All the houses sit where they landed.  Dropped from the sky in pretty perfect rows of pretty perfect houses.  Each and every one of them the same but with different colors.  This one blue.  That one white.

I run past them so fast my sneakers never touch the ground . . never touch the puddles that fill in the spaces on the sidewalk as the rain comes down faster than I can run.  Washing away the color of everything.  Falling like those houses fell so long ago that no one remembers that they don't belong here . . that they weren't always here just the way they are now. 

I don't belong here either . . with the houses all made in the same shapes . . each and every one of them filled with stories and sad eyes like mine.  Each of them with towering maple trees to soak up the rain and even the sun so that the people inside forget there is a world outside that doesn't belong to them. 

Three bedrooms each.  A living room.  A dining room that like ours is used mostly for holding piles of laundry that will never be folded or pressed or put away in drawers.

I don't think I belong with these pretty perfect houses on their curving streets named after famous dead people because I am not pretty or perfect.  I am only me.  Lacie Joanna Johnson.  I'm not anyone else and never will be.  Everyone pretends they are someone else.  Everyone tells me I can be anything I want to be but I know that's not true.  I can never not be me.

That's how I know I don't belong here . . that I belong up there . . up where it is that all those houses fell from . . up where the stars are drawn in like pencil marks on the sky. 

I wouldn't have to run to get there.  It would be easier than running.  It would be as easy as closing my eyes and never opening them again. It's as easy as a wish . . If I die before I wake I hope I don't come back the same . . wishing every night but I know wishes don't come true.  I know that because I'm not as little and dumb as my brother who still wishes on candles and pennies he throws into fountains at the mall.  I know those pennies only rust in there. 

I run under the power lines above my head and wonder when the rain will seep through the rubber and onto the wires . . sending electricity sparks through the streetlamps like fireworks as I run under them with my socks wet through my sneakers.  All the faces pressed up in their windows to watch me running.  Rain rolling down their reflections and rain running down my face and maybe then I would smile for them and they wouldn't smile back because they might be scared to see me running in the electric rain.

Only that never happens.

Nothing ever happens on our pretty perfect streets that isn't planned.  That isn't careful and safe like seat belts and bicycle helmets.  Or if it does you never hear about it.  You keep it secret.  Keep it tucked away in one of those houses.  Keep it tucked away inside you . . in your stomach until it hurts so much that you have to get it out and the only way to do that is to run through the rain so fast that your sneakers never seem to touch the ground.  Run until your hair is soaking wet . . so wet that my tight curls have gone straight and my t-shirt sticks to my shoulders.  Run until you forget enough about what hurts inside so that you don't scream and scream and scream and lose your mind . . until you can go back into your house and smile and pretend nothing ever happened.

That is being good.  That is not giving my mother a hard time. So I run with the thunder in my hair . . with the water in my pockets and on my face to hide any tears.

My mother is only trying her best.  My mother is only trying and I don't blame her for that.  -Trying to keep the house- she says.  -Trying to keep the lights on.-  But sometimes it is better in the dark.  I don't think she knows that.  Sometimes it is easier when you can't see your hands or your arms.  Sometimes it's easier when you don't try.  Because it's too hard to talk when you are trying . . too hard to say what you feel inside.

So I never say anything that doesn't sound like the right thing to say.  I never say things about my father the way she doesn't want me to say them.  Nothing about the way the light made me dizzy on the bathroom tile when I found him like that.  Nothing about the stains that aren't there but that I see every time I'm in the shower.  Nothing that might hurt to say out loud.

Keeping my eyes closed is easier than talking.  Keeping my fingers in my mouth to shut the words in anytime I think about them because that is what I am supposed to do.  That's easier.  Pretending is easier.  Pretending is what everyone wants from you.

That is what it means to live in a pretty perfect house even if it is only pretty on the outside. 

But I don't belong with them and I don't know if I can be silent forever.  The bottom of my feet hurt and I cannot run the whole way up to the stars.

But maybe just one more day.

One day and the next and maybe I can make it work the way everyone wants it to work.  If I just let the rain make it easier.  If I just wear the right shoes to run in.  Maybe then I can keep it all inside like a secret.  Maybe then they will believe me when I pretend I'm not Lacie Joanna Johnson . . when I pretend to be somebody perfect and happy instead.