Alexander Helmke

You use your dead aunt for food stamps. It’s Mom’s idea and it’s not like she didn’t like Aunt Bev when she was alive or anything. She did.

“She’s dead though,” Mom says. “Just a number now—both a social security one and a statistic—like we’ll all be someday. I make too much money. Dead people don’t make too much money, you know?”

Christ, this is probably the deepest thing she’s ever said to you, a 6th grader just trying to finish a bowl of generic Cap’n Crunch. It covers your face as you drink and you almost spill everywhere, yikes. Mom lights a cig on the coil burner because she believes when your eyes are covered her choices don’t matter.

“We’re out of milk now, thanks to you and your need to eat,” Mom says, coughing again, looking in the fridge.

“The EBT card!” you say. “I’ll go to the store!”

“Be safe?” Mom says.

The card glimmers under a few Seasonal Affective Disorder bulbs with the ethical dilemma of a teenage sitcom.

“You’re a good daughter/son,” Mom says, which is strange since she should know your gender by now.

You step outside and see your friends Nikita and Shawn. You know they are your friends since only friends wave back. Some people wave if they have seizures, but nope, all clear! Hi, friends!

Nikita is a second generation Russian-American and she’s the best. She’s also angry about her current flavor of lip gloss (Dr. Pepper) and the commodification of the prison industrial system. She has a case of Siberian Wanderlust, which, really, should be an emphasis on the second word—lust—which, given deep thought, does not adhere to a strict DSM diagnosis, yet. Shawn wears a hat with a sticker still on the brim (size 7 1/2), Lee Pipes, maybe an AND1 shirt but who cares? He’s a boy (gross!) so there’s pretty much nothing more about him that means anything.
They broke up again (ugh, I know, right?) and are still fighting so you can only go with one of them to the convenience store.

“We should hang out,” Shawn says.

“We should hang out,” Nikita says.

Shawn looks cooler today. You choose him.

“Fine, go with the b-word Shawn,” Nikita says and leaves. You’ve never seen her so mad at a decision, but then again, she’s the one that ended it with Shawn, oops. Relationships matter so much right now at this point in life.

You grab the milk and go back to his house.

“No sleepovers! Nuh-uh! That’s outlawed,” you hear Mom say, somewhere close to your heart, a place where you don’t have ears. How does that happen?

You feel the depths of his loneliness while he plays video games. Think about wanting to be in the video games, though, like really in them, but better looking and with more pixels, hotter, you know? Maybe one day you’ll finally be the center of someone else’s story.

All you know is that you should be anywhere else, setting up a tarp with Crisco and pinecones up and down someone’s asphalt driveway. You don’t know parts of your body have fancy names yet but you’d say to the newly reunited group, “I haven’t broken my tibia, yet,” a statement true for many human beings.

You are not unique.

 
 
 


Alexander Helmke is a founding editor of Revolver, a Twin Cities arts and cultural magazine. His ebook Bonfires was published by Thought Catalog in February 2013. His work has appeared in Thought Catalog, Human Parts and Spontaneous Combustion Vol. 1.