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Wonderful

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“Hey, ain’t life wonderful? Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, isn’t everything wonderful now?”


Everclear blares from my battery-powered alarm clock, jolting me awake at 5:13. I get up at exactly 5:13 every morning so I don’t wake up to my mom screaming at me that it was 5:15 and I needed to get off my lazy butt because she couldn’t be bothered to take me to school if I missed the bus. Yeah, life’s wonderful.


“I close my eyes when I get too sad

I think thoughts that I know are bad

Close my eyes and I count to ten

Hope it’s over when I open them.”


I dress in the dark. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and sometimes a choice has to be made between electricity and alcohol. My dad consistently chooses the latter. Not like it matters. Whether I see them or not, I will still be pulling on tattered jeans and a used-to-be-bright tee shirt; pathetic attempts at defying the depressing situation I’m in. Life sure is wonderful.


“I want the things that I had before

Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door

I wish I could count to ten

Make everything wonderful again.”


I switch on the $5 camping lantern I bought for my bathroom and frown at the mirror. I get out the mascara and the eye shadow and the foundation, painting my face like a Barbie doll, transforming my skin into a mask I can hide behind. Painting my raw emotions over with candy-coated, sticky-sweet lies. Life is wonderful.



“I hope my Mom

And I hope my Dad

Would figure out why they get so mad

I hear them scream

I hear them fight

They say bad words that make me wanna cry.”


I crunch down on the stale diet cereal my mom considers an acceptable breakfast supply. You know, when it gets stale, they sell it for 59 cents a box. Can’t miss a sale like that – it would be a crime. That’s what Mom says anyway. My younger brother Wesley comes in when I’m almost done with my used-to-be-cereal, whining – maybe about the wrinkle in his sock or his stubborn loose tooth. He’s an acrobat – keeping a running commentary of life’s ordinary tragedies while dodging the topics of the screaming or the shattered beer bottles. He grumbles to his spoon and I hum along with the Everclear left in my head – careful, hum loudly enough to cover the yelling but not enough to attract flying objects. Keep on singing, ain’t life wonderful?


“Close my eyes when I go to bed

And dream of angels that make me smile

I feel better when I hear them say

‘Everything will be wonderful someday’”


I hurry Wesley out the door, pushing him toward the bus by his Yoda backpack. His little friends wave, and beckon, but he looks at me, missing-tooth grin wavering. He’s not deaf or stupid – he heard the screeching and the breaking and the stomping and he knows something is wrong. I tell him daddy and mommy were having a fight but soon they would be friends again. He looked up at me, big black eyes shining, “Do they still love each other?”
“Yeah, they do.” I lie, but it works, and he beams, running to his eager friends, like the world isn’t spiraling out of control. Ain’t life wonderful?


“Promises mean everything

When you’re so little and the world’s so big

I just don’t understand how

You can smile with all those tears in your eyes

And tell me everything is wonderful now.



Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now.”


I brush the water out of my lashes, frowning at the tint of gray. So this is what 39 minutes of babysitting buys you at American Eagle. I picked my tattered shield of self-control off the cruel concrete and held my head high as I walked to my bus stop. Life, you are wonderful, but I will be more wonderful.



“I go to school and I run and play

I tell the kids that it’s all ok

I laugh a lot so my friend’s won’t know

When the bell rings I just don’t wanna go”


Cameron broke up with Taylor – what a scandal. Nobody expected it – it’s not like he had ever been caught kissing Anna in the hallway or anything. I feel like I’m floating, watching the students jabber about the other students, cruel girls not caring who’s within hearing distance when an insult is spilled. I smile and I laugh and I’m marvelous. I pass the pale-faced, black-clad girls in the hall with their sweatbands and I congratulate myself because my wrists are virgins – never been touched. They say it’s because my life is perfectly wonderful.


“Go to my room and I close my eyes

I make believe that I have a new life

I don’t believe you when you say

Everything will be wonderful someday.”


I always thought if I were to wake up in the middle of the night, everything would be silent and I could sit and hear myself think and breath and live. Instead I wake up to rage-filled words spraying out of my mother’s mouth and my father slurring his responses as they stood in the kitchen. My brother is cowering between them, clutching the plastic cup he had gotten up to fill with water. Was quenching his thirst really worth paying such a steep price? They noticed him and my father bellowed at him to go to bed, anger red-hot on his face. I saw the palm come up before Wesley did, and I jumped from the safety of my doorway to the kitchen, absorbing the slap. Life is so freaking wonderful.


“Promises mean everything

When you’re little and the world’s so big

I just don’t understand how

You can smile with all those tears in your eyes

And tell me everything is wonderful now.”


Today in the halls, I am the one sporting the injury. My globbed on use-your-coupon-on-this-brand-only makeup I had used to cover my bruise, though physically thick as mud, was as easily seen through as a sweatband would have been. And I am ashamed. Isn’t life wonderful?


“No, no

I don’t want to hear you tell me everything is wonderful now

No, no

I don’t want to hear you tell me everything is wonderful now


I don’t want to hear you say

That I will understand someday

No, no, no, no

I don’t want to hear you say

That you both have grown in a different way

No, no, no, no

I don’t want to meet your friends

And I don’t want to start over again

I just want my life to be the same

Just like it used to be

Some days I hate everything

I hate everything

Everyone and everything”


Emotional rollercoaster, tears every other weekend. I hear so much from each parent about the other, every time Wesley and I pack to go, we have to wonder how much is true. Does dad rob the church offerings to buy whiskey? Does mom believe in church at all? Both so eager to lay the blame on each other, don’t they stop to consider they both have flaws? Is it possible that dad’s new girlfriend is awful to Wesley and I when Dad isn’t around, and that a piece of jewelry walks out of my box all by itself every time Mom has friends over? Of course it’s not possible - only the opposite person is at fault. You start saying they are both to blame and you may as well say life isn’t always wonderful.


“Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now…

No

Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now…

No

Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now…

No”


Wesley is angry and dark and scared, and his eyes have turned from soft tar to cold flint. I’m holding on to a semblance of life, but I haven’t got much heart. Mom, dad, can’t you see how much is wrong? Still singing that stupid “life is wonderful” song.


“I don’t want to hear you tell me everything is wonderful now…

No

Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now…”


Life won’t conquer me like it has conquered you. So you can drown in your own pity, or you can get up and stand with me. Because, you know what, life IS wonderful.



“Everything is wonderful now…

Everything is wonderful now….

Now

Now

Everything is wonderful now…”





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