Cailey was born in Buffalo and now lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @misscaileyanne.
1 story by Cailey Rizzo
I only find god in familiar places
July 7, 2017
About once or twice a year, I go back to the place where my past self lives neatly alongside my parents’ vision.
Every time I go back, I’m amazed by the saturation of it all. The colors are brighter here and the ice cream tastes richer. The sky is almost always clear and when it’s not, it’s only a matter of time. You can breathe in without coughing on gray air.
It’s a place where once a year, without fail, I sit in a gown and tell doctors that no, of course I don’t smoke and only occasionally do I indulge in a glass of alcohol. They quantify my body, measure me and give me numbers, put my health in terms of relativity — after all, someone else sat naked on this chair just 30 minutes before.
So it says here no medications, no smoking, and no history of mental illness, right?
No, no, of course not.
Good, good. Of course not.
Today, while driving me home from the gynecologist, my mother asked verbatim the words they had asked me in the office: Are you sexually active?
I’ve never been very good at making up stories. The first time I came back to my parent’s house still drunk from a party, I tried to cover the toilet with my hair because I thought it would muffle the sound of my vomit. I powered through the hangover and left a trail of stomach juice everywhere we went that day. I kept telling my mother that I was fine fine fine while running to the bathroom and keeping sunglasses on inside. She just laughed and asked what I had been drinking. I don’t really tell false stories any more.
Yeah, mom. I use condoms.
Her knuckles tightened — almost imperceptibly — against the steering wheel.
What about birth control?
I tried it once and didn’t like it.
What didn’t you like about it?
I wanted to kill myself. The hormones, I guess.
What if you tried again? You were stressed then.
July 12, 2017
My thighs are getting bigger here.
July 13, 2017
We’re having a family party at the house. I didn’t even really want one, but my father decided to invest every ounce of energy he had this week into planning an impromptu gathering, honoring my birthday and my mother’s retirement.
We clean and decorate and call the caterer. We make fruit trays and fill the coolers with alcohol and lemonade. We greet the cousins and fawn over the babies and ask life questions while dodging those proposed to us.
I watch the women in my family at the sink while the men sit and snore.
I watch them wash and know, intuitively, how many leftovers to put in the plastic containers they brought from home.
I watch the women talk and know, instinctively, when to stop sipping the wine.
I watch my own face flush in the mirror and my makeup smudge and burn.
I steady myself against the sink and vow to never grow up.
July 20, 2017
I only find god in familiar places.
July 22, 2017
I agreed to meet up with an old friend — my oldest friend, in fact — and tour the small townie bars around the village.
There’s nothing but old memories and shared blood (the concept of “blood brothers” was fascinating to us around age eight) between us now. She hugged me and she asked me how I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going next.
Good, good, everything’s good. I can’t complain. How are you?
She said that she was good and happy that it’s the summer and she’s using the time to buy new furniture, finally organize her life, move things forward.
I told her that I’m happy for her and that I admired how she cared about her future. (It sounds like a sarcastic asshole comment, but I was actually sincere.)
She asked what I mean
and I told her nothing.
We ordered a pitcher of the second-cheapest beer. We stagger down the streets where I used to skip away from church.
The bar hop was a carousel of things I haven’t thought about since I left, one of which was Alexandra. She came running up to me at the second bar and screamed.
She asked how I was, where I had been and where I was going
and I told her that I was fine, can’t complain. How are you?
From elementary school to high school, Alexandra and I had had a number of the same classes and we became vague friends — although, like most things, it petered out at the end.
The carousel kept turning and more forgotten faces kept getting on.
Good, good, good. I can’t complain. How are you?
The ride continued until it didn’t and everybody began to wander home. I picked up the phone to call a cab.
Don’t be silly, Alexandra told me. I’ll drive you home. It’s basically right on the way.
Are you sure?
Yeah, totally. I only had, like, one beer tonight, she told me.
So we got in the car and turned on the radio, rolled down the windows.
“Watch this!” she cried as she accelerated through the red light on Main Street. I responded with something like “WAHOO!” as we sped down the empty streets. (It was about 2:30 a.m. and no one in the suburbs stays out past one.) We laughed and for a minute, I could imagine living here as an adult: plowing through intersections and knowing that the person next to you knows what it was like to grow up here.
“Watch this!” she cried again as she pulled her car over to the side of the road. She put the car’s lights on flash, opened the door and tied her hair back with one fell motion. “What are you doing!?” I yelled out after her.
She stood on the side of the road and vomited into the bushes across the street from our old high school.
When we were about eight years old, Alexandra’s family installed an inground pool in their backyard. They hosted a pool party for the girls in the grade to inaugurate the start of summer. It was a highlight of the elementary school season.
They had a wood deck, newly made to match the pool. I don’t think it was quite finished, though. I ran across the deck then suddenly stopped with a screech and a bright pain. There was a splinter in my foot and I could feel that it was abnormally large.
I tried not to cry because there were other girls from school there and I was going to be in the fourth grade and I couldn’t let them know that I could be broken. But it puffed up and I started hiccuping and Alexandra’s mom took me inside.
I sat on the beige tile of their bathroom floor, tracing the triangles of caulk with my finger. Alexandra’s mom produced a pair of manicure scissors from the medicine cabinet and told me that it would probably be easiest if I didn’t look.
I turned my head to stare at different tiles while she snipped off some of my skin. Then she took tweezers and pulled a long, jagged piece of wood out of my foot. Some rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad, a neon-colored band-aid and I was back at the party.
That was the first time I learned that you could cut skin on your own.
The scene flashed in my mind as I watched my old friend heave over the bushes.
I rubbed Alexandra on the back and asked if I could help.
She said she was fine and then she vomited again.
I’m just gonna walk home from here, I announced.
The path back to my house winds behind the high school, through the backwoods and opens up in my neighborhood.
I had taken it many times before, but never in the dark. For one reason alone: I can’t see in the dark. Never could.
Planetariums used to scare me. Where other people saw stars, I squinted into an abyss. Sometimes on school field trips, I could make vibrant orchid ovals crawl in from the pitch black and I thought that’s what everybody else could see the whole time. But it turned out that they weren’t amazed by the dizzying geometric show; they loved watching magic lines appear and connect seemingly random spots into a familiar form.
The rods in my eyes don’t work, apparently. It’s been tested by numerous doctors. When the sun sets and there’s no other light around, everything turns into shadows. In the city where I live now, it’s never dark. Light pollution guides me where I need to go. But in the woods behind my parents’ house, I run into trees and tear my skin on bramble.
In the place where I used to live, the closest city was still 15 miles away. There wasn’t much by way of visual cues in the dark, just the street lamps, the lights from the football field and the radio towers.
I navigated the way onto a trail using my familiar old lights.
This place never changes and I suppose — even with my new hair, new clothes, new voice — I don’t either. I still hear the Ice Cream Man drive by in his truck and I’m still not allowed to run outside, clutching a crumpled dollar. My parents’ lawn is still greener than anybody else’s in August and I’m still always embarrassed of its brittle leaves in July.
And here in the suburbs, there are still red lights that blink from the radio towers in the back field, pretending to be constellations for a girl who could never see the stars.
July 23, 2017
Alexandra texted me this morning to tell me she threw up in the bushes in front of her parent’s house. And then again when she woke up.
How are you holding up?