Writing from Unreality House, a hyperfiction project created and edited by Jay Gabler.

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The Girl I Wanted in the Summer of 1997

Her name was Sally. We’d hang out most night on top of the reservoir. Yeah, I know, on top of the reservoir. Like we were in a fucking Springsteen song, except it was real and there was no fucking—at least, between us. There were just long stares, stares during which I counted the hairs on her head, and watched her buttons cling stubbornly to their buttonholes, and did geometry with her legs.

She had curly blond hair and long limbs that tapered at the ends, like she’d just eaten a slice of Wonderland cake and it hadn’t quite reached her little hands and feet yet. Her eyes were small, too, and set slightly too closely together. I used to mentally Photoshop her—this was before Photoshop, but it’s what I was doing in my head—pulling her eyes away from her nose and making her hands and feet grow, so she’d be perfect.

But she didn’t need to be perfect—she had me, and she knew it. She was a year older than me, and a couple inches taller; I was like her toyboy. When we made a circle to talk and pass the pipe, I’d try to sit next to her. She didn’t smell good—she smelled kind of musty. I don’t know why. It wasn’t like she was dirty or anything, she was just one of those people who smells a little musty all the time. To me, that was hot. I didn’t want the hairspray-smelling girls in my grade, especially not the one who kept asking her friends to ask me if I liked her. I found that mortifying, and I wished that she hadn’t made such a big deal of it so that we could just hook up and get what we both wanted without it making the goddamn school paper.

There was no chance of Sally hooking up with me, but she knew how to lead me on. She’d give me long boner-inducing hugs, and play with my hair, and call my house if they got together and for whatever reason I wasn’t there. I was like her safety: someone acceptable for her to lean on—sometimes actually physically lean on—while she put actual moves, more subtly, on riskier bets.

In August, one of those bets paid off for her. I remember exactly where I was standing when she told me: I was on the phone looking out our dining room window, watching our fat neighbor wash his car in the bright sunshine. She asked if I’d gone to the reservoir the previous night. I said yes, and asked where she’d been. She’d been with Sean, she said. Oh, I said. Yeah, she said. Then I hung up and started screaming—crying and screaming and punching the couch like a goddamn idiot.

Now she’s engaged. I like to look at her Pinterest and tell myself what a sellout she turned into. What a fucking sellout.

- Tanner Fitzgerald

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