If You See Something, Say Something
The sniper has shot all the girls on the block but Marie and me.
Marie says he only shoots little girls. She’s too old for that sort of thing. She’s looking for a spy kit she leant me two years ago.
I’ve flopped onto the bed. I’m looking at the ceiling. I ask Marie to lie down beside me. I’ve been doleful lately.
My windows face west, where the sniper lives. At four I drape sheets over the curtain rods, so he won’t see me. When I sleep I tug my sheets until they fall back to the mattress.
Most nights I drink milk on my roof and look for him.
Marie says he never shoots girls on rainy or muggy afternoons.
Marie has found a water gun instead. I get up. Don’t come any closer, she says. She points the gun at me. You’d better start talking.
I’ve lost all enthusiasm for our conversations. I no longer interject.
Marie thought maybe if I saw something, I’d have more to say. She took me to an installation at the Parkside Armory. She thinks I ought to be a little more artful about it all. She, for example, is a good dancer. The truth is I imagine my destruction will be personal and singular. I think she’s being rather insensitive. She thinks I’m a child and I ought to grow up a little before I die.
I go to the kitchen. I walk to the freezer, empty the ice tray onto the floor. I watch cubes skitter beneath the cabinets. I lack intentionality, Marie would say. I’d been aiming for the glass. I leave it empty and take my first bottle of gin to the roof with me.
Last Thursday another girl got shot around the time I walk to school. I didn’t go that day. Marie called from a payphone in the cafeteria, and asked if I’d been shot. I said I had not. She decided, since it would not be long before I got shot, we ought to talk more often.
That afternoon I bought my first bottle of gin. The man behind the glass asked how old I was. He looked me over. Enough?
Yes, I said, enough.
It was a perfect day with the autumn coolness in dying leaves and the sun hitting my face when I came out from under the shade. Everyone on the block sat on stoops behind the yellow tape, and looked at me like I’d walked into their kitchen. I was dead meat, Marie assured me. It was my kitchen they were sitting in. The next day they put up signs that said if you see something, say something.
Marie took me to see an installation at the Parkside Armory. From outside the installation looked like pastel silks thrown over dinosaur bones. The inside looked like the stomach of something alive. We stood at the apex looking through silk to the dimmed lights and sandbags that dangled from ceiling rafters like tonsils. I do not understand art. Marie says art is easy. You say it is like life, therefore life is x. I could not even say it was beautiful, but grabbed Marie by the collar. I said I don’t want to leave it. She tugged me along a tunnel that spat us back under vaulted ceilings, into armory halls, between staffroom walls where portraits of civil war generals and moose heads hung, onto cool streets where the sun like a bullet wound bled through the leaves and everything became everything all over again. Marie loosened my fingers from her throat. Stop shouting, she said, and say more. END.
Jessica Alexander is a candidate for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Utah. The two pieces in this issue of Blip Magazine are her first published work.