“Zombie” – The Cranberries
I’m eleven and dressed in a Nightmare Before Christmas costume, and I sit, tugging at my gloves, surrounded by other eleven-year-olds in costumes. I’m not like them. They all laugh and talk and enjoy each other’s company, and I’d rather die than stay here for one more minute, except I don’t get what I want. I’m very much alive and my mom’s not getting me ‘til nine-thirty. It’s seven now and everyone is playing Truth or Dare. I pray nobody calls on me, but God makes sure that one girl named Kassandra does. I pick “dare” so people might think I’m cool. She tells me to kiss one of my best friends, and everybody “ooh’s” until I give him a nervous peck. I’m lying when I say this isn’t my first kiss. He wipes the red lipstick off his mouth and I run to the bathroom to cry because I wasted your first kiss on someone I don’t like, in a desperate effort to impress people I like even less.
“Backseat Serenade” – All Time Low
I’m thirteen and at a concert for a band I used to like. I’ve been abandoned by all of my friends, and I’m hitting it off with a girl I met in line. I’m different from her. She’s tall, has long, pink hair, and is way out of my league. I’m nervous, five-foot-three, and my hands are sweaty. Even though I know little more than her name and her music taste, that’s enough for me. She’s into me, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of people. It feels better than being alone, so I stand on my tiptoes to kiss her. I’m lying when I tell my friends that I’m the type of person to make out with a near stranger at a concert. I lose my best friend Siarra that night because I’m turning into someone I’m not. She’s telling the truth when she says this. I don’t learn my lesson.
“Stay” – Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko
I’m fifteen and I can’t tell for sure if that’s what’s playing over the chatter of high-school dance attendees swarming around me. I’m with another girl, also tall and out of my league, and my nerves are getting the best of me. She holds my hand and looks at me with sad, helpless eyes, and I look away guiltily, apologizing for ruining the night. She’s lying when she says I’m not ruining anything. I know how much she loves to dance, and I’m stuck here wallowing in self-doubt. She’s quiet for a moment, and then she breaks the silence by asking if she can kiss me. I’m lying when I tell her I’m okay with it, and when I convince myself that the last time I kiss her a year later really will be the last. I know this isn’t going to work.
“Just for Now” – Imogen Heap
I’m sixteen and it’s just after Christmas break. I arrive at school and find her waiting for me, box in hand. She hands it to me and we don’t talk about what’s happening. We both knew this was coming anyway. She apologizes and I reach for the door. I hesitate, turning to look back at her. I’m lying when I tell myself I don’t want to kiss her goodbye. I punish myself for ruining our relationship by not doing it.
“Arabella” – Arctic Monkeys
I’m sixteen and a narcissist. I’m alone in my room, applying makeup even though it’s the middle of the night and I’m not sneaking out to go anywhere. I’m lying to myself by pretending to admire my reflection; instead, I scrutinize every detail of my appearance endlessly. I cry, and the makeup smears. I kiss the mirror and slam my fist into the glass. I’m lying when I say “Pain is beauty” as I pluck the lipstick-coated shards from my hand.
“Ivy” – Frank Ocean
I’m seventeen and the loneliest I’ve ever been. Siarra isn’t the only one who’s left me; all of my friends tell me that I’ve changed, that I’m not the person they used to know. I sit in a stairwell by myself and scroll mindlessly through the photos on my phone. I come across something a friend sent me a few months back: a photo from Halloween in 2012. I’m dressed in a Nightmare Before Christmas costume and surrounded by people who genuinely liked me for me, not just for the person I convinced them I was. I’d never been kissed.
“It’s quite alright to hate me now,” Frank Ocean sings.
I’m telling the truth when I say that I hate me now. But it’s quite alright. I finally learn my lesson from all of this. I go home that evening and remove the makeup, the clothes, and the facade I’d put up for years. I delete the phone numbers of those old flames, and I come across Siarra’s number. When I call, she doesn’t pick up. I leave a voicemail, telling her that I’m sorry for everything that happened that night at the concert. I never hear from her again, but I do see her the next day when she comes through the drive-through at work. She knows who I am; I can see our history in her eyes when she looks at me. But she says nothing. She grabs her frappuccino and drives away. Somehow, I am okay with this. I don’t spend my break crying over the fact that I’ve been ignored. I don’t dwell on the years of time spent together, or the way it all fell apart. I hand her her drink and that’s that, and I am okay.
“We will never be those kids again.”
Bec Kashuba is a writer and coffee-hating barista from Pittsburgh, PA. Her interests include dogs, calligraphy, and drag. Her least favorite song is “Margaritaville.”