"Growing Up Florida" by Lauren Dostal

Eliot is hiding in the closet again. He says he can’t take the pressure of existing alongside other people. When you open the door, his head pops out, flushed in black eyeliner, his eyes a rim of hazel enclosed in swollen cheeks. He screams. You have to close the closet carefully so he won’t get out.

We are animals.



Living sandwiched between depression and hormones and rage and pop punk—the four walls of the houses inside our aching chest cavities.

Eliot emerges, but only for band practice. The boys lock themselves in the garage and we sense the sonic waves pounding against our bodies. Beauty in Chaos, they’re called, but really, they only play metal covers. Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Manson. If Eliot can scream it, they play it. And when he disappears again, they stop.

The girls walk down the street, pausing to cat-fight, claws out. We want to hurt each other like boys do, so we flail our arms, feigning a mosh pit, our fingertips extended from our matchstick arms. The next morning, scratches spiral my arms and I get called to guidance to talk about my feelings.

“I didn’t do this to myself,” I tell her, picking at my black nail polish.

“Then who did?” She wants to know.

“My best friend, but don’t worry. You should see what I did to her”—this I think, but do not say. Even with the right inflection, she wouldn’t think it was funny. She’s too far removed from adolescence to remember the elation of violence in a teenaged soul. She sighs and nods her Q-tip-poufed head.

My face is a brick wall.

My eyelids are black gates, closed to her prying.

We kick a dead frog along the curb—flattened like a pancake—and one of us—all of us—hop up and down on benches and the sides of buildings as if on skateboards. The three-foot flair of our jeans flaps around our legs like Hermes’ wings. We think we can fly. We’re flying already.