Down At Mchebes, I Was Only 19

By Dayna Troisi

Hell is a teenage girl. I’m wearing low-rise jeans and burning as brightly as the end of my black n mild. Noelle keeps gesturing wildly, telling the story about how when she slept with a Yankee, and keeps burning me every time she flails her acrylic nails, and says “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” At one point she burns a hole through my Joyce Leslie off-the-shoulder top but I think it lowkey looks kinda cool, the same way I purposely chipped my black nail polish in middle school because I read that Avril Lavigne likes it when her manicures get messed up.

What’s the point of wearing cheap clothes if you don’t let your cracked-out friends ruin them? What’s the point of looking like you want to be set ablaze if you don’t kind of like pain? 

19-year-old girls from Long Island take pain well. The best diet I was ever on consisted of one avocado omelet a day and about thirty-five vodka diet cokes a night. Once a week, my mom takes me to Spuntino and we order mozzarella and red wine and I tell her that the hickeys on my neck are from the hair straightener. “You better not be lettin’ anyone suckin’ on ya breast Dayna I Swear To God!” she screams as I remove my top in The Victoria’s Secret Dressing room. We go tipsy shopping after dinner. 

19-year-old girls from Long Island find themselves in a rotating montage of rickety basements with Party City strobe lights, gummy bear jungle juice, a smattering of dirty plastic chairs, and weird frat symbols strewn on the walls. We all laugh it off as rumors of Xanax being in the jungle juice fly around, because who would have that much Xanax and give it away for free? We laugh it off when we can’t remember what happened and something between our legs doesn’t feel quite right. We call each other sluts lovingly, kiss cheeks sticky with Juicy Tube lip gloss, and speed in sedans to Starbucks while smoking and blasting Swedish House Mafia. 

19-year-old girls from Long Island blackout every night in some variation of a juicy sweatsuit or a statement necklace and a sock bun. We go home every Sunday for sauce and fully lean into our codependent tendencies, without daring to let our fathers know where we’ve been. We have impeccable taste in food and music. We were never allowed to order from the kids menu and we listen to Black Sabbath with our fathers and Janis Joplin with our mothers. We sing Ave Maria at every cousin’s baptism and every grandparent’s funeral. Then we pop a molly and listen to house music. 

“Why don’t you roll the rug out?!” my aunt asks my other aunt. “Where do you want me to roll it out off, my ass?” my aunt yells back at my other aunt. “We’re gonna be late for Weight Watchers. Then Dunkin Donut’s after– everybody in the car — I’m buying!” 

Teen girls from Long Island were all on Weight Watchers with their mothers, no matter their weight. 

Down in Chinatown, I was only 19. My dad grips my hand tight as we are lead to the back of a store, door after door closing and locking between us. I immediately grab for a fake Louis Vuitton / Murakami speedy, covered in red cherries. I already have real versions of the monogram and the cherry blossom versions, but I am insatiable. “I’ll give you $200 for this and a boy bag,” I say, trying to be intimidating but my voice quivers like I’m on the verge of a psychotic break.

“No Chanel, Chanel in car,” a fierce woman with a perm and dollar store slippers states. 

I know my dad loves me because he gets in a moving white van with me so I can pick a fake Chanel. He carries a gun but I’m too scared to even look at it. 

Down at Mchebes, I was only 19. My girlfriend and I have just cashed in our spare change at the Coinstar in King Kullen because both of our debit cards have overdrafted. We open our mouths wide at the edge of the bar to have a conspicuous blue liquor poured down our throats. It smells like Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume and vomit. 

“They are making fun of you because of your arm,” she tugs at my bright pink bandage dress. I teeter away in my thigh-high pleasers, past all the basic girls in Uggs and Micheal Kors crossbody bags. On line for the bathroom, she pushes the matter. “Let me stand on your left side to cover your arm,” she offers, “people are staring.” My boobs are spilling out of my dress, and I look like I’m in my upper 20s. My jet black hair falls in front of my left arm. If people are staring, it’s probably not because of my disability. “I’m glad you have one arm,” she continued, “If you didn’t, you’d be straight and really slutty.” I feel the gravitational pull toward her toxicity. I was only 19. 

“What’s the point of having candles if you don’t light them?” Alyssa asks as we nurse hangovers in a double bed with blue Gatorade and bacon egg and cheeses. Teen girls on Long Island always share beds with our friends and would never dream of letting someone sleep on the couch. We also will spend our last dime getting bagels for our friends. 

I’m too paranoid of a) breaking dorm rules and b) setting the dorm on fire. How is it that I have no fear taking my top off for free shots and traipsing through the streets of Hempstead at night, but I’m terrified of my RA? I mouth off to anyone who looks at my friends the wrong way, but I am terrified to use the contraband coffee pot my mom snuck into my dorm. 

Alessandra zips up the back of my dress and her fingertips make my breath catch. Goosebumps blanket me as she lingers on the zipper a minute too long. I know she likes me, at least I hope, but I know she’ll never act on it. Teen girls want and want but rarely ever take.

What’s the point of having candles if you don’t light them? 

“Dayna can sing!” Crista yells at the bar when a mic is offered to any girls who want to try their luck at singing “I love rock n roll.” We are trying for Coyote Ugly but we are definitely serving more Jersey Shore. “No, Dayna. Don’t sing, stay here,” my girlfriend instructs. I don’t sing, despite having lyrics boiling in my gut. What’s the point of having candles if you don’t light them? 

“I love you, I will die without you,” she chases me down the hallway in men’s sweatpants, trying to dress as she runs after me, shoving her head into a t-shirt. I get in the elevator and let it close while she attempts to stick her bare foot in the doors, her last attempt to keep me from leaving. But 19-year-olds from Long Island know it’s nice to be loved but it’s better to just be.

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