#RealLife: The Smiths – The Smiths

A collection of personal stories inspired by one legendary album.


A song can mean anything. Once it exits an artist’s imagination, it mutates, coalesces with the memories and experiences of everyone it encounters. It gloms onto our life’s signature moments, allowing them, good or bad, to be conjured with the drop of a turntable needle. It’s a blessing, it’s a curse.

If I want to smile, I listen to “Where Is My Mind”. If I want to hurt myself, I listen to Azure Ray’s “Sleep”. These are simple truths I’ve come to accept. My mother avoids Led Zeppelin like the plague. Why? “Bad things happen when I listen to Led Zeppelin.” Hey, Mom, I get it.

#RealLife is a new, monthly feature where Consequence of Sound staffers join forces with a diverse cadre of writers to share personal stories inspired by one legendary album. Some may be inexorably linked to the album itself, others may just share its themes, tone, and atmosphere. Regardless, they’re all real.

This month, we revisit The Smiths’ self-titled debut, whose melancholy torch songs have crept into the psyches of angsty teens (and adults) the world over since they were released 30 years ago today.

Reel Around the Fountain

by Nelson Rodriguez Rivas

Summer of ’05, sophomore year. Near the end of summer actually, a few weeks before I headed back south for the break between Summer and Fall. I remember driving my Jeep down to his apartment late at night the first time we got together. I was nervous as heck. He was in a frat for fuck’s sake. There was something secretive about the way he had me over that put me a bit on edge, but he smelled good getting into my car, so who cared, right?

He had an unnervingly easy way of making me feel good about myself from the start, something I hadn’t felt in my entire life at that point. He needed a lighter, so I drove him to the gas station a few blocks away. We returned to his apartment, empty of roommates gone home for the summer. And, in my mind, that’s where we stayed for the next few weeks.

There was sex. TV marathons on the USA Network. Getting high for the first time because this beautiful guy was asking me to, fuck peer pressure. Jimmy Eat World’s “Polaris”. A lot more sex. Being able to comfortably fall asleep with someone next to me for the first time. I’m sure I did other things during those weeks. I must have worked or gone home, I don’t know. We went to a movie at the student union, I asked him if it was okay to hold his hand. He grabbed it once the lights were low. My heart raced. But I mainly only remember him. And his bed. And those balmy Tallahassee nights. And the sex.

Summer came to an end and I said goodbye. We made some loose plans for Fall. I was idiotically hopeful. On my drive down the Florida Turnpike my car’s transmission blew at the Micanopy exit. I was stuck there for seven hours outside a gas station across from Café Risqué, a strip joint for truckers – food and showers included. I should have taken that miserable hot afternoon as an omen.

When I returned for Fall semester I barely saw him. His friends and roommates were back in town. It’s a tough thing when you realize the situation you’re in. I think I saw him a few more times over the next year or so before he left the school. And every time I’d get any sort of message I’d drop everything and go. Back then I would have done anything just to spend a few minutes with him. After one of those rare times, I remember seeing a shooting star, and I actually made a wish – about us. Thinking about it now makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. I spent half my life in college looking for that feeling I got from that summer, and the latter half so broken by the experience that I struggled to let someone in that actually cared about me that much.

Some memories exist in your mind and no matter how much you try to forget them, or change them, or damage them; they always seem to come through all your manipulation shiny and unscarred.

And still, when I was back in Miami a few months ago, he messaged me, and for second it felt like I was back in his apartment that summer. But sadly now, for me, it’s mainly just about the sex.

You’ve Got Everything Now

by Brooke Allen

Mom was a housewife. She watched Days of Our Lives and made dinners from boxes and cleaned things up…repeat. Dad was a doctor. We were rich. We had the best toys. We had the best house. It was all perfect. Totally and completely perfect. Until my mother began coming apart at the seams. She was smoking more. She was on the phone with my aunt more. My dad was gone more. She walked into my room as I sat in front of my dollhouse one morning. “Daddy and I are going to live in separate houses from now on.”

She looked at me hard, we had not yet developed the language of mothers and daughters. Our eye contact was often confusing. I turned to the family of dolls in my hand. I put the baby in the crib. I put the sister at the desk. I put the brother at the toybox. I put the wife in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to do with the dad so I just held on to him. Mom sighed and went downstairs to smoke.

Dad was already remarried when we, the new “we”, were still packing up what was left to move to a much smaller place, which was fine with me since I was a much smaller person back then. I visited dad’s new house on the weekends. There were perks to dad’s house. All of our furniture was there, although reupholstered and arranged the wrong way. There was a pool table and a piano and other kids. The food was all from restaurants and everyone was happy. Not like at Mom’s where I had recently witnessed the cleaning lady take a verbal beating and get fired as mom slunk down on the massive staircase and cried.

At dad’s house there was also going to be a new baby.

Miserable Lie

by Dan Caffrey

For all their subversion, The Smiths will always exist in place of teenage romance for me. Not my own romance, but a made-up one.

In January of 2008, I was performing in a new play called Slipping at the side project, a tiny storefront theater in Chicago. The script focused on two male high-school seniors who gradually fall in love. It was a simple kind of story, not ham-fisted or any kind of “issue” play by any stretch of the imagination. If we’re speaking in archetypal terms, I played a jock while, Nate—the dude opposite of me—played more of a goth kid. Many of the scenes were underscored by music. Nate’s character, being the darker of the two, naturally listened to a lot of The Smiths. Regardless of their often sardonic content, “Boy With the Thorn In His Side”, “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, “How Soon Is Now”, and many others became the soundtrack of a sweet, if sometimes awkward, young relationship.

But the tune that stuck with me most was “Miserable Lie”. The slow-dance sway of the first minute captured the loneliness and reverse nostalgia that comes with pining for someone in the suburbs, especially in your youth. It played during a transition that led into a pseudo-date between the two characters at a movie theater. As Nate and I quietly sipped soda, another song began to faintly trickle from the side project’s modest speakers. Something with a banjo. Morrissey’s voice sounded a little closer than usual, less distant, gruffer, and more connected to the listener. There was no sign of the frontman’s usual aloofness and crypticism either. “I’ve been talking in myyy sleep”, he wailed. He didn’t sound English. He didn’t really sound like Morrissey at all. There was nothing enigmatic about the song; it was full-on melodrama.

Then again, being a teenager is pretty melodramatic, so this mystery Smiths tune was perfect for the play—emotional enough to help us push through the conversation, yet played softly enough to keep us restrained in our scene-work. Afterwards, I asked the Sound Designer the name of the song.

“Unwell,” he told me.

“Unwell”? As in Matchbox Twenty’s “Unwell”? The pensive Orlando dude-bros that mistake emoting with actual emotion? The singer who ends everything with a James Hetfield “eeyaahh,” only wussier? My college roommate liked to listen to “Unwell”. We would always make fun of the music video’s lame CGI acid trip. I remembered something about Rob Thomas riding in a car with a cartoon dog.

I was ashamed. How could I have confused The Smiths with Matchbox Twenty? I was a music elitist who didn’t deserve to call himself a music elitist. As much as I had loved the use of “Unwell” in the scene, I could never bring myself to buy it on iTunes or even check out More Than You Think You Are for free from the library.

But as time went on, I realized how ignorant I was being. If both The Smiths and Matchbox Twenty affected me in the same way, who I was I to decry the merits of the latter? Granted, my love for both bands relied heavily on the context of a play I was acting in, but I still enjoyed listening to each of them.

These days, I proudly keep The Smiths and Matchbox Twenty alongside each other in my music library. I wouldn’t call myself a super-fan of either one; I’m more of a greatest hits kind of guy. And while I never get tired of “Unwell”, it’s always hard for me to get through “Miserable Lie”‘s abrupt second half, when the lyrics get nastier and the beat gets punkier. The Smiths may be known for subversion and dark humor, but I’ll always prefer them at their sweetest. I’ll always prefer them at their Matchbox Twenty-est.

Pretty Girls Make Graves

by Randall Colburn

“Are you not wearing underwear?”

We’re on a tiny loveseat. I’m on top of her. It’s so small my knees are bent, toes pointing skyward. Her right leg brushes the carpet, her left hovers above like a windsock on a moderately windy day. It’s June and I have no air conditioner. We’re sweating everywhere.

“Are you not wearing underwear?”

My inquiry is a formality. No, she’s not wearing underwear. Her response isn’t “duh”, but it’s close. She’s spoken barely a word since we left the bar. She communicates solely through sighs, uhs, and shrugs. I don’t mind. I’m not on this date for the conversation. I’m not in it for sex, either. All I want, I suppose, is to make out with a pretty girl.

And we are. But there is a certain pressure, once you’re laying awkwardly on the loveseat, a desire for exploration, to clamber curiously up the mountain, to uncover the mysteries that can only be ascertained up close. But such curiosity resides not in her. Instead of reaching under my shirt or sifting through my hair, she reaches instead for my belt. She unbuckles. Her dress slides towards her hips. She grips me and guides me towards her.

A confused laugh tumbles from my mouth. I ask, hilarious disbelief in my voice: “Do you want to have sex?”

“Uhhhh…” she says.

It takes forever to get inside. We don’t look at each other once. Any noises she makes are still of the disinterested variety. After a while, she climbs on top of me. After a while, we’re both too sweaty to continue. No one climaxes. We separate. We lay there on the loveseat, sweating, in various states of undress.

My legs are sore. I stretch one. I kick, as hard as I fucking can, a pile of DVDs near my foot. They go skidding across the floor.

Under her breath, she begins singing a few bars from “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

by Tony Hardy

“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”. It is hardly unusual to hear a piece of music from way back that suddenly helps pinpoint events or feelings that are otherwise half-forgotten, misted memories. Yet for me this particular title breaks that spell, playing havoc with time lines. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” wasn’t a Morrissey lyric but rather the work of 19th century poet, William Ross Wallace. The Smiths’ song then predated the psychological thriller of the same name by some eight years. So what is it about the hand rocking the cradle that still resonates with me today?

The wonderfully incessant circular melody that underpins Morrissey’s meandering vocal first of all reminds me that I once knew a girl who looked unnervingly like actress Rebecca De Mornay, a name that equally I was convinced I’d seen on the menu in a fish restaurant. Either way she didn’t get many babysitting assignments. The girlfriend, that is. Yet, wait a minute, this was way before the real De Mornay went on to rock her particular cradle on celluloid. Indeed the memory of ‘my Rebecca’ predates The Smiths by a few years. So you can see how those time lines can easily get unravelled.

Spin forward to the late ’90s and I’m driving to a business meeting with a work colleague. The Smiths’ “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” is playing on the radio and we casually chat about the song. I mention my Rebecca De Mornay lookalike and confuse the hell out of my assistant who’d assumed the song must be from the film. Trying to regain the thread and focus on the band I’d always loved, I start talking about Morrissey’s lyrics; the true love for a child set against the absence of romance between the parents.

The song fades and the station switches to a news bulletin. A man with the same name as me has been arrested on suspicion of murdering prostitutes in London’s King’s Cross area. He went on to be dubbed the Camden Ripper! The very next story aired concerns a woman who has been released from prison on appeal, having been originally been found guilty of murdering her child. The woman has exactly the same name as my colleague occupying the passenger seat in my car.

This Charming Man

by Michael Roffman

Your fingers smell. Acid in the water, swirling around and around. The sleeve of your coat ruined. Winded, tired, and slightly amused you wash it off. Human bass emanates through the bathroom door. Did they just put on Michael Jackson? You love Michael Jackson. You hate him, too. He died alone. Maybe he didn’t. Doesn’t matter.

Knock, knock.

“In here.”

Knock, knock.

“I’m using the goddamn bathroom.”

Human bass again. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. Your mother danced to this song once. You danced with her. What’s she even doing anymore? You haven’t spoken in a few weeks; you wonder if she’s okay. Whatever. Not important right now.

Knock, knock.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Sweat on your forehead. Eyes bloodshot. You’ll probably have a sore throat in the morning. It’ll go away after a few hours. Hot water. Honey maybe. No, not honey. Maybe tea. You try and rub your neck. That smell again.

A splash of water to the face. Your hair needs fixing. You can’t fix it. They don’t even have a comb in here. Guest bathroom. Son of a bitch. You look like a moron. You’re obnoxious. Tuck in your shirt. Straighten your jeans. Your hips are sticking out too much. Shut up!

Katie. Katie. Katie. You can’t stop thinking about her. The way she laughs. Almost like a man laugh. An older laugh. Her face, too. Fuck. Where have you seen that face before? Helen Hunt? No. You don’t know. Whatever.

Knock, knock.

Don’t answer. The door’s locked. You crane your neck, untuck your shirt, and check your teeth. No yellows. No browns. Nothing. Gargle. Spit. Gargle. Spit. Tuck in your shirt.

Knock, knock.

“I’m comin’, Christ.”

Untuck your shirt. Mint? No. Gum? Yes. You chew viciously, the mint piercing your gums. It’s a weird feeling. Cleanliness leads to manliness. Chew. Chew. Chew.

More Michael Jackson. Strange looks from strangers. What does she want? What does she need? What does she think about? Speculate. Don’t speculate. Drink. Don’t eat. Actually, never eat again.


Too loud. “Speed Demon”. Someone wants you to dance. A friend of a friend. You don’t want to dance. Your hands. Chew. Chew. Chew. You hold on to the table. Punch. Chips. Cookies. A Stephen King book you pulled out earlier from a bookshelf.

What does she want? You’ll never find out. You’ll never know. She’ll never care.

“There’s a cab outside,” someone says in the corner.

It’s the loneliest ride of your life. Your hands stretch in the breeze.

Still Ill

by Sasha Geffen

The first thing is the headache, like too much blood has been dammed into your skull, like all your saliva has slithered up into your brain and there’s none left to wet your mouth. There’s a sense of not wanting to eat, and a pain if you do. Then there’s a feeling like you’re in a body that’s not yours, or really that your mind is not “yours”, which you’ve only felt twice before when you were outrageously high. Your lips and tongue feel too big but your doctor says she’s never heard of that before.

It gets better when you call her from your couch where you’re practically dripping into the naugahyde. She can tell from your voice that you’re not really “okay”, says that you can cut down to half a pill for the next week. In the morning you slice it down the groove in the middle with a little X-Acto blade and it helps. It settles in. You start sleeping again.

Before anything else you notice your senses getting sharper–you can smell more, music sounds better. You derive more pleasure from music than you had since high school. You hear new details in songs.

You’re not sure but you think people perceive you as friendlier, and you perceive yourself as less terrified around people.

The more you take the more your blood feels light and creamy, and for the first few days on a pill and a half it’s like a high, like Adderall with no comedown. It doesn’t last but you think where you plateau is better than where you started out. How would you tell?

When you go back to the doctor she calls you “exquisitely sensitive” to the side effects and then you say things that make her tell you to take more. Two pills per day, the lower limit of the therapeutic range. You say you’ll try. Maybe there’s another high down the road, a constant one. Maybe most people walk around all day like they’re on just a little bit of Adderall.

You swallow two little, blue ovals in the morning and your face tightens up with blood again. You feel jittery and talkative, while the winter feels less cold. Your roommate gets into a well-funded graduate writing program in a different city. You’ve never applied to graduate school. You haven’t even taken the GRE. You want to feel sad but you can’t get at the sad part with all your light, creamy blood in the way.

You no longer have any trouble sleeping but your dreams are deep and vivid, and most of them involve your friends committing suicide, being assaulted, or developing blood cancer.

Sometimes you agree that you have an illness, that no matter what there would always have been a little part of your brain that was different from most people’s brains. If you hadn’t had an illness for the past 12 years you would have done more things already. Then you think if you had done things in the first place you wouldn’t have what other people have been calling an illness. You would walk around every day like you were on just a little bit of Adderall.

A 20-year-old student is found dead in a dorm room at the college you graduated from two and a half years ago. Nobody knew he was dead until they smelled his body decomposing from the hallway. He had not been seen for more than a week. You go back to taking just one and a half pills in the morning, and it’s like someone cut the elastic that had been squeezing your brain shut.

For hours you read the blog posts of a mother whose first daughter died of cancer at age 12. Finally, you come to this: The only thing that will ease your suffering is the thought that nothing will ease your suffering. The only trick is to be calm.

Hand in Glove

by Roy Ivy

Brian threw two empty condom wrappers in my face and said, “You should know to clean up after yourself better, you pig.” I expected a punch. I deserved a punch. If the roles were reversed, I would have cracked his skull with that big ashtray he loved so much. But he’d obviously rehearsed this fey confrontation, so I let the baby have his bottle.

That baby, apparently, had used his emergency key to his girlfriend’s apartment while she was at work, and dug pretty deep through the bathroom trash when he did. It wasn’t a drunken fling. It was a volcano that got tired of sitting around. Me and Frankie J. McCoy thought we were being sly, but every city, at its core, is just small town Texas in disguise.

And though we never said it aloud, but we both knew we wanted to get caught.

Of course Brian quit the band. I was happy about that. He was Mick Ronson to my Jonathan Richman, and that only sounds cool on paper. I wanted him gone for months. Too bad I had to sleep with his girlfriend to make that happen.

The next day, my girlfriend Maddie returned to Dallas from New York for Christmas. I chickened out on calling her the night before. I chickened out on telling her that night. Frankie understood. Me and Maddie had been through 9/11 together, and her father was a powerful lobbyist who could have me killed. And I had a show that night with my other less Fleetwood Macish band, the Polyphonic Spree. The show was electric but the audience was agonizing. Two girls who loved me, twenty people who knew I was a sham, and all eyes on me.

I told her Maddie the next night. That’s how big of a coward I was, and the rotten Alexis (her real name, because she’s garbage) was all set to rat on me if I didn’t fess up. I’ll make this quick. I tell her the truth. She breaks a mirror over my head, scratches my face from eyeball to lip, and beats me with a broom. I just take it, cause I deserve it. Then she snatches all of our sex toys (woe to the poor sod who has my old cock ring now), drives to my band’s rehearsal space, and smashes my 12-string into tinder.

I was caked in blood, and one layer short of a permanent scar. And for the first time in my life, I levitated. Down the street where everyone in every house knew who I was, straight to Frankie’s door.

It’s immature in retrospect, but it’s fun to be in love with someone you shouldn’t. Especially when nobody wants you together. And it’s fun to get your ass kicked sometimes, especially by a pint-sized future Suicide Girl (probably my fault). I can’t find a better word than passion for it all.

And when we showed our face in public, together for the very first time, we threw it in their faces. Frankie wore a scarlet A that she knitted into a sweater. I wore my bloody scratch with pride, and got off on the way it made people recoil. We parted the room when we walked in, like a garbageman’s vision of a royal dance gauntlet. And when we started feeling nervous about it…about the bridges burned, the feeling smattered, and the Texas justice court of opinion, that song played over the bar speakers. And everything depended on how near she stood to me. And we let the people stare. And everyone could tell that we didn’t care.

[This relationship ended bitterly, two years later, because when two cheaters get together, one of ’em winds up throwing himself out of a moving car. During a Joni Mitchell song, of all things.]

What Difference Does It Make

by Katherine Flynn

It’s spring semester of freshman year of college, and lying on the scratchy, industrial-brown carpet on your dorm room floor and listening to The Smiths on your laptop while staring up at the whitewashed ceiling is the cool thing to do. Its coolness factor is possibly on par with that of drinking cheap beer and smoking cigarettes outside in the Wisconsin cold in the dead of winter and laughing hysterically in unison with a guy in a knit hat, but the floor/Smiths combo is more appealing to you, personally, because you can do it alone. You know it’s a cool thing to do because a book written by a music journalist that you read in the time between classes told you so, and you very much want to be cool. This is not a thing you would admit to anyone (putting it into words would, of course, have the opposite effect,) but when you’re down there on the ground, you feel imperturbable. You lie there running your fingers over the carpet nubs and wonder when – and if – your roommate is coming back. (It would be nice if she didn’t.) The floor is a place where you don’t have to think about your boyfriend if you don’t want to, the one back in Michigan who’s probably sent you five text messages in the time it’s taken you to give in to gravity and take what yogis call “corpse pose,” shoulders loose, breath shallow, limbs lying flush with the floor. You might feel lightheaded when you sit back up, as though everything concrete is rushing back to you all at once as the blood drains from your head, but you know from experience that it only lasts a second – then it’s gone.

I Don’t Owe You Anything

by Megan Stielstra

It took me a while to understand that “Can I buy you a drink?” doesn’t actually mean “Can I buy you a drink,” but rather, “Can I buy permission to sit with you while you drink that drink during which time a romantic and/or sexual interest might spark at which point I’ll offer to buy more drinks until I get one of the following depending on where we both are intellectually, emotionally, and developmentally at this particular moment in time: 1) a phone number so I can contact you for dinner and conversation ‘cause I think you’re really interesting and who knows where this might go? 2) consensual sexy time in the women’s bathroom, sweaty and sticky and thrilling because sometimes both parties want that with every fiber of their being but please note that the operative word in that sentence is consensual so ask, motherfucker and 3) after you say no thanks to another drink and no thanks to a ride home and “I don’t think so” when he asks for your number because naive as you are at 21, you’re still smart enough not to give your contact information to a guy who knocks back three whiskies to your every one vodka tonic, to a guy already slurring his words, to a guy who says, “Oh, come on, honey,” like you owe him something, so what you do is this: put a $20 down on the bar, get your coat, and leave.

Late as it is, walking out of the dim-dark bar onto Addison Avenue is like flipping a lightswitch: bars and people and laughing and tipsy and music and life. It’s January in Chicago and you can see your breath as you walk, a few blocks down that main drag and then a few blocks down the sidestreet where you parked your car.

Fifteen years later and you still don’t park on sidestreets.

Snap your fingers—that’s how fast a city street goes silent. The lights and noise of Addison are gone now; in their place are rows of residential three-flats with darkened windows. All you can hear is your own breath, your own heartbeat, your own footsteps in the snow as you hurry towards your car with its wonderful, wonderful heater and then, from a behind you: “Hey! Honey! Wait up!”

Fifteen years later and the fear is still paralyzing.

Slowly, you look over your shoulder and there he is, in the middle of the empty street. “Wait up!” he calls again, the snow crunching underneath his feet, coming closer, closer, and fuck it, you turn and run, your breath and heartbeat and footsteps racing towards your car with its wonderful, wonderful locks and behind you he’s yelling, “I said wait up!” and “Why the fuck are you running?” and “I’m not going to fucking rape you!”

Can I buy you a drink?

I’m not going to fucking rape you.

You’re at your car, in your car, locked in your car and then he’s there, too, rattling the door handle, fists pounding the window, but you’re already driving away, and now, 15 years later, you never walk to your car without your keys in your hand, and now, 15 years later, you’re still overwhelmed with gratitude that you were spared what so many women are not and now, 15 years later, when someone asks if they can buy you a drink, your first thought isn’t “No thanks, I’m married,” or “No thanks, I can buy my own,” or “No thanks, although I’m sure you’re very nice, nothing at all like that guy from that night who’s lived for so long uninvited in my memory;” no, your first thought is this:

What will I owe you?

Suffer Little Children

by Kathie Bergquist

One evening when I was in fourth grade, two of my sister Laura’s friends, Lori and Pam, showed up at our door. This was unusual because we no longer lived in the old neighborhood where they were only blocks away. This was the year of our suburban experiment. The reason Lori and Pam showed up is because they had run away, and were looking for a place to crash. They were 14, and to me it was all very exciting.

For my mom, it was no dice. She called the police and reported them. “Why did you do that?” they asked her. But what did they think she would do?


“What do you look like? Are you cute? You sound cute.”

When I was 14 I lied about my age and got a job selling magazine subscriptions by telephone. It wasn’t such a bad job when you were 14.

People hung up on you, but sometimes things went off script and got interesting, like this guy who was flirting with me.

“What are you doing later? My friends are having a party.”

I gave him my phone number.


Back then, in the 80s, I walked around a lot, listening to the radio on my Walkman, and smoking cigarettes. My friends and I hung out at the park and at the youth center at the church and I made out with boys in dark rooms or along ravines. We drank sloe gin and blackberry brandy and went to keg parties under the bridges of the Mississippi river. I crunched through the snowlistening to the Live Aid song, “Feed the World,” and felt this welling up inside. The aching potential of everything!


One of the runaways, Lori, was found naked, raped, murdered, mutilated on a railroad track in St. Paul.


The guys having a party were coming in their car to pick me up. I’d put on a soft, angora-like sweater and was sucking a butter rum lifesaver so my breath would smell faintly of rum. I was a girl who was ready for fun. Waiting, I flitted around.

Where was everyone else? I don’t know. My mom was probably at work; my older sisters, out with their boyfriends; my brother in his bedroom. My little sister? That draws a blank. She was only six, so clearly someone was being responsible for her.

I put on make-up. And cologne: Love’s Musky Jasmine. There was a tickling feeling under my skin and I rubbed my hands up and down my sleeves. It was 9:00. It was 9:15.

My rabbit heart jittered in its cage.