My greatest fear is that one day my mom will have to choose between me and wine. She would choose me, I know she would. But then she’d hate me for the rest of our lives and she’d always act like she does in the morning before she has coffee.
Which means that she would sigh all the time and cry all the time and scream at me to hurry up every time I need to change my earrings and the bus is about to come. Most people don’t know this, but my mom screams and cries a lot. I don’t. I hold it in.
This morning she was crying and I didn’t know what to do. I thought about writing her a note and putting in the five dollars she gave me yesterday for lunch money, but that seemed like a dumb idea, so I just patted her on the shoulder before I left for school and I put Patrick on the couch beside her.
Patrick is the teddy bear I’ve had since preschool. I keep him on a shelf in my room. My mom is obsessed with cleaning and getting rid of all my old stuff, but she never complains about Patrick. She just picks him up and dusts around him.
When I put Patrick down beside my mom, she just looked at him and started crying harder. I had to go to school. I guess I shouldn’t have changed my earrings at the last minute and I definitely shouldn’t have given my mom my teddy bear. I hope she puts him back in my room.
My mom is a massage therapist, and she doesn’t make enough money, just so you know.
My second greatest fear is looking like Ms. Litel, with a big butt and frizzy hair. That’s what I would look like if I used that crimping iron my mom got me. I was thinking about crimping my hair for prom and putting in a pink streak like Elizabeth White, but who am I kidding? I am not Elizabeth White.
My name is Ezmerelda Hogbin.
You think that’s funny?
Yeah, so does everybody else.
They call me Ezme.
I am not Hispanic, Latina, Spanish, or even Portuguese. The story is, my grandmother had a friend who was a beautiful Mexican seamstress named Esmerelda. She made a lot of my mother’s dresses when she was little, and she taught my mother to sew.
Why my mother decided to change the spelling of the name, I’ll never know.
I hate my name, but I’m not going to write about that today. I wrote about it already.
Last week Ms. Litel told us to write about our greatest fear. I just told you mine. Right now we’re supposed to be writing about prom. That’s the writing prompt – “P is for prom.”
Um, OK, Ms. Litel, but half of us didn’t go to prom. Some of us did, but we sure as hell don’t want to write about it.
“Well, then write about something else that starts with P, like pizza. You guys all like pizza, right?”
Jared Baker raised his hand.
“Can we have a pizza party?”
Ms. Litel stared at us for a minute.
“I guess,” was what she said.
“Can we have it Friday?” Jared asked.
“How can I justify us having a pizza party on Friday, Jared? It’s not even a holiday,” Ms. Litel asked.
Who the hell asks Jared Baker for advice? The guy is deranged. You should see the stuff he posts on Snapchat.
“You told us to write about pizza. If we all write poems about pizza, we should be able to have a pizza party,” Jared said.
“OK,” Ms. Litel said. “I’ll get pizza for the last day of school if every one of you writes a pizza poem. And they have to be epic pizza poems.”
That’s easy enough. I could write a book about how much I want some pizza right now. Lunch is an hour away. Luckily I still have that five dollars my mom gave me, but I think they’re serving chicken nuggets in the cafeteria again today. I wish my mom was the type who would bring Chipotle and leave it at the office for me, but she won’t. She won’t even text me back during school because Ms. Litel called her and told her I’m addicted to my phone after she got some poet laureate named Maude Ballentine to speak to our class and I got in trouble for playing on my phone while Maude was talking.
I hate Ms. Litel sometimes.
She is a funny-looking thing, especially with curly hair. She came in on Monday with curly hair and Marion asked if her hair was naturally curly.
“No, it is not,” Ms. Litel said. “I got a perm. Don’t ever do it.”
“I think it looks good,” was what Jared said. The thing about Jared is that everything he says has this jeer in it like he’s making fun of you. You never know if he means what he says or not.
He also said he liked my name.
I kind of thought Ms. Litel’s hair looked good curly, too, but she said it didn’t. She said it was fried and it looked like she stuck her finger in an electrical outlet and that we shouldn’t get perms or color our hair because it’s pointless.
Ms. Litel is such a hypocrite. She pretends to be a feminist, but she wouldn’t let us read the C-word aloud when it was in a feminist poem. And what kind of feminist tells you what you should and should not do with your hair anyway?
I’ve got an idea. How about I shave my head? That would piss off my mom and Ms. Litel.
How about I write a short story about a girl who has a weird name because her mom is sadistic and her dad is a Hogbin and so the girl gets married as soon as she turns 18 just so she can change her name? How about that, Ms. Litel?
I know what she’d say. She’d say I don’t have to get married just to change my name. She’d say Ezme is a good name. She’d say “put your phone away and write your pizza poem.”
Whatever, Ms. Litel. What I am damn sure not going to do is write about the prom, which was last weekend.
I went with Brad Canderly. My dad made this joke that I couldn’t go with him because his name was Brad and every Brad he ever met was a complete ass. But then he let me go anyway.
See, my parents just separated.
Every other weekend, my dad is my only friend. That’s why I told my dad he had to let me go to the prom with a senior when I’m only a freshman. Everything that happened that night is my fault.
Brad is a wrestler and he started liking me about two weeks before prom. Before Brad, I was going out with Clayton Scott. He’s also on the wrestling team, but he’s in a different weight class from Brad. Brad is like four times my size and probably twice as big as Clayton.
Clayton’s way of breaking up with me was to stop texting me on a Tuesday. By Wednesday, I knew it was over. I texted him and asked if we were still together and he said no. I asked him if he was coming over on Friday to watch Netflix. He said no.
Whatever. I didn’t want to watch Netflix with him anyway. We don’t even like the same movies.
I did cry a little bit about Clayton though. Clayton was my first boyfriend who did sports. Before him, I always liked guys like Finn Glass, who is sitting across from me right now with his nose in his notebook, probably writing about his hatred of school and the oppressive power structure which represents our cultural hegemony or something.
You wouldn’t believe how much going out with Clayton made other girls want to be my friend. That was the weird thing.
I kind of liked him, though. I kissed him on the lips – a real kiss, not just a peck.
So when he broke up with me, I was upset, but my dad said Clayton had “a strong back and a weak mind.” That was kind of mean. I think he just said that to make me feel better.
Then my dad offered me a cigarette to cheer me up. My dad smokes. I took two puffs and started gagging. The next day I started coughing and eventually it turned into bronchitis, no joke. I am never smoking again. My dad wouldn’t even let me stay home from school when I was sick. That’s because Mr. Richie had called him a couple of weeks before that and ratted me out for skipping.
So after Clayton dumped me, Brad asked me to go to prom. I didn’t really know if I liked him, but I started thinking about this dress I saw online.
My mom wouldn’t have liked the idea of me going to prom with Brad because she doesn’t know him, for one thing, so I told her I was going to the prom with my friend Sydney Kershaw, who’s a junior. Her parents go to the Universalist Church like my mom does.
Twice a year. My mom goes to church twice a year.
My mom’s always saying I should go places with friends instead of boyfriends because I’m too young for a boyfriend, so it was easy to convince her to get me the dress.
I was staying with my dad the weekend of prom and I knew he wouldn’t tell mom about me going with Brad.
Brad picked me up in his truck. No boy ever picked me up in a car before. Or a truck.
He came in and talked to my dad and said we’d be back by midnight. My dad gave him a pretty good speech while he smoked his cigarettes. He offered Brad a cigarette, but Brad doesn’t smoke.
As soon as we got in the truck, Brad looked me up and down and said:
“Ezme Hogbin, the girl I am taking to the prom.”
It was weird. I felt like he was saying he was too good for me or something. He didn’t say anything about my dress or give me a flower.
Before the prom, we stopped at this Mexican restaurant where Brad was meeting a bunch of his friends and their girlfriends. None of them talked to me the whole time, except when I didn’t know what to order, Brad asked Davonte Johnson what I should get.
Davonte said he didn’t know and he looked at me for a second. I don’t know if he thought I was too skinny or too fat, but he just kept laughing.
Then he said, “I mean, I could make some suggestions …” Then they all started laughing again.
I said I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to eat the tortilla chips they bring you before you order.
Then Davonte goes, “Well, then we better get another basket.”
Then they all burst into laughter again. I guess everything is hilarious when you’re a jock.
I got out my phone and started playing Candy Crush.
Brad ignored me at prom and kept standing around talking to his friends. One of them was pretending to be on drugs, and he came up said, “Where’s the bathroom?” Real funny. Like everyone who goes to our school doesn’t know where the bathrooms are.
Since Brad was ignoring me, I decided to dance with Keysha and Alexis. I got right between them and we just did this dance where we grabbed each others’ hips and shook our asses. It was fun until Brad finally decided to pay attention. He came over and started dancing with Keysha, then with Alexis. I don’t know what he was trying to do. I just walked away and went over to the food table.
There was Ms. Litel trying to get me to eat meatballs and miniature quiches. I told her I was having a vegetarian day, but I really didn’t feel hungry at all. I took two brownies and a lemonade and sat down by myself. Then Keysha came over.
“What are you doing?” she asked me.
“Having some brownies.”
“You’re acting like a jealous little baby. Do you know that?”
“And what do you think you’re acting like?” I asked her.
“Brad isn’t going to like you if you keep acting like this. You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him. You’re a freshman.”
I started playing Candy Crush.
Here comes Ms. Litel.
She actually sat down beside me.
“Are you seriously playing Candy Crush? I thought you only did that in my class,” she kept on, “I like your dress. Where’s your date? Where did Keysha go?”
I kept playing my game.
“You ask too many questions,” I told her.
“You’re not the first person to say that,” was all she said back while she scanned the room looking for trouble.
Don’t go looking for trouble because you’ll find it, Ms. Litel. Isn’t that what you say, you goddamn hypocrite?
She finally left. Why am I always mean to the people who are nice to me?
That’s who I am, I guess. I deserve what I got.
Brad came over with a big plate of pizza. He must have eaten three big slices. His last name should be Hogbin.
He asked if I wanted some. I don’t even think he knew I was mad at him or why. Maybe my dad is right and all jocks are dumb.
“I’m ready to go when you are,” Brad said.
So we left. It was almost 11.
“We could go to party,” Brad said as we were leaving, “but you’ve got to be home at midnight.”
I didn’t say anything.
“We could just go up on the hill and listen to music,” he said, and he started driving up a hill behind the school.
We could see the whole town from where we were parked. It looks bigger from above.
We were sitting in Brad’s truck listening to this song called “Fortunate Son” by some band called CCR that he liked.
Brad started kissing me and rubbing his big cold hands all over my arms. I kept thinking about his pizza and Mexican food. I knew he wasn’t my type, but then, Keysha was right. I wouldn’t have even gotten to go to prom if it wasn’t for him.
Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Maybe he would text me back if I texted him on Monday.
I stopped kissing him and pushed away.
“Do you really like me?” I asked him.
“What do you mean? Of course I like you,” he said. Then he moved in on me again.
“I mean, like, are we together now?” I asked him.
“We are,” he said. “We’re together now.”
“Are we going to be together on Monday?” I asked.
He stared at me for a minute.
“You ask too many questions.”
We just sat there in silence until I decided to get out of the car and walk home.
I thought maybe he’d come after me, but he didn’t.
After walking two blocks I called my mom. She didn’t answer. My mom is the only person I know who never turns the ringer on her phone on. She leaves it on silent so it doesn’t disturb her clients. I wondered if she drank too much blackberry wine and fell asleep in front of the TV.
After the third block, I had a blister on my foot, so I took off my shoes and walked barefoot.
Then two boys drove up in a red Volkswagen. One of them had a baseball cap on. That’s really all I remember about him. He was cute and he was wearing a baseball cap. I don’t even remember what team.
“Hey, is your name Anna?”
I wanted my name to be Anna, so I said yes.
“Are you going to Logan’s party?”
“No,” I said. “I’m walking home.”
“We’ll give you a ride if you want. Where do you live?”
I was going to have him drop me off at my dad’s townhouse on Clearview.
I got in the back and saw that there were three boys in the car. They didn’t go to my school. They said they went to the college.
“Your name’s not really Anna, is it?”
“No,” I said, “but you can call me Anna.”
“You’re very pretty, Anna,” said the boy who was driving. “You shouldn’t go out walking by yourself this late at night.”
He smiled in the rearview mirror. His teeth were glittering sharp, like fangs.
When they were done, I told them to drop me off at Quick Mart because I didn’t want them to know where I live. I walked to Dad’s house barefoot. I lost my shoes in their car.
My dad was watching TV when I got home.
“You’re late,” he said. “Where’s Brad?”
“We got in a fight and I walked home.”
“Told you that guy was an asshole.”
I said “yeah” and went upstairs.
I got into bed and started thinking of my mom at home asleep in front of the TV with a glass of blackberry wine beside her. I started thinking of Patrick on the shelf in my room. I wanted Patrick. My pillow was soaking wet and I didn’t want my dad to hear me, so I turned the light back on and played Candy Crush until morning.
That’s why I can’t write P is for Prom, Ms. Litel. That’s why I have tears in my eyes when I ask to go to the bathroom.
I can’t write P is for Prom because you’ll say we have talk to a counselor like you told Marion when she wrote the poem about dying.
But I don’t want to die. I’m 15 and I want to live.
I want to eat pizza, and play Candy Crush, and hold Patrick.
I want to write a novel about a girl with a weird name, and paint a mural on my bedroom wall, and get a tattoo when I turn 18.
I’m going to shave my head this weekend because it feels right and because it’s only hair and it will grow back.
And I’ll write a pizza poem.
You say you know I can do it.
Of course I can write a stupid poem about pizza.
I can do this.
P is for pizza.