Dillon / To Grow Up

2014 Barrett Winner

4th Place Samad Halimah Amatullah


I’ve never been this close to a boy.

Not to Dillon. Not to anyone.

But now he’s so close I notice the faint smell of toothpaste he must have used hours before. I can see the scar at the corner of his eye where his dad’s ring nicked him in the 5th grade, and I can see the one forming above his lip from the beating he was given yesterday.

“This is going to hurt.” He tells me calmly. Of course he can be calm; he’s not the one on the receiving end of impending pain.

I take a deep breath. “Just do it already.”

He looks up at me grinning.

I tell him to hurry up.

I grip the edge of the bed and brace myself for the pain I know is coming. There’s the unmistakable feel of carbon steel pressing hard against my bottom lip. I can feel the heat emanating from the flesh as the pressure against it increases. I don’t even know it’s gone through until I feel the needles point attempting to break through the skin on the other side of my lip.

“Move your tongue.” Dillon tells me.

I pull my tongue back just when the point finally breaks the skin. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I exhale and Dillon pushes the needle the rest of the way through. “That wasn’t so bad.” I smile as he’s wiping blood from around the needle with a Q-tip. His bottom lip is sucked in and I can see the tip of his tongue at the corner of his mouth so I know he’s enjoying this - playing doctor, that is. He pulls out two brand new pencils and cuts the erasers off of them then slides one on each end of the needle.

“Finished,” he grins, eyeing his work. “You’ll be the only freshmen next year with a lip ring.”

“That’s ‘cause I’m the only one dumb enough to let her best friend pierce her lip.”

He chuckles. “I think I should get back before my dad notices I’m gone.”

I glance at the clock sitting on the dresser beside my bed. “Good idea.” It’s 1:12 am.

The rush of adrenaline I experienced ten minutes ago is gone now, and all of a sudden I’m very tired.

“You think you can get the window by yourself?” I ask him and yawn.

“Sure, if I go out feet first.” He throws me a sarcastic glare.

The window in my bedroom is very heavy and isn’t always cooperative. If you want it to stay open you have to either hold it up yourself or stick something in it to keep it from crashing down on you. Usually when Dillon’s sneaking out I just hold it up for him but now all I want to do is get into my pajamas and crawl into bed.

I start to undress, being extra careful not to disturb the freshly punched 16G hole in my face, and find Dillon waiting expectantly when I finally get my head through my shirt. Standing still and blinking is his way of telling me to get my butt over to that window. I sigh a laugh and shake the hair out of my eyes while stepping towards him.

“Thanks.” I say.

He runs his finger over my bottom lip. “The swelling should go down in a couple of weeks,” he tells me. “So you’re gonna look like Donkey Kong for a while.” He starts to laugh at his own joke.

“Shut up.” I punch him and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and then I start to laugh too.

I walk him over to the window and yank it open for him. It’s only about a 5 foot drop. He swings one leg out, climbs through, and pulls through the other leg. After jogging the 15 or so yards to his window he stops and jogs back.

“What are you doing?” I stick my head out to yell at him. “You’re Dad’ll kill you.”

“Claire,” he breathes. His head a few inches above mine despite the fact that he’s on level ground.

“Your Dad could pop in any minute,” I panic, looking back and forth from his house to him.

He stills me with a kiss. My first kiss.

And it’s weird. It’s Dillon, for crying out loud!

My mind has barely had time to process this when it’s over.

It lasts for about 3 seconds and my bottom lip is on fire when he pulls away.

All I do is stare at him unsure of what emotion to settle on.

He, on the other hand, is grinning like a little kid with candy.

“Bye,” he breathes before turning around and walking back to his window.

I let down my window carefully and touch my lips before lying down on my bed and closing my eyes. A thankful smile slinks across my face as I finally come to grips: It was Dillon.

No more than thirty minutes have passed.

The sound of breaking glass scares me awake. I lie there and listen for more noises and hear shouting a few seconds later. It’s coming from next door.

I can’t tell what words are being said but I know whose saying them.

I run to the window; from here I can see into Dillon’s room. His curtains are in shambles. The lamp is on the floor next to his bed, the bulb shattered into pieces. He’s on the ground next to hundreds of shards of glass with his father towering over him; beer bottle in hand. He’s shouting at Dillon who must have said something back because his dad reaches down and slaps him.

I know that if I keep watching I won’t be able to stop myself from going to the hall closet; grabbing my dad’s rifle; and going over there to shoot him myself. Instead, I grab the giant coke bottle from under my bed and stick it in the window and turn on my lava lamp. Going over to the closet, I get out an extra blanket and spread it over one half of the bed. I crawl in the other side and try my best not to worry about Dillon. Soon I give up and fall asleep praying for him.

When I wake up Dillon is asleep next to me with the scab on his lip reopened and a fresh welt under his chin. I sit up, move the covers down a bit and look for the bruises that aren’t visible. There are three – ugly – purple-ish pink blemishes covering his abdomen. His hand lashes out to stop my wrist when I brush up against them with my finger tips. He tilts his head and opens one sea foamy green eye after the other. He then looks at me and says, “I hate my dad.”

To Grow Up

I despise needing you.
I count on you and hate to.
That wide smile and those beautiful eyes
That treacherous smile and those lying eyes
How can something so pretty be so toxic?
With false compassion all too caustic
You’re like a ray wriggled free from the sun
Warm on the surface but at depth there’s none
I get close and blind and go in with my heart
Happen upon myself shouldered, cold, picked apart
I really loathe you at times like these.
But I love you. And this is what I need.