American Horror

By Jessica Alexander

You should have seen me then, under those yellow stadium bulbs, my lips so full they’d burst in your fingers. I had this top on: a floral print and ruffles, red, to match my lips, and my tight Levi jeans. And my sun-kissed cheekbones and the sun-kissed bridge of my nose. And my smile was just like America—like    a cornfield stunned by its own golden beauty—my gorgeous delight! I went braless, wore no makeup. It rained and the grass was slick. The way it goes is that something happens next. It happens by a lake or in a parked car. You take one look and know I’ll never survive it. My teeth were like a horse’s. A feeling they mistake for a girl. A feeling they write songs for. The kind of songs that played in pickup trucks and there’s me standing in the bed of one, hurling my top into traffic. Could be a hitchhiker. Some guys carry knives. What is it about blonde girls and America? Blonde girls and wherever? I was so all–American. So cute I could have murdered my own goddamn self. What is it about a blonde girl that breaks the world’s heart? I miss those days. Not Bobby or Leo or James. Just miss that particular ache, which was not unlike a bulge in shorts, that summer rage that could break my chest apart and hurl my beating heart into the bleachers. Like them I could not keep myself. There is the stadium again. There is Bobby, cheering. Isn’t that how it happens in America? Topless in Texas. My little red shorts. In the back of a pickup, again. The window breaks. In Tennessee? In Indiana? The sound of a power drill, a chainsaw. The sound of summer. The bleachers, those bright white lights waiting to throw  my shadow to the ground, and there I am, arriving, and it’s always like what happens to me next has everything to do with every one of us.

Jessica Alexander’s story collection, Dear Enemy, was the winning manuscript in the 2016 Subito Prose Contest, as judged by Selah Saterstrom. Her fiction has been published in journals such as Fence, Black Warrior Review, PANK, Denver Quarterly, The Collagist, and DIAGRAM. She teaches creative  writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Originally appeared in NOR 27.

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