Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz Read Online (FREE)
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We’re going to right the world and live. I mean live our lives the way lives were meant to be lived. With the throat and wrists. With rage and desire, and joy and grief, and love till it hurts, maybe. But goddamn, girl. Live.
—Sandra Cisneros, “Bien Pretty”
We were the girls who strolled onto the blacktop on long summer days, dribbling past the boys on the court. We were the girls on the merry-go-round, laughing and laughing and letting the world spin while holding on for our lives. The girls on the swings, throwing our heads back, the wind in our hair. We were the loudmouths, the troublemakers, the practical jokers. We were the party girls, hitting the clubs in booty shorts and high-top Jordans, smoking blunts on the beach. We were the wild girls who loved music and dancing. Girls who were black and brown and poor and queer. Girls who loved each other.
I have been those girls. On a Greyhound bus, homeless and on the run, a girl sleeping on lifeguard stands, behind a stilt-house restaurant, on a bus stop bench. A hoodlum girl, throwing down with boys and girls and their older sisters and even the cops, suspended every year for fighting on the first day of school, kicked out of music class for throwing a chair at the math teacher’s son, kicked off two different school buses, kicked out of pre-algebra for stealing the teacher’s grade book. A girl who got slammed onto a police car by two cops, in front of the whole school, after a brawl with six other girls.
And I have been other girls: girl standing before a judge; girl on a dock the morning after a hurricane, looking out at the bay like it’s the end of the world; girl on a rooftop; girl on a ledge; girl plummeting through the air. And years later, a woman, writing letters to a prisoner on death row.
And the girls I ran with? Half of them I was secretly in love with. Street girls, who were escaping their own lives, trading the chaos of home for the chaos on the streets. One of them had left home after being molested by a family member, lived with her brother most of the time. Another had two babies before she was a junior in high school, and decided they were better off with the father—a man in his thirties. Only one had what I thought was a perfectly good set of parents at home: a dad who owned a restaurant and paid for summer vacations abroad, a mom who planned birthday parties and cooked dinner. They were girls who fought with me, smoked out with me, got arrested with me. Girls who snuck into clubs with me, terrorized the neighborhood with me, got jailhouse tattoos with me. Girls who picked me up when I was stranded and brought me food when I was starving, who sat with me outside the emergency room after my boy was stabbed in a street fight, who held me, and cried with me, at my abuela’s funeral. Hood girls, who were strong and vulnerable, who taught me about love and friendship and hope.