Cinematic Eyes and Gasoline Lies This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

June 23, 2011
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Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me. And I think it's only fair that I tell you so that some time before you die you can settle your debt. My mom used to say that, you know? Of course you know. You met her right before the thirteenth. Well, in case you don't remember, she used to say: “Ronnie, the only ticket into heaven is to have no debt. It makes you respectable. It shows God that you take care of all that messy stuff before you go. God likes that type of thing.” Mind you, my mother had never read even a fragment of The Bible, and to my knowledge, had not been to church since she ran away from Indiana at 12. But it makes sense. It makes you respectable, at least. And yeah, if you're wondering, I still think you're a decent person despite what happened.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, but I'm not gonna press you for it. I mean, money's tough and gas isn't cheap. But you'd know that. You were into politics – you majored in something like that, right? Tell me who to vote for because I can't take these prices anymore. Just last week it was only $4 a gallon and now it's gone up to five-and-seventy-something. When I bought the gas that you owe me, it was three-something. So, I guess if you pay me in cash, it'll be just $12. But that'll only get me two gallons now. Not fair, right? Or maybe it is. Maybe you should just bring me the gas in one of those red tubs with the spout. You know, the kind my dad (and yours too, probably) used to lug home when the car wouldn't start.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, but I think it may be mighty hard to get where I am now. Plus, I don't think I'm going to tell you where I am. So, maybe you should just send money. It'll be easier, instead of trying to find me. You could Western Union it; there's a Walmart in town. If we round that five-seventy-something upwards, we'll get six. And six multiplied by four is 24. You can check me on that if you like. You were always great at math, weren't you?

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, but I'm getting old and forgetful so it could be more or less. Let's keep it at four – four is stable, four is sound. Four's the number of eyes you had. Two were stuck in your head and had that little green circle in between the white, and two were transparent and trapped by brown rims. You had four hands too – two attached at the bottom of your wrists and two clipped to your ankles. I remember you'd run on the hands next to your ankles through that field by Mr. Wilde's house and you'd scream for me to run, too, so I did, and once I fell and ripped a ligament or something. The doctor said I shouldn't walk, but I kept running after you, following you into that cove where you'd whisper my name and I'd read you plagiarized poetry.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me. My daughter just looked over my shoulder. She has blonde hair, just like you used to, except hers falls in curls. She doesn't like it; she'd rather it was straight, so she wakes up really early in the morning to run some hot machine over the strands and then ties it into a ponytail. The ponytail is what reminds me most of you.

My daughter, her name is Rose. I hate roses because you hated roses, but I love my daughter. Rose says four gallons isn't anything at all and that whoever I'm sending this to will just throw it away. Her boyfriend agrees. His name is Kristofer. Yeah, with a K, and no h, and an f instead of ph. I don't like it, but I don't say that because Rose would be upset – she thinks he's perfect, like I used to think you were.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me. I don't know why I keep repeating it. I just remember that time we walked downtown to the movie theater, before I got the car, and you kept singing that Van Morrison song. You had a beautiful voice. You probably still do. And you had those cinematic eyes, the kind that someone just stares at as if their favorite film was playing within your green circles. And it's that painful scene – the one with Audrey Hepburn and the taxicab – that you can't tear yourself from, no matter how much it hurts, you know? You loved “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” which is why I picked that movie. Did you ever read the book? I bought it for you. Your friend told me you threw away everything that reminded you of me when I left. But, did you throw away the book?

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, and that's all I'm trying to get out of you. I mean, you could just send the money through the mail, but I'm not putting a return address and Rose says you should never trust a mailman with your money. I trust our mailman though. She's a woman and her name is Gina. She has no eyebrows and has really long nails. She smiles at me through the living room window during the summer. I'm not in the living room right now, if you're wondering. I'm in the basement. Kristofer's upstairs making dinner. He's not nearly old enough to cook. His hands don't have enough experience. But Rose says he's been to school in Paris. I wonder if you were in Paris at the same time. You went to Paris, didn't you? Maybe you went to the restaurant Kristofer worked at that summer. Was the food any good? If it was, then it probably wasn't Kristofer's restaurant.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me. That's how much gas it took for me to run away. Remember Samuel, my best friend, the one with the hearse and girlfriend with the ear piercings? Well, I talked to him the night before I left, and he convinced me to stay. He loved you, you know. He didn't love you like I loved you, but it was love all the same. So, I stayed and we got so drunk that when I opened my mouth the next morning, I could taste the sunlight. Samuel was sleeping next to me and I remembered everything he had said, I swear I did, but I still ending up leaving. You know when you've got that feeling that you can't shake? I had it then, so I left. The gas station attendant was a lady, and she helped me because my father had always pumped the gas for me (something I never let you know). She said to me, “How much gas you need, Sugar?” I showed her the money I had and she said, “That'll get you about four gallons.” At least, that's what I think she said. There was still this waterfall stretching from my temple to my ankle, crashing so loudly that I could hardly hear. I probably shouldn't have driven. But I made it. I'm alive, I think.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, and if you ended up marrying Gerard like everyone said you would, don't show him this. If you did marry Gerard and you don't have the money to repay me, do not ask him for help. Maybe you could just write me a little reply. Something like, “Married to Gerard and I have no money and no car because he's a terrible husband and does not give me freedom, so I've been seeing this man named Joseph who's 14 years younger than Gerard and treats me like I'm the woman of his dreams, but it's nothing compared to you, Ronnie, and I still love you because I think you're incredible and if you'd just tell me where you are, I'd drive a million miles to give you your gasoline because you're the best thing that ever happened to me.” Yeah. Something along those lines would be nice.

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me, but I think I'd still kill to see your face or taste your breath. I don't know. On those days when Rose's hair is in that perfect ponytail and Kristofer puts on his French accent, I just think about you. I live with them now. They're in the phone book, so maybe you actually can find me. Some days, when they have to work, Rose will put “Breakfast at Tiffany's” on loop because she thinks I love it, but really, I just love you. And when Audrey Hepburn's wearing that pearl necklace, I always think of the time Janet proved that your pearls were fake and you cried for days, so I went out and got you a real pearl necklace with earrings to match. It cost me my entire summer earnings, but I smiled the whole way through the transaction. I probably should be charging you for the jewelry too, but that means I'd have to charge for the cards, and then I might as well charge for the kisses and smiles.

So, four gallons of gasoline – that's all that you owe me. It's all I want. And I think I want it so bad because it'll show me you're alive. Well, I know you're alive, but maybe it'll prove to me that I'm alive. Sometimes, I don't know, the air just feels dead and if it gets into your pores, you start to feel it too. And the air out where you are is always so vibrant and lively, which is why you owe me four gallons of gas. You've basically killed me, and you should feel bad. Twenty-four dollars should be the least you're willing to do, right?

Four gallons of gasoline – that's what you owe me and I think I'm pressing so hard because I just want you to settle your debt because, I don't know, I think I'd like to see you in heaven or something. I want to see you because your last impression of me is with greasy black hair and dirty fingernails and a smile that couldn't care less. At least, that's how I remember myself. I've changed. I care sometimes. I care about what the town looks like now – if the theater's still standing, who's living in the house Mom died in, if your eyes are just as cinematic as before and if the green circle ever faded, or if the park is still cluttered with beauty, and if kids still wear black jeans with studded pockets, and if the gas station with the lady-attendant is still there.

It's just, I don't know, Donna, I think I've just been gone for a really, really long time.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 15 comments. Post your own now!

isuess said...
Dec. 7, 2016 at 11:15 pm
This is gloriously beautiful writing! Thank you so much for sharing
Clary_Fray This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 22, 2014 at 8:45 pm
Wow... this is so incredible. These words are fashioned in a gorgeous way that really makes me feel the character. It's so deep and beautiful, I love the symbolism and the quick pace. Here's to the hope that you'll keep writing pieces such as this one!
Clary_Fray This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 22, 2014 at 8:49 pm
I forgot to say: I love how it's romance, and clearly so, but not a cliché, sappy romance. It's very real- life.
CassieEJ This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 4, 2014 at 9:08 pm
This is so beautiful! Kind of made my heart hurt a little, but in the best way possible. Favorited!
Athena19 said...
Aug. 7, 2014 at 1:11 am
Wow I loved this! I liked how you told the story through hints and clues, the way someone who was remembering would tell it, not all at once and in order. I loved the picture you painted with the hair and the eyes and the necklace. I love the way it simultaneously feels like it happened forever, and also yesterday. I was a bit suprised that it was a guy writing to a girl, but I loved it! Thank you!
Quartermaster This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 18, 2013 at 10:36 pm
I enjoyed the repition and how you broke it up when you said "My daughter." It caught my attention and allowed me to catch the sadness in your work. The speaker's writing to a girl even though the relationship ended irreversiblely long ago. I felt the piece dragged on just a little long, that the pace was a little slow. Maybe I was just tired but the last two paragraphs I started losing interest, but a good work over all. 
Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm
I love the repetition. Not just the word for word opening of each paragraph- the repetiton of details. It's great how you keep coming back to 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and how debt will keep you out of heaven.
kate12345me said...
Jun. 27, 2012 at 1:43 am
When I realised it was a guy writing to a girl, I was a little surprised! Fantastic effort, I wouldn't say you have to improve anything at absolutely broke my heart over the pearl necklace and earrings! That was super sweet and upsetting at the same time. Please keep contributing amazing things like this. You are what makes me proud to be human. Awesome, honestly.
Rebel13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm
Hi! This is very nice work. The repetition was definitely the focal piece for me, I almost wish it was a little more subtle. I loved how you used grittier words like 'gasoline' in a romantic story, it kept it from being too sappy. I don't understand a few things though, and maybe I just missed it- why does the girl owe him gasoline? Also, what did she do so bad to this guy? Maybe you meant it to be mysterious, I was just still curious at the end. there were some beautiful metaphors and imagery i... (more »)
Olliegh said...
Apr. 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm
Wow. THe repitition was flawless and it makes me want to write a story using repitition like that. I somehow skipped over the fact in the beginning that the speaker was Ronnie (a male) and I assumed that it was a female, so I got really confused about 4/5 of the way through, but don't worry, it's not because youre writing was unclear, it's just because I was reading fast. Best of luck, and I hope to read more of your work :)
mollyb said...
Apr. 2, 2012 at 11:43 am
love the last line!
Lillie M. said...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 11:32 am
You are a genius. This piece is beautifully written and gripping. By the end I'd basically fallen in love with the character! Favorited.
whateverjuliet said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm
it was sooooooooooooo oringinal! that's what suprised me the most, i loved it!!!
Labradorian This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm
Wow. That. Was. Beautiful. I loved how each paragraph revealed a little more of his life and character, but not too much, which urged me to continue reading. The repetition was also very successful. I loved how vague and personal it was at the same time. Great job!
otherpoet said...
Dec. 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm
LOVE! This is great and tells a really clear story. Thanks so much for writing :)
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