You will already have an idea of me. There are enough of us dead girls out there. From a distance, so many of our stories look the same. That’s bound to happen when someone on the outside tells the story, speaks as if they knew us. They pick over our remains, craft characters from our ashes, and this is what the living get left with. Someone else’s impression of who we used to be. If I tell you my story. If I let you know what happened to me. Maybe you’ll see who I was. Who I am. Maybe you’ll like the truth of me better, and maybe you’ll wish this for every dead girl from now on. The chance to speak for herself, to be known for more than her ending. Wouldn’t that be something. After everything we’ve lost.
The first thing I understand about the city I die in: it beats like a heart. My feet have barely hit the pavement, the bus that delivered me here has only just hissed away from the curb, when I feel the pulse of New York, the hammering. There are people everywhere, rushing to its rhythm, and I stand open-mouthed in the middle of the widest street I’ve ever seen, smelling, tasting the real world for the very first time.
Though I am named for a girl who fell down a rabbit hole, I feel in this moment as if I have climbed up out of the darkness and left the distortion of my old life behind me. If you were to look back, you’d see all the four-way stop signs and the star-spangled flags of small-town America waving us goodbye. You’d catch a glimpse of untended roads littered with potholes, and windowless convenience stores set down on otherwise empty lots. You’d see rusted ice freezers next to sliding glass doors, and nine-dollar bottles of liquor on dusty shelves. If you looked hard enough, you might even find my name traced in that filmy coating, there between the expired packets of potato chips and the fading jars of salsa.
I am here. She was there. And then she ran away to New York City, leaving all that dust behind her.
The second thing I understand: I cannot fall back down that rabbit hole. Not even if Mr Jackson shows up at the bottom, his delicate fingers beckoning. I need to prove I can make it on my own, that I can survive just fine without him. I will not be like my mother, who forgave any man who said sorry. I have learned her own failed lesson, see. That when a man discovers where to hurt you, the way he touches you changes. He won’t be able to stop himself from pressing hard against that spot, no matter how many times it makes you cry.
I will never let a man make me cry. Not ever again.
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