Lux Lisbon’s Diary, 1971
The latest installment in Vanessa’s series of diaries from the points-of-view of literary heroines.
November 30, 2013 | Cake | December 2013
The first time she did it, I don’t think that Cecilia wanted to die.
Death wasn’t an absolute, but an escape.
I think that she was just tired of screaming and screaming and screaming into the walls of empty rooms.
Later, much later, when Mom had lumbered to bed and Dad had fallen asleep in his armchair, Cee climbed beneath my covers as though she were scaling a building with spider legs. Her haphazard collection of bangles and bracelets pressed against her skin, infused with a permanent undercurrent of ash grey, and I asked, “Where did you go?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say, a polished way of explaining my repulsed curiosity.
There had been so much blood that it almost didn’t seem real.
Cee kept her eyes closed and said, “Not far enough. I ended up back here, didn’t I?”
Her voice sounded like sandpaper scraped against ocean rocks.
I wonder who our parents were before they submitted to this suburban rat wheel of back-to-school shopping, dentist appointments, skinned knees, haircuts at the strip mall, fish on Fridays, and snarling rock records worshiped behind closed bedroom doors. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Mom as a young girl—it seems like she was born with a Bible in one hand and a crucifix in the other. Our girlhood itself is an attack on her righteous beliefs, her clean, Christian values. I sometimes think that she’s ashamed of her brood of girls. For the most part, we refuse to obey like lapdogs, so we’re all damned to hell. I’ve seen her old photos and she looks unsurprisingly plain, like a Mormon missionary bursting with the fire to “save” a few thousand souls. She should’ve been wandering around Africa, scouring the scorched earth for purified drinking water and needy village children with concave stomachs. In high school, she never cut her hair and by the end of senior year, it was a long flat rope the color of mustard seeds.
By the time she met Dad, she had promised herself to icy pride, righteousness in the form of superstition, marriage out of a holy duty to propel the human race. I think she maybe wanted to be a mother in the sense that she wanted to be a “good person,” to simply submit to what was expected of her. She did not complain because it was unchristian to complain about fulfilling her heavenly mission.
I think about what it would feel like to fall in love and I’m not entirely sold on the idea. Dad says that he loves Mom and deep down I’m glad but another part of me is disgusted because I don’t want love to ever feel like an obligation. I don’t want someone to love me because they feel like they have to, because they are too afraid of existing without another half.
I want to be a whole person.
I love rock and roll. I wish that I could go to an Aerosmith concert or a KISS concert or a Rolling Stones concert. I convinced Cee to like the Rolling Stones. I catch (caught) her singing Wild Horses the other day. Sometimes I like to sit in the window seat in our room and listen to Moonlight Mile over and over again. The best time to listen to Brown Sugar is when you’re the passenger in some boy’s fixed-up sports car and the engine is a growling slab of oiled-up iron and steel and the night turns foggy and you’re cocooned by white mist. Those are the nights that I can pretend that I’ll eventually get a taste of the world beyond town lines. In the end, the boys never matter because they all turn out to be boring copies of copies of one another and I keep wondering when they’ll just shut up.
I’ve never been to a concert. Mom says that concerts are filled with vagabonds and troublemakers and she’s certain that everyone would be out of control, half-crazy on “dirty and illegal substances.”
I can imagine Cee sitting in her favorite elm tree and studying all of us with boredom. She never cared about that party and she never cared that our Mom made an effort to wrangle us up like a choir and sing the praises of her store-bought fruit punch and Betty Crocker cookies. She took a bath that day because she felt safe in warm water and did not want to play hostess to a bunch of snot-nosed neighborhood boys, no doubt eager to get a glimpse of the victim.
I’m not mad at her. I think Bonnie is still mad at her; I tell her that you can’t be mad at someone who wasn’t acting out of selfishness but out of self-preservation.
This neighborhood is like a cold, hermetically sealed tomb. The neighbors are obsessed with the security of middle-American success, of manicured lawns and routine church schedules, sticking to the script even if it means indulging in an exercise of gaudy futility. At night, I sneak out of my bedroom and I meet this boy or that boy at some dark place that turns a blind eye to half-baked, drunken teenagers who park the car to fog up the windows. I’m kind of indifferent to sex. I used to like it and now I can only tolerate it because it’s five minutes of lulling white noise. Sometimes it’s hard to keep in my laughter because the whole thing seems downright useless. These boys are fucking someone that doesn’t exist. They think they’ve captured the real Lux. It’s a cruel joke, a remedy for mean, bottomless moods.
Trip Fontaine. Trip Fontaine. Trip Fontaine.
Say his name three times and he’ll appear, brown-skinned, wolfish grin, his charm infused with radar-like precision, your name in his lips as soft as his hands.
I knew he never really loved me but I wanted to believe that he was different.
That I was different.
That night I felt like he wanted to know Lux Lisbon, the girl, and not Lux Lisbon, the bony-bottomed sex pot with smoker’s breath.
We never told each other why. It was as though we telepathically hatched the plan and worked out the details, as though the feelings of despair and anxiety trapped themselves in our skin.
We count down the days, the minutes, peering at everyone through a veil of satisfaction.
We have a purpose, even if it will be splattered across the front pages, twisted by the disbelief of skittish parents, as though death makes the rounds like an angry, overworked tax collector. We have always been toxic; have always provided fuel for the stale gossip of ladies who lunch and the PTA members killing time before yet another lackluster meeting. They could not believe that girls who looked so normal, so carved by the simplistic ideals of god-fearing citizens, could succumb to the same types of temptation that cursed Adam and Eve.
We are the kind of girls that you fear.
Images 4 & 5 by Corinne Day. Film stills from The Virgin Suicides via Style Rookie.
Vanessa Willoughby graduated from The New School in 2011. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, xoJane.com, Thought Catalog, and KieseLaymon.com.