Most Likely to Get Out of a Tough Situation
Long ago in a valley down below—aptly named,
I discovered a disappearing hamster in a storm drain.
Timid and trembling,
I vowed to keep him safe.
There was something different about this one.
of what I wasn't sure, but it felt undone.
Was it his shifty eyes or playful feet?
Or the fact that has wasn't the sharpest one,
like he couldn't escape the senile cat that howled by the hallway door,
unable to distinguish his real self from a toy imposter on the floor
Legend has it that all the domesticated ones
descended from the same 1930s performance rodent and litter of her young.
But I'm not convinced that's where he's from.
He's a different one.
Although it does appear to be, this isn't, in fact, a fable about a disappearing hamster.
Yes, it is true that the hamster did ultimately disappear for good, but appearances aren't everything.
"They can't be, when you can't see me," said the girl who inherited his powers.
Most Likely to Slay All Day
"Cold was the steel of the axe to grind for the boys who broke my heart." - T. Swift
INT. A Very Cluttered, Very Closet-Sized Bathroom
She cuts her bangs sitting in the bathroom sink with a set of kitchen shears. Stainless steel blades guaranteed to cut through everything.™She snips and snips and snips again. Steady and smirking, she shakes the fallen hair from her face and adjusts her pony just right, pleased with herself. It's a good look. She uses the same weapon to cut her beat-up racing tee off at her waist, just enough to make sure he could see the flash of her belly ring tonight at motocross. Black hoodie, on. It's the only way she's going to make it out of the house. Scissors in the backpack, just in case. Sunglasses (even indoors) if she feels like it. One more sip of the beer she remembered was still sitting on the back of the toilet. One more look in the mirror (always) and she's out the door.
EXT. A Moody Suburban Street Just Past Dusk
She reapplies cherry lime lipgloss when she's anxious (at least 37 times a day on average). She keeps the same glossy variety in the front left pocket of her black jeans at all times. If she doesn't have it there, she grabs the one from her backpack. If she doesn't have it there, she goes back for it. She feels the buzz of a notification and pulls her phone from the same jeans to check her messages from him.
Time for a texting close-up: her chipped green nails on the cracked screen of her cell phone (it's always cracked):
Hey you. When are you heading over there?
He almost responds.
But doesn't actually send.
Another text comes in from her sistah, the LYLAS BFFFFFFF times infinity variety. She clicks over to:
Hey girl, hey. Get ready faster. Let’s goooooooooooo. [insert a fun variety pack of emojis here]
Working on it, woman! [party emoji + inside joke emoji] Just got in the car. Text you when I get there.
INT: The Most Common Used Red Cavalier for Millennial Girls in the Early 2000s
She checks her phone quick first then puts on lipgloss before putting on her seatbelt. She double checks her phone again. Nothing. Hmmm. She pulls out of her driveway and then slams the breaks about a house-and-a-half up from her. There's a shadow in the street. Or at least she thinks there is, was. It fades before she has time to panic. This reminds her of the time he surprised her at the park with a pizza (that was pretty cold by the time her made it to her but a nice gesture, and he included a 6-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade so that was a real bonus). But that was also the day that she spent the afternoon convinced that there were shadow people lingering in the tree line. To his defense, she was acting ridiculous about it, but that's because she saw shadow people lingering in the tree line. He tried to convince her it was how her eye reflects light and how it must be a rare condition or ability of some sort she should really look into. Ugh, asshole. Or was that a compliment? Sometimes she was more attracted to him because she couldn't tell what his intent was. She knew that was probably a bad sign, but she stayed with him anyway.
EXT. A Dusty Parking Lot Outside the County's Prized Grandstand Building
She pulls onto the gravel for motocross. It's packed so it takes forever to find his truck. She pulls up far enough away that it could seem unintentional, but close enough to keep an eye on it. She knew he'd be here. The bikes are roaring so most of the crowds have flocked to them by now. A good time for a smoke break on the way in. She is antsy without hearing from him so she reapplies her lipgloss and texts him again:
Here. Did you make it yet?
Weird, or weird timing?
She looks behind her where she heard it, but there's nothing back there. She's not alone though. Faceless clusters make their way around her, but it's just that no one seems to notice her. She's not in anyone's orbit. Alone in a spread-out crowd, waiting for her best friend to call. Waiting him to care, the boy that she's sure must be thinking about her whenever she's thinking about him. And then there's that chance he isn't, so every once in a while in those moments she buckles and finds a good excuse to reach out to him. It's a stretch that doesn't seem to be panning out, but she's chooses to stay in the dark. She doesn't want to take a hint.
INT. Her Actual Living Nightmare
The night has this heavy feeling that it will stick with you forever, heavy like the footsteps that she starts to track above the chorus of engines in the distance. The roar of lullaby static was disrupted by him. She knows he's back there, hopes so. She freezes because she feels someone. The cars continue to beam in and disperse. The lights play tricks on her. The shadows reappear. Shifty and taunting. She feels eyes on her, or something, something that kind of warms her cheeks and weirds her out. She feels like her stomach is dropping out of her uterus. She panics so she picks up her pace toward the raceway, checks her phone for the time to make sure this is all real and, of course, layers on another glossy coat to her lips (not knowing yet that it is no use; she will not be kissed tonight). She hears him call out to her playfully and then she sees him. The shape of his mannerisms play out in murky resemblance. God dammit, he's a shadow puppet, shit. Really, IRL. Shit. And on top of that, no one has text her back! Ugh. There is really nowhere for her to hide now (or get help apparently) because he knows that she knows that he's not who he said he was. She feels stuck in a fog, with some kind of building pressure on her lower back. It's sinister. He must sense that she's another imposter, too, if he's coming after her. Good thing she's prepared.
Sidenote: sis spent no time between feeling that shadow monsters are real and researching the best way to wipe them out. We're talking hours of deep cut, seedy web searches, "how to slay a shadow" video results, ample practice in the mirror and even a library visit. And this is coming from someone who refuses to put down rat poison or even ant tramps. So she has put in the work and she knows what she's working with, which honestly is why this shadow has taken so long to mess with her. She had no idea it was him until now but now she knows she must make an impression.
The pressure builds and he takes hold of her, spinning her into oblivion, triggering a blow-chunks-after-the-kamikaze-ride-kind-of-carnival-sick. But despite her stomach, she can handle it. She's not having it today. She reaches behind into her backpack and pulls out her trusty blade and without a second thought, proves how utilitarian a solid pair of cutters can be. One slice is all it takes, and the girl with guts maims a monster (who is also the mystery man she most likely loves) with the same scissors she used to cut her bangs in the bathroom. I guess life really isn't all lipgloss and motocross.
Most Likely to Make it to the Moon
Middle finger to the sky. She's over it, 2020. Ready to escape; she's out of here. Even the Canadian borders are far too close, but then again, so is Japan and she's always wanted to get lost in Tokyo. But she can't let that concern her now. She's off to a depth greater than heights. She's taking the last spaceship out to the end of the world. No president, no paramour could convince her to stay. She has pursued no other prospects; now she just needs to pack [For full instructions, refer to the forthcoming, What to Pack When You Want to Leave the Planet].
She hasn't been the same since she discovered her Uncle Austen's old radio in the sentimental (and almost Goodwill'ed) box forgotten about in the corner of the basement. The dials were torn off, just like he left them. People thought he only used them to manage the stock market because that's all anyone ever witnessed. But she proved that theory wrong when she plugged it in. When you operate on a different frequency, you hear things that others don’t. So high only the heavens can hear you. That day the static spoke to her, and she's been hearing it ever since. And it seems to hear her, too. So well after the rest of the world goes to bed, she goes beyond it and conducts a concert for aliens. It's her form of bribery, a punk rock gift to the gods of the new world order. Just in case. But now she's ready for them to take her, too.
"Good evening, otherworld. I beckon you. Do you read me?" she says, leaving it all in the airwaves. Then she waits to see what would happen next.
Most Likely to Stay Sexy and Not Get Murdered
One day you'll meet a wolf man at the end of the aisle. You'll notice him at first, bulky in the background. You'll scan his presence and look again. He's holding no products, lingering out of the corner of your eye. Red flag, red flag. (Shit, just find a product to stare at and act distracted). He is sinister, yet unassuming. But congratulations. This is a right of passage for you. If you survive this, you have officially turned old enough to go shopping by yourself just to find yourself being stalked in the bread aisle. Now you're a woman. So when you're faced with this scenario and you're not sure of his intentions but you're determined not to die, there are a few things to keep in mind as you go. Don't worry; we all have to pass this level at least once.
17 Steps To Survive Being Alone in the Aisles With Wolf Man
Follow these steps to avoid being swallowed by the night (because going out hungover in sweats and no makeup won't deter him):
This is free writing about the fears in my head. About scenes many of us have starred in unwillingly. I read a tweet tonight about imagining that you got murdered and some girl skips your episode of Forensic Files because it looked too boring. The purest fear of being forgotten. The unthought known. Everyday situations can get you killed. This is a reminder to survive.
Most Likely to Steal Your Heart
Found another wild hair today.
This time, in the sink.
Not dingy like my dirty blonde.
Unforgettable auburn pink.
Felt she had been near me,
hauntings up her sleeve.
she dwells in trees.
I followed her wisps
and found her, finally,
above the fallen leaves.
Her hair, like string.
With her, a houndstooth backpack
where she stores all the things.
She steals because she's sentimental.
Don't think she means much harm.
Don't know if she means business.
Haven't been close enough to tell.
But she's small enough to not be seen,
and fierce enough to haunt our dreams
if we're not watching.
(We're usually not watching).
We get in our moods
and in our ruts and in our grooves.
And we get stuck.
She's not afraid to stir up a little trouble.
Or scrounge up something that you thought
was long gone, that you buried in the lawn.
She signs her emails with a balloon emoji.
So now that's how I do it, too.
Once you find her
try to forget her.
I'll let you know if I ever do.
Most Likely to Hex Your Ex
I felt like a trinket walking under the sour orange sky. Small and breakable, staring blankly at a tire swing defying gravity across the lane, rocking freely, well before the wind kicked in. I squinted. It continued to rock for no reason, at least none my eyes could see. In my gut, it felt like a pendulum regulating the heavy night air, a pull toward something. A light goes dark in the window of the adjacent home and I feel like I'm being watched. I shuffled along to avoid looking like a creep, stumbling over the sidewalk and the couple whisky gingers I had before I came. Salt hangs heavy in the air of this coastal town. The weight will buckle you if you let it. Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit worn down, weathered, but tonight was a pick-me-up. All dressed up and somewhere to actually go. Liquid courage helps but I’m still feeling those new-kid-at-school jitters. Nervous about the awkward glances. Not knowing if I'll know the best way to read the room, or what the room even looks like. It took me months to find a clique after moving schools again before the sixth grade (but my mother's willingness to drive us to the mall for dipping dots and and the clearance rack at Deb Shop obviously helped). Tonight, is just a dinner party. If it's a bust, I could always just dip out, I tell myself. I don't owe anyone, anything. I keep telling myself that ...
The house was a few miles off the main drag. That's where I first saw Her. She was winding her way through the grocery aisles in bohemian layers that you couldn't tell where they started or began, leaving a trail of musk behind her. Not the Young Living essential oils variety either. Her aroma was dank even when I kept my distance. I didn't think she noticed me behind the aisle across from her until I felt her, staring. She most certainly could not have known my name and yet, somehow, she knew me. I could feel it as I followed my eyes down the length of her coat, sharp around the edges with pools of inky curls running down her back. This is the same woman who, without ever having a conversation with me (that I'm aware of) managed to get a dinner party invite to my doorstep. Either I'm mad or it had to be a mistake, or both? I pulled out the invitation to double-check the address as it appeared, with stark gold embossing on emerald green paper, without postage, in my mailbox last week:
You are cordially invited to join me for a night of everyday decadence.
I reapply my lipstick for no good reason. Just nerves. I am just about a block away and an hour behind a party I wasn’t sure I belonged at. How did I manage to get an invite from this mystery woman on the hill? I should have probably had a LaCroix on the walk over to get my head right for this. I'm not sure what I'm about to walk into. Was I even dressed right for everyday decadence? I checked the time through my cracked screen and glanced down at my bare legs, pink from being exposed to the night air, held up by a pair of over-worn black chunky heels. The heels I wore the night I left my purse in the back of the Uber. The same ones that carried me to and through my first pitch meeting. The ones that kept me out too late and unaccounted for with him.
Approaching the north entrance of the residence, tucked in a bit behind a row of moody trees, the humidity was dragging me so I pinched my hand a bit to perk up. There it was, gawking. The house had eyes that peeked above the overgrown bushes. Two gaping windows presenting a backlit world of I don't know what. A night of possibilities hung up like curtains. I'm sure I was smirking as I walked in and my brain split open into equal parts "make a good entrance" and "already planning my exit."
I waltzed into what felt like a Ryan Murphy production, high-brow seedy and a bit familiar but never actually known. Sounds of strangers stretched across the night sky. Glasses clanking. Feet full of good and bad intentions. ASMR tingles and all. I almost didn't notice someone scurry by me until I felt him brush past my side and heard the door behind me. Okay, maybe I'm a little stoned, but I think he knows me. That felt intentional. Also, I think I have indigestion from the fish I haven't ate yet. Whole fish means it has a face, right? Fuck, I really don't want to eat the face. What could possible convince me to come here and consume the face of a halibut? Mouth gaping, eyes glazed but still very much intact. How far would I go to impress someone I wanted to know? I've never even talked to her before and I already knew the answer. I was buzzing earlier during my shift. Scrambling from table to table to hand off gin and tonics and fill up baskets of endless fries, with a gut rot I couldn't shake. Now I was actually here. WTF. Is this real life? I reach for the closest glass on a tray of reds.
The room was an obscenely long table, filled with people I didn't know. This was my nightmare.
And then I saw her.
Her hands, delicate and dark, held a gold-rimmed serving tray. On it, a seared fish with dead eyes. Shudder.
Salty, glossy and crooked in the same manner that she composed herself. Garish adornments of charms and with an extra coating of lipstick. I wonder if it's cheap? I want it either way. She was Betsey Johnson from the Upside Down, basically glowing compared to the guests around here, radiating the rest of the room a forgettable gray.
I swear, I feel her staring into my soul and I'm straight frozen. For the first time in my life, unable to make out words. Actually. I couldn't talk. The night felt like it was closing in on me and now I couldn't hear myself talk--and seemingly no one else could either. I went to sit down quickly in front of the fish face, but I took one look it and the table full of faces engulfed in my existence and I dodged. I could hear her beckon me, but I backed out. This lack of follow-through, this inability to seize a moment when it counts, reminds me of a dream I had in quarantine, where I biffed every opportunity I could have made for myself sitting across the dinner table from Quentin Tarantino. I watch him, wired and wonderful, and I shit the bed. Failed to ask him anything about his films or his regrets. I just couldn't get the words out. In my dreams, I was also a series of too much and not enough. One of the few dreams I have hung onto from the solitude of spring coming back to haunt me. And now here I was, at this house on the hill, absolutely transfixed by a complete stranger and I had nothing to say at all. I couldn't.
I escaped out of the back door where the smokers were and managed to bum a Marlboro without disrupting their conversation. I looked up as I lit it. Country dark, just a sliver of moon, a moon that I acknowledged and then neglected for my phone like I always do. Mindless scrolling on my screen to fill the time. Before I knew what I'd done, I caught myself swiping through today's Stories. Autopilot even in unknown places, on borrowed time I would never get back. Checking myself, I put the phone back in my purse and polished off my wine. I needed to get out of here, stat so I head toward the driveway. I walk past a couple men with red cheeks and tucked in shirts as they summoned their cars. Are they modern day warlocks or do they just own Teslas? One of them grips a paper cup like he came to the party holding it. I look back to get a second glance.