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
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
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
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.