NICKY’S HOUSE – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2016
“I can’t keep doing this, Nicky.” Jake says as he gets himself off of me and begins to clean up. I turn over and look at him.
“Why not?”, I ask with a pout.
“You know why,” he responds. I roll my eyes.
“Why does it even matter though?” I begin. “So what, you’re gay–”, I tell him before getting cut off.
“No I’m fucking not!”, he yells, before calming down. “Sorry. It’s just, I don’t know, I’m confused about everything.”
I sat up from bed. “I mean, it’s okay not to know what’s going on. Sexuality’s a confusing thing, sometimes it takes awhile to fully understand who you are.” He smiled at me.
“Thanks Nicky,” he said, kissing me on the cheek after putting his shirt back on. “I’ve gotta get going though, I have a swim meet in an hour.”
I smiled back at him. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. Go, good luck.” He patted me on the back and began to leave my bedroom.
“Oh, just, remember, don’t mention this to anyone.” I sighed silently to myself. “Of course.” I said, forcing a smile. He smiled back, his legitimate.
“God, you’re the best.” He said before leaving the room.
I lay back in my bed as he closed the door behind him. Jake and I have been secretly sleeping with each other for the past month. We were childhood friends, then fell out of contact in middle school, and earlier this summer bumped into each other at a party. He was drunk, I was stoned, we clicked, and before we knew it we were alone in a bedroom together. It’s been happening on and off since then.
Fortunately for me, Jake’s terrified of the concept of being gay, or even being with another guy. He’s made me swear that I’ll never let anyone know about us. However, me being my gossipy self just had to let my friends know. It’s not like they’d tell anyone anyways though.
The scariest–or saddest–depending how you look at it, part though, is that I think I’m in love with him.
ROCKY POINT HIGH SCHOOL – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 12, 2016
“Why is he such a pussy?” Ryker asks me as I explain the story of my weekend to my friends. Ryker’s one of my closest guy friends, he’s ambitious, dedicated, talented, all things I’m not. Opposites attract, don’t they? And when he’s a famous rock star I’ll be able to tell everyone that I was close friends with Ryker Hansen back in high school. That doesn’t make me shallow, right?
“Careful with your words babe, don’t want feminazi after you.” Katy jokes, laughing in between words. Katy’s Ryker’s girlfriend, and another one of my close friends. Katy’s one of the coolest and toughest girls I’ve ever met. She’s one of the only girls I’ve ever seen to get into a fistfight with a guy, and win. Sure she got suspended from school for a week, but c’mon, that’s a story to tell.
Gigi rolls her eyes. “Well, I wasn’t gonna say anything, but if you insist.” She pokes back. Gigi’s my best friend, and she has been forever. There’s no doubt in my mind that she has the complete potential to become the first female President of the United States. She’s on track to be valedictorian, and no doubt is gonna go to Harvard, or Yale, or some shit like that.
“I just think it’s sad that people continually are scared to come out, as if they won’t be accepted,” Pennie begins. “I mean, America is hailed as this land of the free, but we’re not even free to be who we are.” Pennie’s the resident hippie of the group. Her parents are super chill, and let us smoke pot in the house. Not to mention, Pennie’s one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever met in my life.
“Wow, fuck Penn, that was meta.” Kai says. Kai is another friend of mine who’s been by my side forever. When he isn’t stoned, he’s one of the best friends you could ever have, and when he is stoned, he is the best friend you could ever have.
“I don’t know,” I say with a sigh. “He’s just such a nice guy, everything I’d want really.”
“Nice dick size?”, Katy asks, half-joking. I laugh.
“Yeah, pretty nice I’d say.”
She laughs back. “Good, because I don’t want anyone to have to suffer like I do daily.” Katy says, breaking us all into hysterical laughter.
“Wow, well it didn’t seem like you were suffering last night,” Ryker pokes back at her. She playfully slaps his arm. “Shut up, you know I love you.”
Ryker rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you love me, I get it.” Katy rolls her eyes back.
“Nicky, I hate to be Miss Debbie Downer over here, but you deserve more than this,” Gigi says to me. “You shouldn’t have to marginalize your love like this, you tell him we either make things official, or we’re done.”
I sigh. “I really wish it was that easy.”
“Why can’t it be?!” Gigi asks, getting progressively louder. “I love you more than anything, and it fucking pains me to see someone treat you like a plastic sex doll–”
Before she can finish, Jake walks past us. I look directly at him, and he ignores me and keeps on walking.
Gigi rolls her eyes. “He can’t even look at you?”
“Gigi, calm down,” Katy begins to interject. “You’re right, you’re right. It’s only 7 in the morning, it’s too early for this stress, let’s change the topic.” Gigi responds, relenting.
Before anyone can say anything, the warning bell goes off, signifying that first period begins in five minutes. Naomi groans.
“Well, I guess we’ll continue this chat later, eh?” She inquired.
Gigi nods in agreement. “Yeah, can’t be late for AP Lit.” Pennie laughs. “Gigi, we all know you just wanna fuck Mr. Novak.”
Gigi rolls her eyes as she gets up from sitting on the ground. “One-hundred percent untrue, he’s a great teacher and the class is super interesting. That is all.”
The rest of us laugh. “Sure hun, keep telling yourself that.” Katy chimes in.
“Y’know what? Bye! I’m going to class,” Gigi says as she turns around to leave. “Fuck all you guys!”, she adds, holding back laughter.
ROCKY POINT HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
“Guys, I’m sure you’re probably wondering why we’re having class outside today,” Mr. Novak begins. “But, to make a long story short, we’ll be starting our first novel of the year today, and reading al fresco has always helped me enjoy the book more.”
Olivia shoots her hand up into the air. “Mr. Novak, so what novel are we going to be reading?” She asks in her annoying high-pitched voice.
“Well, I was just getting to that,” he says as he begins to take out copies of a paperback novel from a cardboard box next to him. “It’s a personal favorite of mine, I read it back when I was about your age. Lolita.”
Olivia shoots her hand up into the air yet again. “I’ve heard of that book before, isn’t it about pedophilia?”
Mr. Novak is caught off-guard. “Well, I mean–”, he begins before I cut him off.
“It depends how you look at it. A lot of people hail it as a story that represents obsession, it just so happens it’s about a teenage girl. Some even call it a love story. You make it as you wish.” I add, coming to Mr. Novak’s defense.
Mr. Novak smiles. “Very well put Gigi.” I smile back at him.
Mr. Novak is one of the coolest teachers I’ve ever had. He worked as a playwright in Manhattan after college, before coming to work as an English teacher in Rocky Point a few years ago. English has never been my favorite class, but Mr. Novak makes me listen, and want to do well.
“Okay, I get it, but I just don’t understand how your boss could’ve approved a book about a 40-year-old man being in love with a teenager?” Olivia inquires.
“Olivia, why don’t you just shut up and appreciate that we’re allowed to read good books and not fucking essays about the history of Mormonism out of a textbook.” I pipe back at her.
Olivia laughs. “Gigi, you’re so hilarious, oh my God. Yeah, sorry Mr. Novak, I’ll shut up.” I roll my eyes in her direction, and notice in the corner of my eye that Mr. Novak’s smiling at me.
Olivia has been a pain in my ass since we first met in 3rd grade. She’s loud, obnoxious, boisterous, a know-it-all, should I go on? Basically, Olivia is one of the most hated girls in school, but she’s too oblivious to even notice this, so she does nothing to change her obnoxiousness. She thinks I’m her best friend for some reason. At her Sweet Sixteen last year, she even put me in her court. Like, what the fuck?
“So, today is gonna be an independent reading day. There’s no set maximum or minimum you guys have to read to, just spend the whole period enjoying yourself and relaxing.” Mr. Novak tells us.
“Now that you’re all starting, Olivia, can you come talk to me over here?” He asks, ushering Olivia over to him with a frown on his face. She scurries over to him like a rabbit in heat. Thankfully, I’m seated just close enough to them to overhear the conversation.
“Olivia, I’m sorry to say but you didn’t get one question right on the summer reading text,” he tells her, trying to sound as comforting as possible. Olivia’s eyes bug out.
“What? How is that possible? Not one question right? God, my GPA’s gonna plummet.” She says, beginning to panic.
“Hey hey, easy there. Don’t worry,” Mr. Novak says, trying to boost her confidence. “It’s only the first test of the year, and I also can type up an extra credit project if you need it.”
“Extra credit? But I have marching band, and work, and I’m volunteering at the local animal shelter. I can barely handle the work I have now.” She cries, getting more frantic with every word.
“Well that’s a part of being an adult, you have to figure out what’s the most important.” Mr. Novak adds on.
“Mr. Novak,” Olivia begins, “is there any way I could make it it to you someway else?”, she asks, removing her sweatshirt to expose a spaghetti strap tank top and her bra straps underneath.
Mr. Novak seems oblivious to what she’s hinting at. “I’m sorry Olivia, but there’s really nothing else I can do, this is a tough class, and if you can’t handle it then maybe consider dropping into honors English.”
Olivia reacts as if she was just told that her mother was a bitch. “Very well, it’s okay,” she says in a high-and-mighty tone, slowly regaining her composure. “I guess I’ll just get going on my reading.” Olivia walks away over to her seat on the ground and begins reading the novel, as a notice a tear fall down her cheek.
RYKER’S GARAGE – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 17, 2016
“Pour some sugar on me!” I sing, as the band wraps up the sixth run-through of our worst cover. Katy begins to applaud, although I know it’s undeserved.
“Pour some sugar on me you sexy beast!” She yells out at me. I can’t help but laugh a little bit.
“Thank you to the incredible audience tonight, couldn’t’ve had a show this great without you all.” I say jokingly. Katy curtsies as we all laugh.
Natasha pats me on the back. “Can’t hit those notes like you used to, eh, pretty boy.” I roll my eyes. “Nothing a little practice can fix.”
Me, and my friends Natasha, Eric, and Sully formed our band Forecry about a year ago. We were all fed up with playing Beethoven and Mozart in those bougie music classes offered at school. Natasha’s the bassist, Eric plays lead guitar, Sully is our drummer, and I do lead vocals and rhythm guitar.
We named the band Forecry, for some reason. I don’t know what it means and I don’t know which one of us came up with it, but whoever it was should be immediately kicked out, the name fucking sucks. Too late now to change though.
Katy walks up to me as I set my guitar down. “Babe, you’re still on for dinner tonight right, my parents are pissed that they still haven’t met you.”
I laugh. “Yeah, of course. I can’t believe we’ve been going out for six months and I’ve never even met them yet, you met my mom in like the first week.”
Katy laughs awkwardly. “Well Kim is super cool. My parents are not. They’re traditional Ukrainians and I’m their only child. Expect an interrogation.”
I roll my eyes. “And I’m a parent pleaser. Not only people pleaser, but specifically a parent pleaser. They’ll love me, I’m sure.”
Katy laughs. “Not looking like that they won’t,” alluding to my outfit of a 76ers jersey, basketball shorts, a snapback, and some old sneakers.
“Excuse me missy, I happen to enjoy dressing like a slob, actually.” I add in.
“Well you’re definitely–”, Katy begins before getting cut off by Natasha. “Hey, Katy, sorry but I’m gonna have to steal Ryker away from you for a second. Official band business.”
“Yeah no problem, I have to get going anyway,” Katy responds. “Babe, remember, 6pm, my house, if you forget there is a good chance I will cut your dick off and then fuck you up the asshole with it.”
“Kinky.” I joke with a wink. Katy rolls her eyes before giving me a kiss and leaving.
“Well, it’s about time,” Natasha states sarcastically, before going to take a seat next to Eric on the couch. “What?”, I ask, inquisitively.
“Your girlfriend? It’s like she’s here all the time. This is band practice. It shouldn’t be open to the public.” She responds.
“Seriously?”, I inquire. “Just think of her as the band’s number-one groupie, I don’t see why she shouldn’t be allowed to be here.”
“Because it’s just a tad bit unprofessional,” she adds. “I mean, I don’t really care either way. Eric was just complaining about it to me a few days ago and I was really just looking out for him.”
“Eric? Really?” I ask, focusing on him. “Seriously Nat?”, he directs towards her, annoyed. “Sorry man, I was just having a bad day, it’s nothing.” Natasha rolls her eyes, but I don’t say anything, not trying to break up the band today.
“What’s up with all this negativity, just fucking relax.” Sully chimes in, getting a beer out of the mini-fridge and taking a seat next to Natasha. “Relaxation sounds great to me; we’ve been practicing forever.” Eric adds.
“No!”, I nearly yell. “There’s no stopping until we’re perfect. How do you think all the legends got to where they are now? Practicing, even when it got hard.”
“My hands are so callused they’re gonna fall off, dude. Can we just take five?” Natasha asks.
“No can do, this has to be perfect, c’mon guys, start from the chorus.” I tell them. I know they’re gonna hate it, but this is what being a frontman is like, you have to give orders for the better of the band.
“Pour some sugar on me!” I sing, as I hear my voice crack at the end of the note.
“Damn, Ryker are you feeling okay?” Sully asks, stepping up from his drum set. I ball my fists in anger. “Nothing, it was nothing. My throat’s just been a little sore today, that’s all.”
“Are you sure man? That’s like the seventh time today.” Natasha adds. “Yes, I’m fine, okay?!” I shout, getting a bit angry. “Let’s just start from the top, 1, 2, 1-2-3-4!”
KATY’S HOUSE – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 17, 2016
“Mama! He’s gonna be here in like fifteen minutes and I can’t find that red lipstick I wanted to wear!” I shout to my mother in the kitchen as I frantically run around my house looking for some lipstick.
“Katya, just use mine, it’s on my dresser!” she shouts back at me. I race into my parents’ bedroom and go to my mother’s dresser. On top of the wooden surface I find the red lipstick I’ve been so desperately searching for.
“Mama, this is my red lipstick!” I yell as I begin to apply the lipstick. I can hear my mother giggle back in the kitchen. “My bad Katya, it’s a beautiful shade though.” I roll my eyes.
I speak to my family in only Russian. My parents moved here in 1996 from Ukraine for a better life. Then I came along three years later. Life was rough for my parents, as it is for most immigrants. If we stayed in Ukraine, it’s possible we could’ve had a more comfortable life than we do here. But I’d never be able to have all the opportunities I have here in America.
“Mama, what are you making for dinner?” I ask my mom as I enter the kitchen with my freshly red lips. “A nice traditional Ukrainian borscht.” She responds. I groan.
“Mama, Ryker has the palate of a five-year-old, he’s going to hate this.” My mom chuckles a hardy laugh. “Well then he won’t be marrying my daughter.”
I laugh. “Well I never said anything about marriage, Mama. We’re only seventeen, remember.” My mom rolls her eyes. “Well it’s never too early to plan for your future. I met your father when I was about your age.”
“Well that was 1980s Soviet Ukraine, this is 2016 in suburban Pennsylvania.” I snap back with her, in a tone me and my mother talk to each other in frequently. “Tsk, tsk,” my mother begins. “You need to learn to bite your tongue or it will get you into messy situations.”
I sigh. “Trust me, I know.”
“Speaking of Papa though, where is he? He can’t be late for this.” I inquire. My mother sighs a lengthy sigh. “Where else would he be?”
“Johnny’s?” I ask, in a more sorrowful tone. My mom looks at me and says nothing. That answers my question.
Johnny’s, or Sleepless Johnny’s Bar, is some shitty local dive. My dad first went there a few years back when we were down on our luck financially. Ever since then, he’s gone back almost every day. I never like him when he comes home afterwards.
Before me and my mother could continue our conversation, my father bursts through the door, a bottle of cheap vodka in his hand, reeking of booze.
“Mikhail, where have you been? You knew Ryker was coming over for dinner tonight.” My mother inquires, leaving the kitchen and approaching him.
“Not in the mood, Irina.” He yells, pushing past her. A tear begins to fall down my cheek.
“Seriously Papa? I ask for this one thing and this is how you act.” I begin, getting enraged.
“Katya–”, my mother tries interjecting. “No Irina, let her talk, I wanna hear what she wants to say to me.” My father tells me, getting angry as well. “Papa, I think you’re a piece of shit person!” I yell at him, as he raises the bottle of vodka in the air, about to hit me with it. Before he has the chance to, my mother grabs his arm, and he punches her in the face with his other hand, knocking her to the ground.
I run into my bedroom, tears washing my makeup away. I pull out my phone and begin to text Ryker. “Sorry babe, dinner’s canceled, mom got into an accident.” I text to him.
“Oh shit, what happened? Is she okay?” He responds, in a matter of minutes. I wipe another tear from my face. “Yeah, she’s fine. We’ll reschedule though, okay babe?” I text back. “Yeah no problem,” he sends, with a smiley face emoji.
Ryker manages to put a smile on my face even in my saddest of times. I hear my parents inaudibly screaming from the living room, mostly my dad’s yells and my mom’s cries. It hurts to see such a good person have to go through something like this, especially at the hands of someone she loves so dearly. I put some music on and slowly try to drift to sleep.
PENNIE’S HOUSE – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 24, 2016
“Ughhh, I’m so bored!” Portia cries, as she plays with her lighter on my living room couch. “Keep still,” I tell her, as I attempt to braid her long blonde locks into a tight stylized fishtail braid.
She rolls her eyes with a laugh. “Sorry, I forgot you were beautifying me.”
“No biggie.” I say, putting the finishing touches on her braid. “Can we just leave already?” Portia asks with a groan. “Portia, it’s only 7 o’clock, I don’t think the place opens until at least 10.” I tell her. She lies down on the couch and whips out her phone. “Fine.” She tells me, in the tone of a child not getting their way.
Portia is my cousin, the daughter of my dad’s big brother. However, since my mother’s Indian I look absolutely nothing like her. We’re the same age, so our parents tried to get us to form a close bond when we were children. It worked. She’s easily one of my best friends now and I love spending time with her. She’s a crazy bitch and I don’t know what I’d do without her.
My mom walks into the living room, her hands covered in paint, as per usual. “You girls look pretty, heading out tonight?” She asks in her Indian accent. I smile. “Yeah, I think we’re gonna go to ANNiKA in Scranton.” I tell her. She smiles back. “Sounds fun. Be safe, and don’t forget your fake IDs.” She tells us before returning to her studio.
“Your mom is literally the chillest mom in the world.” Portia tells me, setting her phone down and sitting up on the couch. I laugh. “Yeah, she’s pretty cool. Your parents aren’t bad either, y’know.” I tell her. She rolls her eyes. “My parents are a bunch of hypocrite yuppies.” I laugh. “I’ll tell them that on Thanksgiving.” Portia rolls her eyes again.
ANNiKA – SCRANTON, PA – SEPTEMBER 24, 2016
Portia and I enter the doors of ANNiKA in our high heels, short tight dresses, and pounds of makeup. Instantly, all eyes point to Portia. Portia’s a gorgeous girl. She’s tall, blonde, big-boobed, and has a pretty face in general. Now don’t go pitying me, I have heaps of confidence, it’s just, next to Portia, I’m second-rate.
Portia sighs and rolls her eyes towards me. “Of course. Can’t I just have a fun night with my favorite cousin and not have all the guys in the room undressing me with their eyes.” She humble brags. I laugh. “Don’t think it’s just the guys.” I tell her, as I notice a butch-looking lesbian eyeing her down.
We make our way onto the dance floor, and before long, Portia has men left and right offering to buy her drinks. Being a pretty girl, you don’t need to bring money to bars, guys buy you stuff just for showing up and looking good.
As the night goes on, I notice Portia making eye contact with a particular man more than any other. “Hey, Pen, I’ll be back in a sec, okay?” She tells me, leaving the dance floor to go approach the guy standing near the bathroom. He appears to know her already, and they enter the men’s room together.
I roll my eyes a little. Portia’s hornier than a college-aged virgin. I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times she’s left me to spend the night at some 30-year-old man’s place. It makes me worry for her sometimes. She’s one of the closest people in the world to me.
Within ten minutes, she comes back out, more hyper than before. “I am so pumped Pennie!” She screams into my ears over the blaring EDM music. I laugh. “Well I’m happy you had fun with your little rendezvous!” I yell back, joking.
Portia gets a little bit uncomfortable. “Oh, you saw all of that?” She asks me. “Well, I saw you guys go into the bathroom together and I put two and two together. At least statutory only counts for the adult.” I joke with her again. She laughs uncomfortably. “Yeah, well, the age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16, so he’s good.”
I laugh, similarly uncomfortable. Portia grabs my hands and begins dancing harder than before. “Pennie I love you! I love life!” She shouts as we begin to dance the night away.
PENNIE’S HOUSE – ROCKY POINT, PA – SEPTEMBER 25, 2016
“And that’s how I plan to destroy sexism at Rocky Point High School,” Gigi finishes as she passes the joint along to Katy. Katy takes a hit. “What a humanitarian we have over here,” she jokes. Gigi rolls her eyes. “That’s right, fucking Diane Sawyer over here!” she yells, laughing. The rest of us, all stoned as well, laugh along, not quite grasping what’s being said. “Is Diane Sawyer even a humanitarian?” Pennie asks, hysterically laughing. Gigi dramatically shrugs. “Who the fuck even is Diane Sawyer?” She yells, continuing the laughter.
“Guys, I miss these days.” I begin. “What days?” Nicky asks. I sigh. “The days of us hanging out, getting stoned in Pennie’s basement. Y’know. It bonds us together.”
Gigi wipes a tear from her face. “I know exactly what you’re talking about.” She says, in between cries. Katy rolls her eyes and laughs. “I forgot how much this shit fucks you up Gigi.” Instantaneously, Gigi turns from sorrow to hysterical laughter. “Ha! You bitches thought I was crying, well I’m laughing you motherfuckers!”
“Gigi, you’re so fucking weird.” Ryker adds, taking a hit from the joint. “And proud!” Gigi yells, raising her imaginary glass to the sky.
“So how’s everyone’s past few weeks been going?” I ask, trying to instigate conversation.
“Well, I’m still Jake’s little secret,” Nicky begins. “No matter how many times we have sex, as soon as we’re done I get, ‘this is the last time I’m doing this, Nicky’, and then I get ignored until the next time we fuck. We have such a healthy relationship, right guys?”
“Why do we all have so many cunts in our lives?” Gigi asks. “If motherfucking Olivia flirts with my man one more time, I think I might have to gauge her eyes out!” Gigi shouts. “So who’s this man?”, I ask. “Mr. Novak, of course.” Gigi responds.
“So now you finally admit it,” Nicky says, laughing. Gigi rolls her eyes. “We all have always known, don’t make this any worse for me.”
“I think my cousin might be a prostitute.” Pennie adds, giggling like she always does while she’s stoned. “What? Portia?” Katy asks. Pennie nods her head. “She’s always sneaking off with old men I know she wouldn’t be attracted to otherwise, it’s the only thing that makes sense.”
Katy puts an arm around her. “Man that sucks. What for though? The money?” Pennie shrugs. “I don’t know. Her family’s pretty well-off. She could get money from her parents if she needed it. Or me even. I wish she’d just talk to me if she had a problem.”
“Well, my band fucking sucks, if anyone cares.” Ryker adds. Katy rolls her eyes. “No they don’t, you’re all amazing.” Ryker sighs. “Thanks babe, but c’mon, we all know it. And I can’t sing a fucking note anymore.”
“Everyone has their off days. You think Beyoncé is flawless all of the time?” Nicky adds. “Incorrect. Yes, Beyoncé is flawless all of the time.” Katy answers, making us all laugh.“I gotta pee, be right back,” I say, excusing myself into the bathroom. Once in there, I check my phone. One unread message. I open it. “Stay the fuck away from me you creep. All you do is stalk me and harass me and I’m very close to calling the police on your ass. GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!” The text reads. I drop my phone to the ground, and notice some small scissors on the counter. In a fit of rage, I pick them up, and with the sharp end, put one puncture wound into my skin. I sigh with relief, before picking my phone back up and leaving the bathroom.