Nicole McCarthy



Our throats are always dry.
You and I have an insatiable thirst for any proximity to darkness.

Pictures line our bedroom walls like posters of a life.

Popping pills in third period to transcend math equations. Giggling in the back row, wobbling like bobble heads, rotating slowly on their axes.
Lyrics line the rubber on our soles &
black polish crusts away on fingertips.

Carlo Rossi is flowing from poor kid’s pockets at parties we flash tits to get into. Someone let the tarantula out but we’re too drunk to notice. We just never sit down. Flashlights tap on windows and people shout about shoving minors into closets to cut down on charges. A helicopter is circling the house. You’re outside, making out with a stoner in a Pink Floyd t-shirt when we decide to leave. We taught each other drunk driving 101 the weekend before.

Restlessness moans in our bones. Impulsivity rides crimson waves down veins cocktailed with Bacardi raspberry rum.

We have a competition, you and I—
how often we let strange men lay hands on our bare skin; to taste, to penetrate our pores, in and out, in and out, with the illest of inks, carving maps on our bodies of who we think we are.

We aren’t broken, though.

We line up with other scene kids outside El Corazon weekly for shows.
You tell me to lie about my age so we can fuck band members. It doesn’t happen, but we are always ready to.

I name your piece of shit car the sick little suicide machine for how often gas exhaust leaks into the cab. Someday it’ll catch fire on the side of a deserted highway.

Brand New is playing, again, over muffled speakers.
Jesse Lacey, our beacon of emotionally charged, sexually fraught rock and roll, sings:
“Suspended like spirits over speeding cars
You and me were kings over the parkway tonight
And tonight will go on forever while we
walk around this town like we own the streets
and stay awake through summer like we own the heat…
I’m gonna stay 18 forever.
So we can stay like this forever…
They’re just jealous ‘cos we’re young and in love.”

We pass commencement, & jump off the diving board into W2s and timecards.

We own that summer—pounding pavements in any town we can reach until our batteries run dry and our bottles run out.

Nicole McCarthy is a feminist writer and artist coming up in Washington State. She is currently in the MFA program at the University of Washington Bothell and is the managing editor at The James Franco Review.


We start drinking at 3. You take me to the speakeasy for my birthday in a random alleyway in Belltown.

You snap pictures of us like when we were kids, in a rush to use the last of the disposable film.

You called me earlier to ask what we should wear—
“What do people wear to shows nowadays?”
“Is everyone still wearing black?”
“I don’t have chucks anymore; think it’s safe to wear flats?”

We order drinks at the mahogany bar, things like the Amelia Earhart and the Holly Golightly. You scrunch your nose and push the whiskey back to the bartender.

You polish your glasses on your red plaid button up. I post the picture we took a half an hour before at the front door of the speakeasy.

We talk about when my husband will be home from Afghanistan. I pick at my cuticles. You remark how weird it is that I have a husband now. I nod & smile.

You tell me you’re getting some of your tattoos covered up, the mistakes. I ask how many you have now.
A few, you say.

Yellow is a gender-neutral color, you tell me, before adding that you and your boyfriend are discussing kids now, and marriage. I signal to the bartender for another round.
You ask me for tips to save money on a wedding. The diamond on my finger glints as we swipe through smiling photos from 2012.

We park your Hyundai across the street, buzzed on sweet, expensive liquor. Sitting in the roped-off bar, bubbles drift up from draft beers. We swim in beams of stage lights, dizzy on a familiar feeling.

Brand New comes out on stage with less fervor than before.
We sway, Rainiers in hand, feeling possessed by younger selves.

“Soco Amaretto Lime” rings out from the guitar and half the room exhales. That first record belonged to us; it was the soundtrack that narrated our lives from backseats and propelled us to be reckless.

The lead singer, a dark silhouette bathed in light, sings:
“I’m just jealous ‘cos you’re young and in love…I’m just jealous ‘cos you’re young and in love…”

You and I exchange glances. The old lyrics lodge in my throat, refusing to let the new ones in.

We’re quiet on the drive home, not drunk anymore, chugging water (like we’ve learned). We don’t feel in control of our bodies like we used to be.

Your Favorite Weapon is playing over the speakers, again, as we try to claim one last taste of youth’s resiliency.

You ask if I remember when we lived together as teenagers. Of course, I do.

We’re spending all our nights growing old in bed.

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