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She wanted something different.
I mean, I wanted something different too—I wanted to make it out of this town with my sanity, but at this point it seemed that I would likely lose that. I wanted to make something of myself—go to a fancy college up north and attend fancy classes like Trigonometry and live in a fancy dorm that I really didn't care how fancy it was, as long as it was away from here.
But she, she wanted something different than my different.
I was scared.
I had been dreaming up this ideal world for almost five years, where I could move away in three months and twelve days. Where I could be different. Where I would be different.
But her? She never had a plan.
I was scared for her, for her unknowns, for her uncertainties.
I was scared I'd never see her again.
Her crazy, open laughter invited me to snuggle up in the back of her pickup truck, to quiet the question marks ricocheting behind my eyeballs and to watch the stars. To gaze at the world of unknowns right above our heads and laugh. To fill up the empty pockets worry had created in my brain with warm noises and familiar smells.
She was crazy, I suppose.
People told me that all the time.
The town drunk, Mista Timothy, even weighed in every once and a while.
"She's crazy, you know. Never seen anything like her."
I nodded and brought another beer to his booth at my Pop's diner.
"You be careful out there, ya hear? Those crazies will stop at nothing to convert you. To pull you over, off the cliff, take the leap onto their shadow land. Then you'll be lost. So lost. Lost for good. You'd be lost for good. Be careful..."
Mista Timothy downed another three beers, then fell asleep at his table. I checked for a pulse. Somehow, he was still kickin'.
I used to care a lot about the rumors. I used to hide her away, never ever to be seen in public with her. She was a heathen, I suppose. She was different, a different never even whispered out here.
But then I remembered my own rumors that surrounded my family. Our red hair sticking out like a white picket fence in the middle of the desert. Our red hair that caused my Gramama to desert her own children for fear of their supernatural tendencies. Our red hair that caused our diner to be empty on some of the hottest summer days, when even though the heat was melting tires and catching dry trees on fire, our red hair that kept our fellow citizens our of the only air conditioned place in town.
I remember the first night I dyed my hair black. I was crying, my Mama was crying, even Pop shed a tear or two. But it was a necessity. And soon it became a tradition that on the Lord's day, we would all smother our rich red hair with home made dye, trying to cover up the parts that made us different. Mama soon figured out how to layer the paint on our eyebrows and eyelashes, so our once faint faces had dark outlines.
The rumors stopped. And life was good for many years. I tried not to think about our lost authenticity. Our lost way of life. And I succeeded most nights.
But she? She brought everything back.
When she suddenly moved in with her Auntie and Uncle down the road from us, the white picket fence returned, only now it surrounded her lot.
I tried to warn her. I let little things slip. I even mentioned my red locks, something I hadn't spoken out loud about in several years. But she said nothing. She responded with smiles, with kindness, with laughter. She must've not understood. I tried to use simpler words, told darker stories, but she still didn't get it.
She must be what my Mama calls, "mentally not upright."
So I decided she would be my case. To mostly distract myself from my own troubles, but also to keep her afloat in the sea of hers. I spent most nights with her, after my shift ended at Pop's. After class let out. After church. Three places I had never seen her.
I taught her how to suck out the juice in prickly pears. How to sew up a hole in her skirt. How to catch crickets and fry them for a crunchy snack. She listened, sometimes.
But she was different. It wasn't like my red hair, which was only on the surface. Her difference ran deep, like roots that ran through her veins. She didn't go to school. She didn't go to church. She didn't sit with the other girls and watch the boys wrestle in the dirt. She wanted something different out of life, something I could never understand.
Then it hit me. Physically.
We were in her pickup truck, laying underneath all the unknowns and she had finally gotten a chuckle out of me. I hadn't heard a laugh come out of me like that in so long, it echoed off my ribs, and reached all the way to my toes.
And then she hit me.
Not with violence, but sure as hell with force. She kissed me.
We were entangled with blankets and laughs. We were alone. Only the stars were our witnesses.
She wanted something different.
But I guess I wanted the same different, too.