She didn't have to be here.

She stood on the platform, the west wind whipping against the hood of her sweatshirt which she sunk herself into to fight off the cold. Her clothes--the sweatshirt, leather biker jacket, jeans and black boots--were sensible even as they seemed defiant and rebellious.

Unlike the accepted girls at school in their spaghetti strap tops and lowrise jeans, who never wore coats regardless of weather. Coats looked too bulky, and were so inconvenient to store anywhere upon arrival, the center of attention. As always.

She clumped down the stairs of the anonymous townhouse, her waffled soles leaving imprints in her mother's cherished beige deep-pile carpet, after exiting her bedroom with the Minor Threat and Bad Religion posters--Bad Religion from their Epitaph days, not the major label--and black stars painted on the ceiling and worn paperbacks about Mao and Che.

She exited through the front door, past the tasteful grouping of generic art photos, all in Pottery Barn frames, and locked the door carefully behind her. Her mother's meticulously acquired and carefully arranged design elements must not be put at risk, and thus the door must be dutifully locked. Not that it mattered to her at all, but doing so made it one less thing to argue about.

If her mother truly cared about this impeccably designed space, she thought, you'd think she'd be home more often to enjoy it. The perfect fabrics, the scented votive candles, the crushed leather armchair in the reflection area. But twelve hour workdays, and weekends spent away with countless friends, apparently meant more.

She helped maintain her mother's domestic perfection, even as she carved out her incorrigably, haphazardly maintained corner of it, her bedroom. Which her mother strove to hide from her guests; failing which, its tawdriness would be simply dismissed. You know how teenagers are.

Again, unlike the girls at school with their lava lamps and kitschy screensavers and John Mayer albums. Who probably never read at all, other than perhaps Cosmo, and dutifully absorbed their own mothers' sense of style for future replication in homes of their own.

She didn't need to be here.

No, she needed to be far away, in a worn studio apartment in Uptown or Humboldt Park, fending off the advances of former Kentucky miners or married Puerto Rican men, who would stare a bit too intently and make comments which she couldn't believe they thought were promising come-ons. Instead of being offended or threatened, she would just laugh them away, striding confidently into the street, exploring this strange new world which was so diametrically opposed to the safely sterile one she had grown up in.

Evenings at hardcore shows at the Fireside, nights in dank bars which were endlessly fighting shutdown by the city. Mornings behind a coffee bar, pulling espresso for tired peers, afternoons of cigarettes and deep paperbacks and used record stores, Mao and Degrazia and pursuing that elusive copy of Raw Power on vinyl, in its original mix, as it was meant to be heard.

Not knowing what she really wanted to do with herself, but enjoying the dabbling and assuming she'd figure it all out eventually.

Unlike "home" in Tinley Park, with its Sting and Sue Grafton and politeness and Have A Nice Day and everything planned out years in advance.

As the train inched its way into the city, now stopping every few blocks like an oversized El, her mind was buried in a biography of Che Guevara. It held her absorbed, transfixed, and only in the deepest recesses of her mind were there thoughts of how her mother would never read something so meaningful. Nor, likely, would she have ever heard of Che in the first place.

She didn't need to be here. Before long, she hoped, she wouldn't be.


Copyright 2004, P.J. Anderson