I'm Going to Live with my Girlfriend
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
I walk along the tire tracks in the gravel road, a lonely space shuttle following a trajectory that was plotted out for me years ago. A small cloud of dust puffs out behind me, like the ghosts of my footprints get up and leave me. I don’t leave as much of a cloud as trucks do when they drive by, but it’s still a cloud. Mine.
Just as the dark clouds start to reach me, I come up to the abandoned church. The cross on the top was blown off long ago, probably in a summer storm like the one that’s almost above me.
But still, I know it’s a church.
I swear it stares at me as I pass, like it knows, too. The dark holes where windows used to be look like mouths. I can almost hear my parents’ words from this morning’s shouting match – wrong and liar and learn to ignore it and it’s just a phase and not my daughter and bible verses and all the other stereotypical shit you hear about but never actually think gets said and, finally, get out, now – like they’re leaking from the windows. It’s late afternoon now and I’ve been walking since.
The first drops of rain begin to fall, slowly blotting out my footprints. Staring up at the sky, I smile and close my eyes, letting the rain wash my face clean, wash away the last of my tears like my footprints. I pull my hood up, shift my backpack on my shoulders, and keep walking down the road to the city.
Then I hear thunder and see a flash of lightning, steadily getting closer.
I look around for anything – anything – other than the church to hide in until the storm passes. But it’s just fields all the way to the horizon in every direction. I guess I won’t get very far if I get struck by lightning… With a sigh that turns into a groan, I hop off my imaginary trajectory and head for the church.
When I’m standing in front of the rotting-and-rusted-hinges door, wind blows through the old building. It creaks, echoing my groan back to me.
I glare at the faded wood. “I don’t like it any more than you do, but, frankly, I blame you for this. You can at least keep me from getting electrocuted.”
Inside, the church smells like dry grass. Pages of falling-apart hymn books flutter in the wind. I watch the storm through the empty window frame, watch the rain turn the gravel from dust to mud. But I can’t shake the feeling of being watched, of something staring right between my shoulder blades. Looking over my shoulder, I swear all the knots in the wooden beams look like dozens of eyes, all fixed on me. Unblinking. A chill runs down my back and I look away.
Lightning flashes followed by a clap of thunder. I step away from the window and sit down against a crooked pew, brushing strands of hair out of my face. The first thing I’m doing when I get to the city is cutting all my hair off.
My gaze wanders to my bag. Or… I reach into my backpack for my pocketknife. Turning the knife over a few times, I hold out a fistful of my hair and cut. I’m sure it’ll probably look like shit, but there’s something so viscerally satisfying about hacking my hair off with a pocketknife that I don’t care. I get lighter with every piece, like each one is a word, a stare, a hissed jab and anything else that followed me when I walked out of my town. All of it falling away and unraveling like it was never a part of me. When I’m done, I brush the hair from my shoulders and shake my head wildly. Rain beats down on the roof.
Next, I go through all of my photos and delete every. Single. One. With my parents or anyone from my town– my old town in them. Delete, delete, delete. I wish they were real pictures, not just digital, so I could leave them in this church along with my hair to get blown away, or to rot and fall apart like the hymn books or to I don’t care what as long as I never see them again.
Standing, I dump my whole backpack onto the dusty floor. I didn’t have time to think about what I was taking with me – I just grabbed things randomly – now I want everything that reminds me of that damn town gone.
“Y’know, I always knew this was going to come,” I ball up the sweater I got from a church secret Santa and chuck it across the room, “and I thought I was ready for it.”
I swing the belt I used to wear to dinners I didn’t want to go to around a few times before letting it loose and sending it flying up into the rafters. “But I guess I wasn’t.
“Because even though,” I toss an old journal in the air and kick it, “I’d imagined it a million,” one knitted glove from my aunt, “times,” then the other, “it still really,” I rip my hoodie off, “fucking,” and throw it into the rafters too, “hurt.”
I don’t realize I’m shouting until I stop. The church goes quiet.
At the horizon, the sky’s getting brighter, like Raina’s sending the bright sky just for me.
A gust of wind blows raindrops onto my face. I swear I can hear Raina saying, “You’re such a sap, Jaz.”
I grin to myself. “You hear that, oh all-seeing bastard god?” I say to the empty building. “I’m heading for the city to live with my girlfriend and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
I tuck the things I want to keep back in my bag. My pocket knife I used to carve “J+R” into benches wherever we went. Comic books with queer characters, bent at the corners from being hidden under my bed; I can’t wait to see them out on a shelf. A book of photos of nebulas Raina and our friends pitched in to get me for my sixteenth birthday last year, with all their names signed in the front. The T-shirt from the first concert Raina and I went to.
The bright sky comes. I pick up my backpack, much lighter now, ready to leave. Outside, I pause before I close the door. I look up at the face of the church. “I’d burn you to the ground if I could.” I slam the door shut.
Just in a T-shirt now, the damp air gives me goosebumps. I keep my eyes on the horizon and start walking again. At the end of the road, Raina’s waiting for me.