardly contain myself from bursting out of my skin. I felt invincible next to her. We were the Dynamic Duo.

Wonder Twins—Activate.

We were immediately intercepted by Craig Shank, his lanky frame barring the path at all sorts of strange angles. I felt trapped, but Cindy got indignant.

“Craig Shank, get the fuck out of our way. Who do you think you are? We’ve got people to see and you ain’t one of them.”

You could tell he was blindsided. He had been about to open his mouth and attempt something smooth, but that’s what Cindy does best—jolt people, like giving a dead car a jump. She’d look you right in the eye while your flesh sizzled.

Craig Shank recovered quickly, shrugging his long neck to the right. With his Tony Hawk skater cut momentarily swept away from his face, I was shocked by how cute he was; handsome, in fact, a square jaw and hazel eyes that seemed to linger on everything a beat too long. Including my face.

“Sheeeeeit,” Shank drawled, trying real hard to be cool. “I was just seeing what you and your friend here were doing Friday night. There’s a woods rager in McClintock Park, deep in there, like, way back. If you go—and you should duh—you might need some help navigating your way through the forest. It gets pretty creepy at night and you can bust your face tripping on tree roots.”

Cindy wasn’t impressed.

“Pfffft, we don’t need your help. I damn near ran through those woods tripping on MUSHROOMS, so I ain’t worried about your roots, or your goblins, you geek.”

Craig tried to deflect Cindy’s animosity by running a hand through his dark brown hair. His hair looked so shiny and sleek. I caught myself staring at his head—like some kind of insect, he probably thought.

“Happened to Ricky L, I fuckin’ saw it. Dude’s face was just gushing, but Ricky handled it pretty well. You know that dude, right? He’s pretty tough. But he was fuuuuucked up.”

I’d heard of Ricky L. I think Cindy knew him. But I couldn’t stop staring a hole through Craig Shank’s head. He had broad shoulders and was the perfect height and you could see his hip bones poking through his ringer tee. What is wrong with me? I thought. Get a grip.

“Yeah I heard about that, but whatever, he probably deserved it. We’ll, like, totally be fine. Right, Jess?”

I snapped to attention and managed to nod, hopefully not like a total moron, forever doomed to be uncool.

Jess. That’s right, I forgot your name. Sorry.”

“That’s OK,” I said.

Pfffffttt, Cindy exhaled. “Let’s go. Craig, we gotta go. Maybe we’ll see you on Friday, maybe not.”

Cindy grabbed my hand and as we walked away I could hear Craig Shank saying, as if to no one, or maybe to everyone, “The future is uncertain…..”

“What a weirdo,” Cindy sneered.

I nodded in silent agreement, but inside, all I could think was:

Is this what love feels like?



Following Sunday's mall excursion, the week drifted by. The suggestion of movement was all around, but I felt completely still, untethered from earth’s gravity.

I generally did well in school—As and Bs and the occasional C in some math-related subject. Numbers weren’t my friends like words were. Most people would be surprised to hear me say that, as I wasn’t the most gregarious girl in Haversford High’s junior class, but they only saw and heard what was on the surface. I saw deeper. I could glimpse further inside than my peers could. I played with words inside my head and asked the world to conform. It rarely did, but sometimes my mind wielded power over matter. Or maybe I was fucking crazy. Cindy would say I was crazy, but she did it all the time. She was a sorceress of social situations. A Morgan Le Fay of planned developments. I so envied and admired her. She was pure magic, nothing seemed to touch her.

Cindy and I hung out almost everyday after school, except for Thursdays, when I had Yearbook. For some stupid reason, I had let myself be coerced into co-editing that annual monstrosity full of moments that are embarrassing enough in the present; I can hardly imagine how gross they’ll seem in the future. Sometimes, in the heat of the edit, it was fun and there was a glimmer of something rewarding. But mostly it was Jason Fantmer's post-lunch onion breath assaulting my nose and Shopa Grazich's eye-gouging printed shirts giving me vertigo if I stared too long.

We all took turns playing cassettes and when it came time for my turn, I always popped in one of my mixtapes. I slaved over them, mostly using 45s and the occasional song I managed to capture off of WCNR, the radio station of Castle Nook University. Castle Nook was a small liberal arts college plopped about twenty miles outside of town, and most everyone in Haversford viewed the student body with suspicion. That didn’t stop them from trying to take advantage of the more gullible transplants. More than once I heard a pack of burn-outs laughing about unloading bags of oregano at some college house party.

I didn’t pick sides; I had plenty of other battles to fight. Like with Cindy. I mean, we weren’t fighting—I would never want to hurt her. She was like a unicorn and I felt lucky that I even got to run next to her.

Cindy didn’t like my mixtapes all that much. She could get into the stray Cramps stomp or random power pop song, and for some reason she loved Suicide and every time she was over she made me play the Slits’ cover of “I Heard It Thru The Grapevine.” She would slink around my room, singing to herself in the mirror, completely ignoring me. I didn’t mind so much. She could really move. I would stare at the cover of the LP, imagining that me and Cindy were mudwomen—urban savages—not bored suburban malcontents. Maybe our future was thrashing around in the mud somewhere. I was bursting, splitting at the seams to go in search for it. It seemed to be the only thing that mattered. This dumb town, these dumb people—they were nothing. Only me and Cindy mattered. The rest of these citizens were superfluous. They were just extras in the movie of our lives. I was fine with being a supporting player; I still held sway over the star. We were a duo, after all. Double Trouble, Wonder Twins, Heckle & Jeckle.

Thursday, after I had gotten home from Yearbook, I blazed through my homework. It was around 10 o’clock—I was sewing up a small hole in the butt of my favorite jeans while listening to some new singles—when Cindy called.

I answered before the second ring.




“I haven’t seen you all week. Got a new best friend huh?”

“Yeah, Wendy Livermore. We made a real love connection in study hall. She also loves Charles In Charge and Bananarama. We exchanged friendship bracelets. It was a lovely ceremony, wish you could’ve been there.”

“Real funny, Jess. As if Wendy could possibly get you on the level that I do. I mean, I’ve got your number, girl. Face it—you’re all mine. For better or for worse…..for richer or poorer…..til death do us part.”

“Cindy, did you just ask me to marry you? Because that was a beautiful proposal. But I’ll have to talk to Wendy about it first.”

“Of course.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re a real cut-up these days huh?”

“The sharpest tool in the shed. That’s me.”

“So, we’re going to a party tomorrow.”

“I know. The one that Craig Shank told us about.”

“I’m not informing you, dummy, I’m preparing you.”


“Anyway, I already knew about that party before Craig Shank told us. Duh.”


“We can’t get there too early. That’s what dorks do.”

“That’s for the best, considering how long it takes you to put yourself together.”

I instantly felt a pang of remorse for the statement, but it hit soft—like an avalanche of feathers. Besides, it was true.

“Fuck you, Jess, maybe you should take more time assembling your own, um, particular…..look; shall we call it? Yes, we shall. I think we shall.”

I just let that hang in the air for a sec.

Across the development, on a cul-de-sac street, I could picture Cindy on her back—lying on the bed, long legs braced halfway up the wall, her head hanging over the edge. Like she was waiting for the executioner’s ax. But she did it for the blood rush. She couldn’t resist any novel sensation. She had to have it all. Sometimes I imagined that ax falling, and her head rolling, that vacant look trapped for all eternity.

“Jess, I’m just kidding. Jesus, take a chill pill. Frankie said relax.”

“I know, it’s OK. Sorry, you always look great. I just….am. I dunno, I could probably think about it a little bit harder. Getting dressed always seems so…...incidental. Like, ‘Oh, right, I should put on some pants.’ I sound like an idiot, don’t I?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“It’s been a weird week. Can I tell you something, Cindy?”

“Of course! I’m your best friend, aren’t I?”

“Of course, yeah. Sorry.”

“Stop apologizing. What’s the deal?”

“Umm, it sounds kinda stupid, I know, but…….I can’t stop thinking about Craig Shank.”

“And what are you thinking about him?”

“I dunno! I mean, he’s really cute, and tall, and he has this far-off look in his eyes, but it’s like he’s concentrating on something that’s real close. Y’know? Like he’s pretending to be aloof, or whatever. But really, he’s catching every little glance and whisper and touch. Does that sound crazy?”

There was the briefest of lulls in the conversation, which almost never happened. Me and Cindy usually talked like we were hurtling down the rapids on a raft. Coming around a corner, people probably thought we were a train about to mow them down. A blue streak, is that what it is? We were talking machines. We were blue streaks.

“Umm, I mean, kind of. Like, he is cute, for sure. And he’s definitely tall. That is a fact backed up by science. The look? I guess, I can see that…….Haha, get it?”

“Look out, Joan Rivers.”

“Groan Rivers maybe.”

I groaned so loud I sounded like a whale dying. Cindy giggled. We were back.

“The more I think about it, the more I think you might be onto something, Jess.”

“As far as what?”

“Craig Shank.”


“He does have this certain thing about him. I always thought he thinks he’s too good for anyone. Like, he totally could have screwed Sonja Prevan. She told me. He turned her down. What kind of guy does that? But then I thought—That’s hot. Right?”

“I guess. Sonja Prevan, really?”

“Yeah. Weird, right? I mean, she’s a total slut; that’s not surprising. But he wasn’t interested. Didn’t even try to feel her up.”

There was that silence again.

“I bet he wouldn’t turn me down. No way. He wouldn’t dare.”

I managed to not make a sound, but I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out. Luckily, Cindy couldn’t see me.

“Yeah, there’s no way he’d turn me down. Sonja? Sure. Me? Uh-uh. He’d have to be crazy.”

I was now standing and trying not to shake, or shiver. But I wasn’t cold.

“Cindy. C’mon, you don’t care about Craig Shank—he’s not even close to your level. He’s a dork.”

“That’s what makes it so perfect. Jeez, Jess, for a brainiac, you sure are dumb sometimes.”

“C’mon, Joan, the cameras are off. The show’s over. Audience left. You can give the jokes a rest.”

“Jess, I’m serious. Tomorrow night at the woods party, I’m totally gonna fuck Craig Shank. I’m gonna nail him to a goddamn tree.”

My face was so red that when I turned to look into the mirror hanging on my door, I thought my head would be on fire.

“Jesus, Cindy, what the fuck? I mean…..what the fuck?”

“What? I’m horny. It’s been too long. And he is cute.

I’ve seen him skating, and it’s actually pretty hot.”

“But you just had sex with Anthony Scappalardo! Like, two weeks ago. Remember, in his car? You told me all about it. Was that bullshit?”

“No, no, we did. Kinda. I mean, we didn’t really…..do it all the way. It was weird. He was being weird. I think he was way more drunk than he was letting on. We drank a whole six-pack of Straub before, driving around the hills. Then I told him to park at that abandoned gas station off Route 14. We got in the backseat of his shitty little car. I tried to ride him like a stallion, but it was more like a tricycle. Then he got mad and drove me home.”



“Tommy Sanders. What about Tommy Sanders? You said that you made it with him in his basement.”

“Nah, we just fooled around a bit. He tried to feel me up, but he was grabbing my tits so hard that it hurt, like he was climbing a mountain or something.”

“Did you touch his dick?”

“Only over his jeans.”

“That still counts.”

“Pffft. What do you know?”

“Well, it counts.”

“Listen, Jess, until you lose it, I don’t wanna hear shit from you about who I wanna screw. You don’t even know what it’s like. Not just the sex, but the stuff that comes after…….…...and even during. Ha! Rivers is back on the air!”

I didn’t laugh. Rivers was dying on national TV. No laughs from this audience. Cindy. Greedy Cindy. She won’t even let me have Craig. I love you Cindy, but you are a bitch. And I hate you.

“Jess, c’monnnnn, what? Like, you’re in love with Craig Shank? You wanna have his babies? Take a honeymoon to the Bahamas and drink pina coladas?”

“I just like him, that’s all. I think he’s interesting. I thought he didn’t know who I was, but today it felt like he did, like he’s been watching me, keeping an eye on me.”

Cindy whistled the tune to “Every Breath You Take.”

When did she get so clever? I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like Cindy was strangling me with my own telephone cord.

“Listen, I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Fuck. OK. Lator, gator.”




Friday. Friday on my mind. All week—Friday was on my mind. And now, my mind and time had finally reached an agreement. Tonight was going to be the ultimate. Cindy wasn’t going to fulfill her mission this time. I was going to tell Craig Shank I liked him and I was going to make out with him and maybe even more. I didn’t care anymore. This was it. If Cindy has taught me anything, it’s that you’ve gotta take what’s yours. Grab it before someone else does.

School was blah. I struggled to keep my eyes open, mostly drifting off into that sitting half-sleep that any teenager could pull off with their eyes closed (hurrhurr). I shared one class with Craig—Biology—but his desk was all the way across the room, near the window. Sometimes I would catch him looking in my direction. But he mostly just stared outside. Thinking about what? Death? Skating? Girls? Me?

When class was over and we were filing out to lunch, I felt someone clasp my elbow, firm but not aggressive. It was Craig. He whispered in my ear.

“Hey, are you going to the party tonight at McClintock?”

“Umm, yeah, yes. We’re going.”


“Cindy. Me and Cindy.”

“Oh, right. Her. OK, cool. I’ll see you there. Look for me.”

“Oh, yeah. OK. I will.”

Just when I was about to lock eyes with him, he smiled shyly and headed off towards his locker. I had to stop in the hallway and stand with my back against the wall. Yes, Craig, I’ll see you tonight.


At Cindy’s house, we went through the usual pre-party ritual. She tried on every piece of clothing she owned, in seemingly impossible amounts of permutations. Her vanity was strangely thrilling. I couldn’t deny the charge that went through me as she contemplated her appearance again and again in the massive seven-foot mirror she had leaning against her bedroom wall.

“What do you think about this?” She said as she turned away from the mirror and towards me for what could have been the 99th time in the last hour.

“I think you look like Madonna was in a car accident, probably because Sean Penn was wasted. In this accident, she suffers a severe head injury, comes to, then wanders into the nearest Goodwill and grabs items of clothing by sheer instinct. Then she goes into the fitting room and puts everything on and realizes that she has lost all sense of fashion cuz of that cranial trauma I mentioned earlier.”

Jesus fucking Christ, Jess. I mean, I got it, it looks like shit. You could have just said that. You didn’t have to flip the bitch-switch. Fuck. I mean, seriously.”

I watched as Cindy undid the clasp of whatever you called the 18th-century French torture device she was wearing. She shot me a look.


“You’ve been weird all day. Like, actually weird, not just you-weird.”


“What do you mean, ‘So?’ So did something crawl up your crack?”

“That’s nice.”

“Avoiding the question.”

“Evading the stupidity more like it.”

“Bitch-switch engaged!”

“Let’s go already. Excuse me if the fashion show gets monotonous.”

“Pfffft, whatever. You love it.”

“Not tonight.”

Well then…..”

“C’mon, let’s go already. You always look great. No matter what you wear. Grab a potato sack and let’s vamoose.”

“OK, OK, jeez-us…”


The thing about McClintock Park is that it was always dark. Even during the daytime. As we pulled into the BEST parking lot across the street, it seemed extra dark. Too dark. Like no light could possibly live inside. This part of McClintock stretched into the woods, and through the passenger window of Cindy’s mom’s Toyota Tercel, it looked like a black hole waiting to swallow anyone who wandered into its proximity.

I stepped out of the car, slammed the door and tested the lock out of habit. The handle didn’t give.

As we waited for the traffic to pass, Cindy slid beside me and lasso’d her arm around my waist.

“Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?”

“You think it’s going to be fun?”

“C’mon, Jess, you know me. I make my own fun. These squares better watch out! Bang bang! I’ll shoot ‘em all down.”

Cindy laughed and just like that the road cleared and we dashed across like headless chickens and the woods swallowed us up and the night descended.


"Ow. Fuck!"

Cindy was stomping through the brush ahead of me and didn't even try to warn me as a branch she pushed out of her way snapped backwards and slapped me across the face. It scraped across my cheek and I could feel the sting of flesh pierced, producing a tiny trickle of blood, as if my skin was crying.

"Cindy! Slow down, dammit, I'm getting attacked back here."

Cindy ceased her trudge and let out a sigh. Still, I couldn't help but hear Pfffffft. Her dismissal. It burned people up, her refusal to acknowledge you.

"Can you pick up the pace? Like, hurry your ass. I wanna be late, but not too late. Y’know?"

I bit my tongue and didn't mention how long it took her to prepare herself for the evening's festivities. I mean, here I was, risking making a fool of myself in front of Craig Shank, but I hadn't done anything special. I was wearing the same stuff I always did. OK, maybe The Cure shirt was new. Maybe Cindy thought I was lame, but it didn't seem to bother Craig. Why do I always care what she thinks?

"Jess, did you turn to stone? Let's go."

"Cindy, I just want to say. I mean, I've gotta say. I want to tell you."

"What? Tell me what? You sound like a parrot."

"Please don't try to fuck Craig Shank tonight. I like him, like, really like him. And I'm going to tell him."

"HA! Pfffffffft. Are you serious? Like, for real?"

"Yes, for real. I told you this on the phone last night. And then you said you were going to fuck him."

"Yeah. Huh. I guess that's true."

We were standing in a small clearing. The thick vegetation trimmed itself here, a triangle of trees framing the dirt floor of the forest. A million little creatures hurried across that floor. A million little worriers. Scurrying.


"So what?"

What the fuck was her problem? She always got everything. I let her have everything in our path. We walked the path together and she was constantly reaching out and grabbing all the fruit off of every tree and gorging herself like some Roman emperor. Greedy Cindy. It was never enough.

"So...if you try to fuck Craig Shank, I'm not going to be your friend anymore. You will walk the path alone."

"Walk the what? I can find my own way, Jess. You think I'm an idiot, you think I can't fend for myself. I've got news for you, toots, you ain't my mama bird. I don't need to fly out of your nest. But I can fly, so it's not like you could follow anyway. Even though that's all you do. Follow. You're just a follower. Jess, my little worshiper. You'd jump off the Pinesap Bridge with a flaming tire around your neck if I told you to. Pffffffffffft."

Cindy spun her heels on the dirt floor and started to walk away with an exaggerated gait. A fuck you stroll.

I stood there, bathed in a sliver of moonlight, throat constricted by a rage I rarely felt. It was there, it was always there. But now it was forcing its way up and out, the anger turning to nausea turning to anger.

Where does one stop, where do I begin? How do you stop it, once it's started? Where do I stop, where do you begin? My throat felt like it had swallowed everything, like it hadn't chewed anything before swallowing. Bursting. I was swallowing and bursting at the same time. I was puking and chewing and screaming and crying and the moon made my head feel like a lightbulb. My filament popped. I needed to smash myself before this broken filament stayed inside me forever. What do you do with a snapped filament rattling around your skull for ever and ever? I was screaming and running.

Screaming and running.

Cindy was beginning to swivel her torso around when both of my arms thrust forward with as much force as they could manage. My palms connected with Cindy's shoulder blades at such velocity. I couldn't stop. The velocity took over.

Cindy's body lifted off the forest floor for what seemed like an eternity. She really could fly. Here she was, once again, performing the impossible, harnessing the force of gravity itself.

As she landed, Cindy attempted to regain her footing, but she crashed forward, face-planting through a small bush. I couldn't see the exact moment when her head hit the massive, gnarled root that snaked out from the base of the tree. I didn't see it, exactly, but I heard the snap clear as a bell. It ricocheted through the copse of trees arrayed around us. The sound of Cindy's neck snapping shuddered its way down my spine. But the chill it brought vanished instantly.

I made my way over to where Cindy's body lay motionless. As I tore the branches away, I looked down and could appreciate what Cindy was wearing. She looked great, of course. The look on her face wasn't surprise, but.....bliss? The fall had twisted her head around, so that her eyes were gazing up into the moonlight. She looked great. Of course.

Off in the distance, I heard a shout. Then, a laugh.

Then an "Oh, man!"

I knew that "Oh man." It was him. I squinted my eyes at the darkness and suddenly I could make out the ragged edges of a bonfire, leaping and sucking greedily at the surrounding oxygen.

"Duuuuuuuude, ha! No, wait—don't do it!!”

A small explosion erupted inside the fire. Batteries? I could hear the pops and the crackles, and I could feel the sizzle.

"You asshole!"

I took one more look at lifeless Cindy and her hollow stare. That shiver down my spine again, but it was gone as fast as it came.

Then I ran off, sprinting through the woods, using Craig Shank's voice as a guide.

Soon there would be fire, and flesh.

And no more Cindy.