All night Monday night I was dreaming about my teeth falling out, and then when I woke up on Tuesday there were eight dead bumblebees on my windowsill. And at first, I was like: oh, that’s an omen. I should stay in bed. But then I was like: whatever, fuck it. So I got ready and went into the kitchen for breakfast, which was a mistake, because Nelda made scrambled eggs but I think they were expired, because seriously immediately after I had diarrhea for like forty-five minutes, and then I had to take another shower because I felt so gross, and then by the time I left for school I hit all this traffic and missed like half my morning classes.
When I got to third period, there was this kid who’s on the basketball team sitting in my seat, which is in the front, because I’m essentially blind but I have a weird thing about touching my eyes so I can’t wear contacts and plus I have never ever been able to find a pair of glasses that fits my face. But I wasn’t gonna say anything or anything so I just, like, went to the back. And it was so weird, because Marla was sitting behind the baller kid and she, like, hits him on the shoulder and goes, “Hey, Giancarlo, you’re in her seat,” and he was all, “Whose seat,” and she was all, “Her seat, dumbass,” and he was like, “Jesus CHRIST,” and he got up and moved and then I had my seat back. And, I mean, it was supernice of Marla, but also superweird? Considering we haven’t been on speaking terms since circa our fifth-grade moving-up ceremony?
So, this one time in elementary school we all went on this class trip to the Everglades and Marla sustained a small alligator bite and her parents sued the school and got superrich and bought her all these tacky Juicy purses and shit, but then they lost the alligator money in the housing crisis a few years later so she got superdrepressed and went through this big anime phase and then this big goth phase and now she just kind of chain smokes and dresses like an urchin and like loiters around the mall a lot? I heard she had her clit pierced, but then at this one party a couple months ago she got drunk and went skinnydipping and my friend Nic said she was standing like right there and she could see everything and it definitely wasn’t. But I don’t really trust Nic, so.
After third period got out I went into the bathroom to do my makeup since I didn’t have time to do it at home between the eggs and the aftermath of the eggs and the drive and everything. And there was this huge line because there’s only one little stall and one big stall in the bathroom in Building C, and— okay, I wasn’t waiting in the line or anything, so I was just like a passive casual observer to all of this, but seriously— Marla walks in and she runs up and cuts the whole line and dashes into the big stall right when it opens up. And this one girl at the front of the line starts banging on the door and yelling in Spanish but obviously it was locked and no one could do anything. So then pretty much all of the girls gave up and left except for the angry one at the front, and after, like, a minute she gave up and left, too.
Marla comes out of the big stall and I’m doing my eyeliner in this one little mirror over the sinks and Marla goes over to this other little mirror and she pulls a dollar bill out of one pocket and a thing of lipstick out of another pocket and uncaps the lipstick and starts drawing on the mirror. And she keeps looking back and forth at the dollar bill and the mirror and the dollar bill and the mirror and I’m trying so hard to see what she’s doing but also not to stare? So she finishes and caps the lipstick and crumples the dollar bill and puts them both back in different pockets and I look very quickly and see that she’s drawn the little pyramid-eye-thing from the back of the dollar bill and there’s very small writing underneath that says we see u. And as she’s about to leave, I go, “Hey, thanks for that thing with Giancarlo,” and she just stares at me and then stares at her drawing and then stares back at me and goes, “I can’t talk to you,” and walks out.
At first I didn’t really think anything about the little pyramid drawing, because, it was just, like, a weird thing. Like, it was just a thing that she did that I witnessed. That afternoon, though? I had to stop by administration to order transcripts to apply to this summer dance intensive at UM? And I saw Marla and like three of her friends sitting in chairs outside the headmaster’s office, which is, like, big shit. And I guess I was kind of shamelessly staring at them because this one girl with green hair—which I didn’t even think was allowed at school considering the, like, monumentally strict dress code—starts making this awful piggy face at me and so I turned away and booked it out of admin, and the whole way to the parking lot I kept noticing all these pyramid drawings everywhere, and some of them had blood dripping out of the little eye part at the top, and I was uncomfortable.
Some days after school my friends and I all go to this little fruit stand in the Grove to get strawberry shakes. Other days we get fucked up on someone’s boat. There’s always someone whose parents are getting a new boat and there’s always someone with acid, so. That afternoon we were all on this one kid’s parents’ boat and I was just like sipping on some vodka because I had to go home and write a poem that was due the next day and I can’t emote when I’m fucked up, and Nic came over to me and she was like, “I heard Marla and all those girls got called into admin today,” and I was like, “I KNOW, I saw them,” and she was like, “Do you know what they got called in for?” and I was like, “No, do you?” and then she took this like big huge pause and her eyes got superwide and she was like, “It’s because they’re Illuminati.” Which—is that even a thing? That you can be? How do you just be Illuminati? Anyway, Nic told me that they had been drawing the graffiti that was all over campus and that apparently they were being like very nihilistic and talking back in class and that they weren’t suspended but they all got verbal warnings. And so I asked her, like, “Do you think they’re done? Now that the school knows it’s them?” And she got really serious and shook her head and she was like, “Oh, no. No way. Shit’s gonna go down.” And I was like, “Okay, Nic.”
The next day at school, though, shit did actually go down, and I have to admit that the sequence of events was like incredibly frightening and nefarious. So, basically: there are TVs in all the classrooms and every morning we watch these truly awful announcements put on by the journalism class, and then for the rest of the day it flashes annoying messages that are always like, “LAST CHANCE 4 PROM TIX” or “LADIES SOCCER 2NITE 6PM!!!!!!! !! !! !” So, like, halfway through last period, I notice out of the corner of my eye that the TV has gone white, and when I look over at it there’s this little spinny golden triangle on the TV and this music starts playing in the backgroundbackground— this, like, very bombastic orchestral music— and a voice comes in over the intercom and it’s really deep, like maybe it’s using that voice-disguiser software thing? And the voice says, “PREPARE TO BE ANNIHILATED,” and then it just kind of stops? And there’s this really loud EEE-EEE-EEE noise, and the voice comes back and it’s going “MUA HA HA HA” and all of the lights go out and everyone, like, jumps in their seats a little bit, and you could hear over the intercom this, like, scuffling? And then you could hear a very normal voice screaming, “WE WILL NEVER BE SILENT, HOSANNA HOSANNA, HIP-HOP ROYALTY FOREVER,” plus some stuff in Spanish, and the whole intercom system sort of shuts off and clicks and a few seconds later the lights come back on and everyone is like, “Ha-ha that was dumb,” but you can tell that most people were actually genuinely scared because it’s likely that they’ve seen V For Vendetta and they know that sometimes anarchy gets out of fucking hand. Our teacher got an email from someone in admin saying we were on lockdown, so we started a class game of Pictionary and played for like a full hour, and then finally the headmaster’s voice came in on the intercom and said something about how it was safe to go home but to please be like vigilant? I don’t even remember the verbiage, I was just so fucking ready to get out of there.
Then, as I’m walking out of the classroom, I’m digging in my bag for my keys, and all of a sudden I hear “Hey bitch” in my ear, and I kind of jump but it’s just Nic, and she goes, “I told you so,” and I’m like, “You told me so about what?” and she’s like, “Look,” and as we’re walking past admin we can totally see Marla and all of her friends standing there getting fully screamed at. I think I heard someone use the phrase terrorist plot. And then Nic yells, “ILLUMINATI’S DEAD, YO,” as loud as she can, and, I mean the door is made of glass so everyone in admin turns around, and Marla makes like direct eye contact with me and she looks absolutely otherworldly with rage, and Nic grabs my wrist and laughs and we run away superfast to the parking lot, and I could see that maintenance hadn’t gotten rid of the little pyramid drawings yet and I wondered if they were saving them? As evidence or maybe like a testament or something?
Then. When I get home. As I’m, like, pulling up to the house. I see that there’s someone in the front yard literally just ripping all my mom’s lantanas up out of the ground. And I was not sure what was happening because the landscapers had just been there like a week ago and it doesn’t even matter because the lantanas are my mom’s, anyway? So— no one should be messing with them? Even the landscapers? And as I get up to the house I see that it’s Marla, and she’s fucking going to town on these flowers, and I get out of the car and I run over to her and I’m like, “Marla, what the fuck are you doing,” and she doesn’t answer because I guess she’s in a trance or something? So then after another couple seconds, again, louder, I’m like, “MARLA, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING,” and she turns around and she’s crying and she’s obviously tripping out or something and she goes, “Remember your fourth grade birthday party?” and I’m like, “Sort of I mean I was like nine but—” and she cuts me off, going, “I think I left ten dollars here in your yard after your party,” which makes absolutely no sense. So I start to get really freaked out. But then she starts like sobbing, and so I just kind of pat her head for a minute and finally she goes, “Can I have ten dollars?” and I didn’t even say anything, I just turned around and went over to my car and got my wallet and handed her ten dollars. And she looks at it really carefully and then she goes, “Thanks,” like she really had to consider it or something, and I was like, “You’re welcome?” and she wipes her snot on her sleeve and looks up at me and her pupils were huge and she goes, “I got expelled. I’m running away to West Palm Beach with my boyfriend. He told me to bring ten dollars for gas.” And just as I’m about to ask her why the fuck she’s at my house or whatever, this huge motorcycle pulls up and there’s this Fall-Out-Boy-looking motherfucker on it and he’s like, “Let’s GO,” and Marla gets up and runs over to him and then she turns around and she like, throws up some gang sign or something at me. And, I mean, you generally wanna be careful where you do that in Miami, but my neighborhood’s pretty beige and there wasn’t anyone else on the street so I threw it right back at her. I have no fucking clue what it was. Then she just smiles this huge smile and she flips me off and jumps on the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle like a fucking movie star and they leave. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. I hope they made it to West Palm in one piece because 95 can be fucking treacherous. Even if you take the turnpike, it’s like— whatever.
Alexandra Tanner was born and raised in Florida. Her writing has appeared in Indiana Review, Tin House’s The Open Bar, and Joyland, among other journals, and has received support from the Center for Fiction and the MacDowell Colony. A graduate of the MFA program at The New School, she lives in Brooklyn and is at work on a novel and a collection of stories.
“Marla” originally appeared in Ninth Letter.