What I Got
Life has rules. The Law of Gravity. The Rules of Motion. The most popular girl has to date the captain of the football team. It’s all pretty logical and generally accepted stuff.
And people on the street definitely aren’t supposed to turn into crazy, semiautomatic-wielding maniacs. . . .
But life has its own plans for me. That much, I’ve known for a while.
Then one day it was like, suddenly the world turned completely upside down, and I was the only one who still remembered which way was up.
I was born outside Atlanta, which, eighteen years later, was where I still lived. My mom, besides being the consummate society wife, was a total control freak. I mean, in retrospect she may have had an actual obsessive-compulsive disorder, but as a kid, I just thought she was crazy. In sixth grade, when all the other girls were waking up two hours before school to put on their makeup, my mom was waking me three hours early to put on mine. I dutifully painted my face and then slipped on my huge glasses and hid all the delicate face artistry beneath.
That wasn’t usually a problem or anything, though, because I was kept too busy to be delicate. As my father watched, too afraid to put a name to her mania, my mom enrolled me in ballet, piano, violin, private cooking classes, tennis, golf, swimming, and kung fu. She was careful never to get too proud of me.
Instead, she pushed harder.
She died when I was in seventh grade. That same year, my life changed—totally unrelatedly—in the most unexpected way of all.
I got contact lenses.
That day, in the doctor’s office, he showed me how to handle my contacts and to hold my eyelids open while I dropped the tiny plastic satellite-dishes in. On the way back out, I accidentally left my bulky old glasses sitting on the table in the waiting room.
The secretary ran after me, clutching those glasses. “Don’t you want these?” she called to me, as I was already classing the street.
When I turned around and flashed her a sassy glare—the look that had, so far, not attracted any unruly attention from anyone—the secretary, who was a fiery-looking woman in her own right, she blushed and cleared her throat, whispering a quiet, “never mind.”
And suddenly, I went from working-at-it popular to being top-shelf beautiful.
I’m not saying this to brag. I was beautiful. It hit me, the same way that you suddenly realize where steak comes from, that I was now stunning. I could only tell by the way people stared at me. Everyone, whether they knew me or not, stared at me, obviously and lustfully—either like I was edible, or like they were afraid of breaking me.
And, just like that, I became the most popular girl in school.
I got straight As without trying. I got dates without asking.
I would have dated the captain of the football team, too, except he was gay. In tenth grade, we went to soph hop together, and he kept trying to hook up with me like crazy and I kept swatting him away, and at the end of the night, after all the after parties and photo ops, we were alone in his car and he was like, “Actually, it’s okay, I don’t like girls anyway.”
The night was absolutely perfect after that.
But you know what? That’s kind of how my life went. I loved being top-shelf popular, but it also kind of sucked. Nobody talks to you. Everyone’s afraid that, I don’t know, they’re going to get stared at just as much as everyone stares at you. They’re afraid that your popularity is going to rub off on them, and then they’ll lose control of their lives as much as you’ve already lost control of yours.
Look, I’m not going to lie. This is a story about some really beautiful people who do some really screwed-up things. People die. Sometimes the wrong people die, and sometimes the right people kill them. Things get really bad, and they don’t always get better again. That’s what I learned.
But some things do get better.
And I’m gonna be one of them.