by Melissa Moorer
You thought two girls would be enough, would be safe, but there's really no such thing. Two girls is just an extra victim. You found this out when you were twelve and your best friend wanted to meet some guy she’d met on the internet and she talked you into going along just to be safe even though you were smaller than her and eleven.
Three girls isn’t even enough. You know this from the news. Four girls, four strong teenage girls can sometimes be enough, but rarely. When you get up to four girls, one can be a fighter. She’s the brainy jock one of the other girls has been friends with since they played soccer together or maybe it was dance. Or maybe she’s a reader and has read about girls who fight. Something that takes discipline. Something that teaches about pain and strength. Maybe you're all not even sure why she’s there except that she’s usually good to be the designated driver and she lets you copy her calculus homework. This girl won’t be taken, probably. When the rest of you are too busy giving him a second chance or laughing and smiling as you all try to figure out a way to turn this situation into something you wanted, she’s already got her cell phone out. She’s already ready to fight or yell or call for help. Or run. Even the running away is okay, because at least it snaps one of you out of it hopefully. At least it makes you understand that this situation, these men you thought were boys, are dangerous in ways you have tried not to think about because how would you get through the day full of dangerous boys and men every day?
So she took out her phone and yelled at these boys who are really men who laughed but stayed back but then one of you—it’s always the cool girl, the mean girl who’s in the group because she’s pretty and a bully and needs a court, needs witnesses and remainders—makes fun of her for overreacting and now they’re moving toward you again. And she’s begging you with that look, those eyes that always seem to see you, but you’ve never been good at sticking up for her or even really seeing her back, just at bitching about the mean girl when the two of you are alone and sitting close to study on her bed. She begs you but the boys who are men say something you don’t catch but they’re chuckling in that way you’ve heard a million times in class, in the halls, even at home sometimes when your brother is being a dick with his dick friends. But you know these boys who are men. Who are boys. Your brother is a dick but he’d never hurt you. Or other girls. You think. But what do you know? You are just his sister or “the bitch” as he calls you every day. So you shrug and ask her to chill and she looks from you to the guys who have circled her and are making jokes about her being a dyke and how she must be lusting after the mean girl (not you) and you’ve heard this before too. It’s one of the reasons you try not to be seen alone together too much. She looked scared but now she looks like a thunderstorm: ready to cry in an angry, dangerous way you can hear across miles. One Mississippi, two Mississippi. You remember last night you were safe in her room with the mattress on the floor (she was tired of the ugly princess bed her mother had bought her when she was six) and the torn-out magazine photos carefully wallpapering you in, talking about that asteroid from another star that may be an alien spaceship and how cool it would be if you could hitchhike to another world where this shit doesn’t happen. Where you could be. What? You’re not sure just. Not this. There are tears in her eyes which the guys make fun of too of course because admitting that you were afraid meant that you were afraid of them and they’re just having some fun, right?
She turns and walks away because even being a fighter isn’t enough and you’re left with these guys and you know you should have followed her, you should have run. You should have screamed even though no one would hear you over the shitty live band no one’s pretending to like. A rough hand is on your sleeve, a red plastic cup full of something sloshes against you. The other girls (two now, not three) are already drinking in huge gulps as the guys watch and snicker, elbow each other, take sips of their own red plastic cups. You know something she doesn’t: there’s really nowhere to run. The only way out is through the bottom of that cup and the dark blank hole it will take you to. Like a movie. Or the dark theater around it. Never a spaceship. You think about that, about how you would design something that could hail that spaceship, hail it down to rescue all of us girls, and then you think about time and how no one’s going to save you just like no one saved the two of you then and just told you how stupid you were for believing him in the first place. You down it. Good girl.
There are all kinds of girls who become all kinds of women. If they survive.
Melissa Moorer was struck by lightning when she was eight. Her work has been published in luminous journals like Longleaf Review, Atticus Review, Wyvern Lit, Tin House, Electric Lit, Hobart, The Offing, Cosmonaut's Avenue, The Butter/The Toast. @knownforms if you twitter.