IN HIGH SCHOOL
I learned the term domestic terrorism from my white physics teacher who, when he was sixteen, built a marshmallow cannon and shot at civilians from the roof of a mall. What a weirdo, we all thought. It was almost as funny as that time during a lockdown drill when our geometry teacher forgot to bolt the door. Our beloved white Assistant Dean blundered into our class, made eye contact with a boy hiding under a desk, and said, Pew-pew.
In high school, domestic terrorism was “real” terrorism’s baby cousin. It was a white teenager launching candy at strangers. It was a white guy bringing a gun to school, but probably not our white guys, probably not our school. Probably we would have called that mental illness and not terrorism.
Now I think of Oak Creek and Isla Vista and Charleston and Planned Parenthood and Charlottesville and Tree of Life and Christchurch and I think of the 93% of women murdered by men who knew them in 2016. Now I think of the time in high school that a boy threatened to fuck his classmate until she bled. I think of the time one boy earnestly told another, I could buy and sell you in a day.
IN HIGH SCHOOL
We all knew of the sex tapes, the girl who in a fugue state masturbated in the cafeteria. I cradled the same Smirnoff Ice all night. A talisman warding off the girl I already was—anxious, unfucked, three layers of padding in my bra. Seventeen, flirting with drunk boys when their girlfriends went home. Their beautiful fifteen-year-old girlfriends, their chemically straightened hair, their white designer jeans.
His girlfriend out of sight, one boy dropped his hand to my ass. I felt dangerous. Who was manipulating whom?
We all knew of the freshman who let a senior titty-fuck her on a dare. I too wanted someone to want me on my knees. To feel cool tile through ripped jeans, my ponytail taut in his fist.
The boy removes his hand from my ass. I end up in a bathroom with a drunk friend and her drunk boyfriend. He says, Babe, can I wipe you? She says, Not in front of Ruth. We stare at her pale triangle of crotch and each other and in two weeks a different friend will blow a boy from a rival school at knifepoint.
Photograph of Ruth Madievsky by Adam Phillips.