You remember when you were 8, and the world was filled to the brim with beautiful women with dazzling smiles that made men of all ages feel weak at their knees. You’d watch those beauty pageants on the television and glance at the models on the cover of the magazines your sister Sally bought every Sunday after church; these women were beautiful. And you’d look up at your Ma, her face framed by delicate blonde curls, and you knew she was beautiful too. You’d pray every day and night to God and you’d say: “Please, oh, please, Father – let me be as beautiful as my Ma and all the other women when I grow up.”
You remember when you were 11, and your Ma ran out of the house and never came back. She had another row with your father in the kitchen, screaming and sobbing so loud that you’re certain even Deaf Jimmy that lived on the corner could hear her. You went downstairs to comfort her, but your Ma shoved you out of the way as she ran out the front door and headed towards her car. Her blonde locks were a mess, and her makeup streamed down her face. Your Ma never heard you say goodbye; it was drowned out by your father’s shout of, “Good riddance, you fuckin’ slut!” You asked Sally what slut meant, but she just slammed the door in your face.
You remember when you were 13, and you were told that you were ugly for the first time. Middle school had been hell for you, especially as you were known as “that town-slut-Jolene’s daughter”. People pulled on your hair, called you rude names you didn't understand, and the worst of all – they called you ugly. The first person was a girl called Emmeline, who wore a push-up bra and had been fingered over the summer by a sophomore from the high school. You’d corrected her in English (as she had used the wrong contraction) and she stared you down with those emerald hawk eyes and spat, “At least I’m not an ugly rat like you!” The class howled with laughter, chanting, “ugly rat, ugly rat” over and over until you finally ran from the class. You vowed to burn your copy of the Bible, and you refused to attend anymore church sermons. All you had asked from God was to be beautiful, and he couldn't even grant that one goddamn request. Damn God, indeed.
You remember when you were 16, and you had your first kiss. High school was easier than middle school, surprisingly. After Sally, Queen Bee Supreme, had paved an easy journey for you, your bullies’ taunts became less and less frequent before they ultimately stopped. His name was Ronnie Symonds and he was on the football team, with bright eyes and sun-kissed skin. You were tutoring him in the library to help keep his GPA up when he leant over and kissed you. It was sweet, almost romantic – and those three little words lingered on your lips, ready to be spoken as if this was one of those daytime soap operas where romances were so spontaneous. But then Ronnie sped out of the library, cutting short your tutoring lesson, and you were to find out later it was so he could high-five his football buddies. Apparently Ronnie was sent to find out if you had good cock-sucking lips, just like your Ma – and you passed the test with flying colors.
You remember when you were 18, and you lost your virginity to some hotel patron at the prom after party. You’d been dateless that night, and had returned to the hotel all the same. But you managed to catch the eye of an older, more charming male than those raucous boys at the prom. He introduced himself as Heath. You learnt no more about Heath, yet you still accepted the invite to his hotel room. Heath charmed you, littering your neck with pecks as he whispered, “You’re beautiful,” and it felt as if God had finally listened to all those prayers a decade ago. Eventually you began to drink a concoction of vodkas and tequilas, which Heath said was “some of the West Coast’s finest” – and you listened to him. Those concoctions were the reason you ended up stark naked on all fours as he thrusted sloppily inside of you. No condom, no lube. You fell asleep after the third round of sex, and woke up back in your own suite. Heath left you no number or a form of contacting him; all he left you was a few crumpled twenty dollar bills.
You remember when you were 19, and you had an abortion. You’d commenced your first year at college, majoring in English Literature, when the plus sign showed up on the fifth pregnancy test. You confided in Sally, who was contently married to her high school sweetheart. She asked you who it belonged to, and you said Heath; she then asked you who Heath was, and you said, “I have no idea.” She accompanied you to the clinic and embraced you in her sedan afterwards as you bawled into her chest.
You remember when you were 21, and the love of your life waltzed in as if it had been scripted. You met him at the student’s café, you sipping on a chai latte while he nibbled on a pumpkin muffin. “You remind me of someone,” Connor had stated between bites, and continued only after a gaze of confusion washed over your features. “You remind me of the most beautiful women on Earth.” After your first meeting, Connor proceeded to ask you on numerous dates. To restaurants, to events hosted by his prestigious mother, even to the wedding of his half-brother. And Connor would take you back to his apartment every night, and hold you and smother you with passionate kisses that’d remain on your mind for hours on end. He asked you to move in with him eventually and you agreed, reveling in the fact that – after all these years – something was finally going right.
You remember when you were 22, and you woke up to Connor strangling you with a coil of rope. You kicked and shoved, and screamed with the last breath you still had in your lungs. He eventually ceased and crawled off you, tears in his eyes and snot running down his face. “Your slut of a mother ruined my family!” he wailed, wiping furiously at the mess on his face. “She slept with my father, and my mum found out. She divorced him and he fucked off, we don’t know where he is and it’s your,” – he pointed a shaking finger at you, as color returned to your face – “damned whore of a mother’s fault!” And that was the last time you spoke to Connor. You subsequently moved back into your own apartment, and you prayed to God that he’d allow you to forget about the one who made you fall in love only to avenge his family for your Ma’s libido.
You remember when you were 24, and you saw your Ma for the first time in over thirteen years. You were walking down a busy street with your nephew when you spotted her. The city’s prostitutes, though shunned, weren't arrested – even if they were making their rounds during the twilight hour. And that’s when you spotted her. Those blonde locks you had admired as a young girl were straggly and unwashed and her features were haggard due to her age, but it was your Ma nonetheless. She was surrounded by others like her, all dressed in little-to-no clothing that made all the women who passed them tut – considering themselves superior than the prostitutes, who were among the bottom rung of society. And you observed your Ma momentarily before she swiftly twisted to face you, but you had already turned away. She had been the catalyst of half the problems in your life and you weren't about to give her the time of day.
You remember when you were 27, and you bought a large amount of varying women’s magazines. You spent near two hundred dollars that day and the newsagent thought you were a maniac, but you were too far gone to acknowledge him. You sprinted back to your apartment and began to rip the magazines to shreds, cursing at the beautiful women that graced the covers. Their lithe bodies, perfectly sculpted breasts and lips painted red – they were the same women that had brought such an unrealistic outlook on life when you were merely a child. They were the ones who made you believe you’d transform into some ethereal goddess, much like your Ma and Sally and Emmeline. They were the ones who had fucked with your head. And you threw the magazines at the wall, along with bowls and glasses and all your personal belongings. You screamed and tugged at your hair, kicking and scrunching up the magazines. “Fuck you, God!” you bellowed, and you could practically hear the religious couple next door flinch. Once you were finished, your apartment was a mess that you weren't going to clean up. You’d already said your goodbyes to Sally and your father, who both thought that you were going on a wonderful round-the-world vacation. A quiet chuckle pushed through your chapped lips as you traipsed into the bathroom, locking the door behind you.
You don’t remember when you were 28, because you were dead long before you could reach that age.
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