ON A SUMMER night, in a townhouse flooded with sweaty teens, a brown boy pointed to a ceiling fan spinning counterclockwise. Becka, dressed in the same ripped jeans and tank top she’d worn below her graduation gown, stood on the couch and flicked a switch below the spinning blades. The fan spun clockwise. The house cooled. People cheered.
The brown boy handed Becka a flask. Flowing curls framed his face, soft, feminine features. As she swilled liquid flames, her mother’s face materialized in her mind. When Becka tried to return the flask to the brown boy, he held up his hands. “Graduation present,” he said.
“You a freshman?”
“I graduated last year. Man, you should have seen. Thought everybody saw that.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and held it out like a diploma. “Okay, so I’m going across the stage, wavin’ and smilin’ and everything, and then, just before I get to the steps, I trip. But it’s cool cause I don’t fall or nothing. I play it off like—” The brown boy spun. His hair lifted, spinning clockwise like the fan blades.
Someone turned up the music. The walls throbbed as Becka and the brown boy weaved through a living room packed with drunken dancers and stepped onto a crowded deck. Half a minute of shoving and shouting over the ruckus caused by twelve years of rules, and they crossed an unkempt yard, trudging through damp, knee-high weeds, to smoke by the back fence. Becka leaned against it and nursed the flask between drags as the brown boy kissed her neck.
She wouldn’t go to college, not unless every night ended like this one, with a dude and a drink. Her mother’s motto. Tomorrow morning Becka would wake in her mother’s old bedroom with a headache, a vague sense of freedom, an empty flask, and a hard need to fill it.
Bernard Grant is the author of the chapbook Puzzle Pieces (Paper Nautilus Press, 2016), a collection of micro lyric essays. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Chicago Tribune Printers Row, Crab Orchard Review, Stirring, and Sequestrum among others. He was awarded a 2015 Jack Straw Fellowship and serves as Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown.