Sixteen Years Before
Amy considered the postcard: a boardwalk scene. Throngs of people wandering in the sun. Sparkling blue ocean to the right, cheery awnings on the shops. She sniffed. The man beside her on the bus stank of tuna fish and cigarette smoke.
This must be what it feels like to die, she thought.
She was sore all over, sore and too tired to be scared. She suspected this was what it would feel like to die: to give up everything that came before, to justcut it off. Tear it out. She wasn't religious. Her parents died before they had a chance to impart much wisdom on the nature of immortal souls, and her grandfather, when she first went to live with him, told her he was allergic to church. But she suspected there was something beyond what she knew. Beyond what she could touch and smell. She suspected there was a sort of transition period, where you had a chance to say good-bye to your old self and your old life, and this was hers, on this Greyhound, her sandaled feet propped on her backpack, with nothing but a postcard on which to mark her passing.
Not that she ever intended to mail it.
She'd never intended to, not even when she bought it. She'd been waiting for Mona to finish her shift at the pizza placeand by finish her shift Amy meant break the suction with her boyfriend's face and was killing time in one of those boardwalk junk shops. The boardwalk was full of junk; there was shit everywhere. Key chains and T-shirts and snow globes (how lame was that, snow globes at the beach?), and stupid little sculptures built out of shells; Amy, of all people, could appreciate tiny objects, but there was just so much. It made her think of how many people there really are in the world, and whenever she thought about that, she felt suffocated and insanely lonely, which was classic irony when you thought about it: that realizing she was one of a million billion or whatever made Amy Henderson feel like she would never be anything but alone.
She bought the postcard because the guy behind the counter was giving her weird looks and she wanted to prove to him that she wasn't loitering, even though she was: she was a fucking grown-up. She had money.
She smoothed the card over the top of her leg: ocean city misses you! said bright red letters across the sky. Hardly. She chewed her pen and turned the card over to the blank side and wrote, Mona, I'm sorry.
She didn't know what else to say, so she filled out the address. She still wasn't going to send it, but it felt good to state the facts: Desdemona Jones, Darby-Jones House, Ruby Falls, New York.
Maybe she should apologize a little more. I should have told you, she wrote.
What was the one thing she wanted to tell Mona? What could you put on a postcardknowing that some nosy postal worker would probably read it, and you barely had enough room to say anything important anyway?
You knew me better than anyoneI think you knew me better than me.
That would make Mona happy. Mona wanted to be someone's best friend more than anything in the world. It was a little pathetic; but then sometimes it made Amy a lot happier than she wanted to admit.
Mona would worry, so next she wrote: Don't worry. I swear I'm happier dead, which was a little mean, because it would make Mona wonder whether Amy had flung herself off a cliff or across some train tracks or taken a whole bunch of pills and gone to sleep. But Mona should know better. If Amy hadn't done any of those things while they were still stuck in Ruby Falls, she sure as hell wasn't going to do it once she finally escaped.
It was getting late, and Amy wasn't so tired that she didn't know how hungry she was. She'd bought a few bags of pretzels at the last bus station, and now she crunched into them happily, her lips shriveling from the salt. She started to remember where she was going, and that of course made her remember where she'd just come from, and she thought of Mona, who would have been so scared when she found her justgone.
Excerpted from This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia. Copyright © 2010 by Kate Racculia. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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