Susan knew she had other options, knew she was pretty, whatever that meant. She also knew she was tired of being a second choice. This was something she learned the hard way first from the quarterback in high school who wrote her love poems but slept with her friend all because she wanted to be in real love before she gave her virginity away. Later she would gain a reputation as a tease all because she was still waiting for someone to make her feel like her life was worth more than most of her girlfriend’s small-town aspirations. Of the four girls she would call her real friends two of them were pregnant by junior year. At home she was warned against ruining her life but never given a road map on how not to.
Her parents knew she was smart the school told them that ever year after standardized tests. Still she was never encouraged to do anything with it. Her father didn’t see what use a girl could have with brains. No real jobs in this town for a woman anyway. Her mother just advised her to pick a boy you know you can control.
Susan was often angry and frustrated. That was until she met Terry. He was new to school in his senior year and seemed different than the other boys. He had dark hair and a thin razor figure. He read books that did not come from the library and drove a blue GTO that he had restored on his own. He did not play sports or come from money but still he was always in the center of whatever was happening in their school. He could have had any girl he wanted, and he had wanted Susan. Their first months were frantic and exciting feeling like an electric circuit. He gave her books to read and they drove to the city, over two hours away just to have something to do. He had a way of making her feel like everything they did was her idea, so when she slept with him she thought it was love, or the closest she had ever been to it. The first half of senior year was the kind of thing that gets a double page in the year book.
The first time he yelled at her she was angry that he would not come pick her up at the local mall. The weather was turning, and he wanted to get his car put up for the winter. Susan had never heard of this before. Most people just drove their car all year long and didn’t worry about it. Terry said he never drove after October. She wasn’t as mad as she was confused but after Terry screamed at her over it she was frightened by his anger. He spent the next few days apologizing and swearing it would never happen again. Susan convinced herself she just didn’t understand about the car, and it was not like he hit her or anything. Some of her friends had been through that already.
The winter seemed to make Terry restless. They still saw each other but there was no car to get away from school and the small town they lived in. Bowling and screwing around in her parent’s basement wasn’t the life Terry was used to. By January there were signs he was getting bored. A girlfriend said he was texting another girl in their class, she was younger and had a reputation as a partier and for sleeping with anyone who could get her beer. She asked him about it and he just laughed it off saying it was her trying to get in touch with him.
That May he got his car back on the road and this seemed to bring him back to life, so Susan was optimistic about summer. He broke up with her shortly after that. He did it by putting a note in her locker. When she confronted him at lunch he screamed at her in front of the whole class, “look! Let me break in down for you, it’s Terry, Terr’s car, then maybe you!! The room fell silent like when somebody laughs in church. Everyone was looking at her and Susan felt her face get hot. She decided to walk away slow, deliberate. She knew everyone was talking as she left, and she just kept on going right out the door. The school called her family and told them she ditched school. She was grounded but it hardly mattered.
That night she went out to the creek where she knew Terry would be partying with his friends. She waited until well after midnight before she took a baseball bat to his headlights, his windshield and side windows. It felt good but not as good as pouring the bottle of grain alcohol she was drinking all over the upholstery and dropping a lit cigarette inside. She saw it was still burning as she reached the highway. As she started walking Susan realized she wasn’t mad at Terry, or the girl, or her parents. It was really only her, no one gives you a map through life or out of a small town. No one promises you happiness or opportunity, no one promises you anything.
Susan realized she was tired of waiting for someone or something to come along and change her life. She decided it was time to do that all by herself. She threw the bat up on her shoulder and stuck out her thumb, and when a guy stopped to pick her up he asked her what was up with the baseball bat. She smiled at him, a little drunk and said there is a story to this bat, how far are you going?
Bio: Matthew Borczon is a poet and writer from Erie, Pa. He has published ten books of poetry the most recent being Ghost Highway Blues through Alien Buddha press. He has been nominated for a pushcart and a best of the Net. He works as both a US Navy sailor and as a nurse for adults with developmental disabilities. He has a wife and four kids and not enough time to write.