I met her at this house party. There weren’t a lot of people there and I wasn’t friends with most of them. It was real cold, I remember, and it was in the fall because all sorts of colored leaves were on the ground like a giant patchwork quilt. I was smoking and looking into the backyard wondering if the leaves would catch on fire if I didn’t put my cigarette out. Then someone else comes out and it’s this girl with a single dreadlock on the left side of her head and all sorts of colors streaking through her hair. She had a nose ring. It made me want to get one. In fact, everything about her made me want to change. And I didn’t even know her. She lights up and blows the smoke out like a real pro.
“You from here?” she asks.
“My whole life.”
“I just moved here. Was going to college, but I quit. You in school?”
“Not right now.”
“Fuck the system, right? College is just expensive job training anyway. I’d much rather do something I love now, then spend the rest of my life trying to pay for it.”
She had this tattoo on her forearm, a short sentence written in cursive, and I asked if I could see it. Sis held her arm out and I leaned over it and in in the porchlight could just make it out: Given the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.
“It’s Faulkner,” she said.
“Why’d you get it?”
And that’s when Sis told me that we all wear masks and she wore hers for so long that she dissolved, the way tea steeps into water and it wasn’t until she finally realized that she was able to take it off. That’s when I realized I wanted her in my life. That’s when I realized the beauty in pain.