Before overtaking an object in motion, one must arrive at
the object's starting point. During the time it takes to reach
its starting point, the object will have advanced a certain,
shorter distance. The pursuer must then advance to that
new point, from which the object has undoubtedly already
One day I woke up and my mom was hovering over me.
"You got a new email," she said. I asked her what she thought she was doing looking at my email.
"Oh, I wasn't. I set up a new account for you." It was an email from my dad, who I had never given serious thought to.
"Let's meet," the email said, and then went on to use various internet acronyms and explain them inside of parentheses. We were to meet on December10 at his brother's house. Coincidentally, his brother lived less than a mile away from us. December 10 was ten months away.
I snuck out of my house a lot at night during those ten months. Sometimes I'd lay on the golf course by myself, but mostly I'd meet up with friends and we'd toilet paper someone's house or ride our bikes to boys houses or sneak into homes that were being remodeled and steal boxes of new tile. One time we stole boxes of tile and laid it out on the driveway and sat on it for a little while and then left because we thought we might get caught. I can't remember going to school during this time.
I slept in a tent on a porch one time with two friends named Megan. The two Megans were going shopping the next day and I couldn't decide if I wanted to go or not. I sort of didn't want to go, but didn't know why. I woke up at 3 a.m. and my arm was burned and I didn't know why that either. Megan's mom was convinced it somehow had to do with aliens. I didn't know why she thought that. My mom thought it might have been caused by battery fluid that leaked from a flashlight onto my arm. I didn't remember using a flashlight. The whole night was a mystery to me.
Other weird stuff happened around this time.
I was in my bedroom at night with two of my closest cousins and we were sitting still listening to this sound we were hearing. A very rhythmic sound right outside my window.
"Like knives," Jaime said.
"Like a knife and a sharpener thing," Becca said.
I didn't say anything but I was excited that something was happening. Then Jaime started screaming uncontrollably and left the room and me and Becca left my room and Jaime said she saw a face in my window and none of us would go back into my room that night.
A few days later the three of us were having a camp-out in my backyard and we had set up this tent and everything but we were sort of running around the yard like idiots, and being loud. It was sort of late. A neighbor flashed flashlights at us and we thought he was mad so we quieted down. A few minutes later we heard cars pulling up to the front of my house. We immediately thought, "Oh, shit," because I lived in a gated community and we thought someone had told Security that we were being loud. Security had ruined my birthday party the year before and made all the boys go home, which was odd to me. So we started to head back to the tent to pretend we're asleep but we heard the security guards coming through the side yard towards us. We all ran into the house and watched through the windows as these people rummaged through our tent and pulled our blankets out and everything. Then my mom got up and looked out the front window and noticed that the trucks in front of our house belonged to a painting company and not Community Security.
After that everyone was sort of edgy.
One night when just Becca was over, we heard some rustling outside of my window and went to tell my mom. But apparently she had already heard because she was in the dining room with a bat and told us she was going outside. Becca and I watched from the door but we couldn't really see anything because it was so dark. My mom started yelling and hitting the side of the house and the ground with her bat and Becca screamed and ran around the living room for some unknown reason.
My mom came inside and said she saw some glowing red eyes. There was some uncertainty about why the thing with glowing red eyes hadn't attacked her.
"It must have been on a leash," Mom said.
Other stuff, too. Like one day we came home from the grocery store and our door was wide open and my mom was convinced our phone was bugged. Stuff like that.
Maybe it was summer; maybe that's why I wasn't in school.
When summer ended my mom got a long-term substituting job at the high school. She was teaching freshman science and I was in her sixth period class. She taught us how to dig holes big enough for tomato plants and how to take Polaroid pictures of each other. There was probably some reading, too. I don't know. Her class felt like summer.
I befriended a girl named Cerena, who wore similar pants as me.
"No other girls around here wear parachute pants," she said. She meant it in a good way. We talked on the phone after school. After I had driven home with my mom and told her which boys I had crushes on.
Cerena visited another country and said she was buying me things, so I drew her portrait. She came back and gave me a cheap handheld fan and I gave her the portrait. She said she liked it but it made her realize how fucked-up-looking her mouth was.
On December 10 my dad emailed me to say the he had to reschedule our meeting. I was relieved. We were to meet on May 4 instead. He sent me a link to a music video. I can't remember if I watched it or not. My mom and I drove to my uncle's house anyway.
"I made guacamole," he said, "And these are some pictures of my kids."
"Those are your cousins," my mom said. My uncle's house was big and empty. He had a dog. He had an ugly couch that looked new. The TV was small and really far from the couch.
"I put mayonnaise in the guacamole," he said.
On New Years Eve, Cerena and I went to a party at a friend's house where there would be bands playing. I kissed two boys that night: Sam, who tasted like sour cream and onion chips dipped in ranch dip; and Nathan, who would be my boyfriend the next week.
I would go over to Nathan's house every weekend and he seemed to do everything he could to avoid hanging out with me. He'd take a shower as soon as I got there, then invite his friends over and beg them to drive him places. He'd be gone for hours while I watched televised sports games with his boring friends.
On Valentine's Day Nathan's best friend called me and invited me to the wedding of a friend of his. Nathan was at the wedding. We had sex that night and he dumped me afterwards, saying that he needed to focus on finding a job. I held him all night while we slept. Cerena told me she would kill him, or her boyfriend would kill him, or her brother would kill him, and I believed her so I said it wasn't a big deal.
A few weeks later he brought a wrench to the high school and used it to threaten a boy I vaguely knew. I thought it was a pretty funny thing to do. He went to jail.
I drank a lot more after that. Cerena and I took an after school ceramics class and we would drink whiskey beforehand and smush clay around and then drunk-drive home. I had a desire to be reckless but Cerena had too many problems. One day she showed me a cut on her hip, telling me she couldn't cut her wrists because then people would see it and be worried. I asked her why she felt like cutting herself.
"I'm pregnant," she said. "Well, I'm not really pregnant, but that's what I'm going to tell my boyfriend."
On May 4 we showed up at my uncle's house again, even though we knew my dad wouldn't be there. I forget how we knew. My uncle had made guacamole again and my mom talked about how she would decorate his house if it were hers. She said she would put an island in the kitchen but I thought it would have to be a very skinny island to fit in that very skinny kitchen. I didn't eat the guacamole because I was afraid it had mayonnaise in it, although I wasn't sure if the mayonnaise thing was a joke.
"He's coming for your birthday," my uncle said. My birthday was on July 16. I got bored so I walked home and instant-messaged my friends.
"What does your screen name mean?" I typed to one of them.
"It's an abbreviation of a slang exclamation," he typed back.
Sometimes this particular friend would add the word beautiful to the end of ordinary sentences. I wanted to believe he was calling me beautiful, but it was always a little ambiguous.
"I'm watching TV, beautiful."
At 11 p.m. I called my mom's cell phone and asked when she was coming home.
"We're still eating dinner," she said.
"No, we made some, um, dinner," she said. It sounded like a joke but I wasn't sure. I instant-messaged my friend about what had happened on the phone.
"Your mom is hooking up with your uncle," he typed.
"I'm very hungry," I typed back.
"Uncledad," he typed.
On the morning of my birthday, my dad emailed and invited me to his house in Los Angeles for the weekend of August 9. He offered to buy my plane ticket. I accepted his invitation and then swiveled my chair over to the far wall and yelled to my Algebra teacher, who lived alone in the studio apartment next door.
"You're a mean one, Mr. Roach," I yelled in song, and waited to see if I would hear him do something, then yelled, "I wouldn't touch you with a ten-and-a-half-foot pole!"
Two days later in summer school Algebra, Mr. Roach told his class that he had spent the weekend barbequing steaks on the back porch with his wife and three dogs.
Dogs? Wife? Porch? I thought.
"Do you think we can make it next weekend?" my dad said, through the phone that my mom was handing to me.
"Hi," I said.
"That way your cousins can come. Art's kids. Your uncle Art. That way him and your mom can spend time together. I have no problem with that whatsoever, and you shouldn't either. It's funny, sort of. It's really funny, actually."
Saturday he said, "I meant Wednesday."
My family went to the community pool and a popular boy from my high school befriended my six-year-old brother.
"Your brother's hella cool," the boy said, and I felt slightly more socially adequate.
On Wednesday, my dad bought us train tickets for Friday. I packed my Walkman in case I got bored on the train.
The train conductor said the train ride would take twelve hours.
Dad called, "Take cab to Chinatown."
"Be there in twenty minutes," I said.
Chelsea Martin is the author of Everything Was Fine Until Whatever (Future Tense Books, 2009) and The Really Funny Thing About Apathy (forthcoming from sunnyoutside, 2010). Her website is jerkethics.com