It’s like the steps to the south house, where algebra bores her and history repeats itself every day, fourth period, is a hill that she is forced to climb over and over, at least from September until June. Smacks her gum and uses Snapchat from her school-sanctioned iPad, sends pictures of her friends, flash glinting off braces, to her other friends. Listens to Hole when no one is paying attention, Courtney all gravel-voiced and snarling, her mother’s hero. Maybe that’s why she’s on her fourth addict boyfriend, Sissy thinks, thinks of her mother all tits hanging out and thick eyeliner and always the victim—maybe it’s Courtney’s fault. But Sissy can’t help but love Hole, especially Nobody’s Daughter, which is not as popular but still she feels a string connection to the lyrics: She never was, she never will.
Sissy, Sissy—her mother texts her all day unless she’s drinking again or crying again or off her meds again, oblivious to the fact that from 7:15am to 1:15 pm Sissy is supposed to be focusing on how World War II was won, or analyzing the metaphors of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, or conjugating “to dance” in Spanish. Of course her mother never cared much for high school herself, graduating by the skin of her teeth, Sissy curled up tadpole-like in her womb. She sends Sissy photos of her fatherless half-brother, says I need you to ____________– she always needs her to do something, even though she dropped Sissy off at her grandparents’ and never came back all the way to claim her. Just popped in and out, acting proud as can be when Sissy would make honor roll or walk the overnight cancer fundraiser but never looking at her homework or donating to the cause, just taking the credit. You’re a good mom, everyone gushes. Of course it’s easy to be a good mom when you don’t have to do anything. Her mom all valley accent and embarrassing would rather have boyfriend after boyfriend hide needles where Sissy kept her tampons for those weekends she’d be allowed to stay over and watch their drunken caterwauling, or have them do other things, in the dark where not mentioning it means it didn’t happen.
Her mother’s love, insidious, poisonous, is her boulder and it is tied around her neck. Her mother’s love is the hill she has to climb up up up every day, and maybe this will be the day, maybe the dead boyfriend is the rock she can let tumble down for good, maybe the baby is the new rock, her new punishment, maybe her mother will love her like a real mom should. All these scenarios rush through her head as she is jostled in the hallway by teenagers with overstuffed backpacks. She loves her brother but can’t help but feel slighted, as if this baby deserved to sleep in the same apartment as her mother but she didn’t. Can’t help but feel like this baby should be left behind too. Sissy climbs the stairs to the south house of Methuen High and holds her chemistry notebook to her chest and thinks today is the day she will stop pushing that love, or rather that want of love, up the hill, she will let it roll down towards where ever, it can crash and burn at the bottom, she won’t go back for it, and Sissy thinks of herself looking up at the sky, towards the sun, towards the future, towards a place where her arms are not so tired all the time and the person that loves her most is herself.