“SKYLIGHT TRACKS TEENS” by JEFF HOILAND

I let smoke rise from my mouth, it’s kind of like holding my breath. I like watching the smoke rise in front of my face. I pass the hose. Steve makes a face as he inhales through a hose for what seems like a long time. He throws his head back and lets smoke rise from his mouth. I think Steve looks stupid. Do I look stupid? Someone enters the room and says, “Jason smokes hookah?” I’m listening to the smoke cooling, bubbling in the hookah as someone inhales. “I’m seventeen” is a thought I have. The thought becoming distant, I’m smiling a little.

She is gorgeous, like something at the beach. I’m trying to decide if she’s staring at me without looking at her. She smells like Hawaii is what it is. If I move I might touch her. A pretty face, I had hoped she would lose weight—I had discussed this at school during lunch, we all agreed she might be a “good investment.” She had lost weight. Alone in my room I had imagined kissing her, her touching my dick, her being my girlfriend. Sitting next to her, I’m noticing I don’t care—I’m looking around the room, at the TV. Around me the walls appear yellow, but I know the paint is white. She says something I don’t hear and I smile. Someone had told me she wanted me to ask her to prom.  She moves her body on the couch but she isn’t any closer. Can I really feel her trying to get closer? I don’t move. I think I know her name, but if I say it out loud I could discover I’m wrong.

Someone is making a lot of noise behind me. Now “Fuck Her Gently” by Tenacious D is playing through speakers. The lyrics, two people are singing along. Now everyone in the room is singing along except me. Is everyone looking at me? She’s still sitting next to me, she’s singing, she’s looking at me. I can’t think of her name. Does she want me to sing? There’s make-up that looks like dust on her eyebrows, I want to blow it away. The song ends and I feel relaxed. I’m confused because I hadn’t been tense. A guitar near my feet, I pick it up. She says “Can you play?” I say, “I don’t know.” My finger pulls a string, it makes a noise. Someone behind me says, “Can you play any songs?” The guitar is on the floor again. I’m standing, I’m moving to another room, following John down a hall.

My mouth is so dry I can’t speak. John says, “Are you ok?” I consider saying ‘no’ and what that might mean to him or me—I want it to mean I can’t speak, but I can’t speak to explain. I nod. He says, “Just chillin?” I nod and think about if I can continue to be “just chillin” or if they expect me to do something else, but I decide these thoughts are pretty “unchill” so I remain seated, looking around the room, “chillin.”

I want to direct their attention to the streetlight outside the window, glowing against the black sky. This action was stopped by the thought “Why?” followed by me paying attention to what others around me were saying/doing.

I’m moving through the party, someone is guiding me outside. People are smiling. I’m holding a new kind of pastel purple Gatorade mixed with 99 Bananas and I’m getting in a car with three other people who I know and feel like I love.

In the car, Shania says, “Why are you so tall?” I think about how I get asked this question a lot. I say, “Why are you so ugly?” Shania is quiet, she looks out the window. I say, “Just kidding… I don’t know why I’m so tall.” She says, “Is your dad tall?” “No.” I listen to the music. William says something to Kate. Shania says, “William’s middle name is Julian! Isn’t that cute!” Kate says, “Really?” and smiles. “William Julian?” She says, “That’s hot,” in a weird voice. “You should go by Julian.” William makes a joke. Shania asks me why I’m so quiet. I draw a penis in the condensation on the window. I say, “I’m bad at drawing penises. What if someone thinks my penis is weird looking because I draw weird looking ones?” Shania tells me I’m gross, Kate says not to draw penises on her car.

The car is moving and I’m looking at the lights. I receive a text from Jacob, “I think we are gonna gang bang Gina, it seems serious.” I try to think of who Gina is. Gina is a girl who I have seen at John’s before, always very very drunk and often showing people her boobs/having people motor boat them. She is a little obese and seemed unattractive. I text, “How drunk are you? How is that going to happen?” Jacob responds, “She is hammered drunk rolling around in Steve’s room. She is calling for it. She was talking about it before she was this drunk so it seems ok. I think we are going to do it. Steve is gonna fuck her for sure. We are talking about it.” I text, “I don’t think…” Jacob doesn’t respond.

We park on a dirt road near the river in Skylight Tracks, a mobile home community. Shania and Kate want to skinny dip in the river, William and I agree it’s too cold. Shania and Kate run to the river and throw off their clothes. Naked bodies running in the moonlight. Their legs hit the water and they scream. They return to shore. Collecting their clothes, their bodies crouched and confused.

I say, “Do you ever feel like something isn’t really happening? I mean that’s not what I mean at all. Like I expected this to happen, and knew it would, and had my ideas about what I would feel or would be thinking—but now it’s happening, and when it is happening… Well it’s just something else.”

William says, “What are you talking about?”

“Do you ever feel sarcastic?” I say, “I mean sarcastic, in regards to your whole life. But it’s not sarcasm.”

“No.”

“Oh. Well. Neither do I, I guess.”

So, it’s all been… It hasn’t been–good. I mean my health has been well.

But I keep giving myself to these situations–these people– who, or…

Kate is excited to see me in the Peruvian restaurant, she sits down and says, “Jason! What are you doing here?”

And I can’t keep doing this, things like this– well, now…

“I don’t know,” I say, “I’m hungry, I’m eating,” I smile.

Her face is smiling, her eyes looking, searching me, seems delighted.

“Well, it’s good to see you.”

“Yeah, you too.”

It’s such a beautiful day out, I think, looking outside. And I’m trying to do something more. She puts her hands on the table, her nails are painted a color I couldn’t name. Music was playing in the restaurant, and I think we’re both listening to it while looking at her hands on the table– but I don’t know. All the songs that have played I’ve already heard– though I’d never chosen them– like downloaded them or put them on a CD to listen to .

“Hey,” she says, “later, you know… Do you like my nails?” her cheeks smile, her eyes do something.

I say, “Yes.”

“Later though, we should do something.”

“Yeah… Ok…”

Where have I heard all of these songs?