The rest of the year, I wondered if the point of Christmas was just spending money and getting fat and opening gifts. Indulging. But when Christmas finally comes, and that warm, tingly, mints-and-sweaters-and-fireplace-fires feeling gathers in the bottom of your stomach, and you're lying on the floor with all the lights off but the ones on the Christmas tree, and listening to the silence of the snow falling outside, you see the point. For that one instance in time, everything is good in the world. It doesn't matter if everything isn't actually good. It's the one time of the year when pretending is enough.
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My parents didn't grow up here or anything. They chose to live in this nowhere town. Why? Because it was named after Hannibal of Carthage. Their basic train of thought was this: Hannibal's Rest? And we're naming our child after Alexander the Great? MARVELOUS. Ah, the history, it tickles. Sometimes I wanted to beat my parents over the head with a frying pan.
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Lobsters fascinated me. Everything from their name to their claws to their magnificent red had me hooked. My hair was that read, the kind of read that looks okay on everything but people, because a person's hair is not supposed to be red. Orange, yes. Auburn, sure. But not lobster red. I took my pigtails, pressed them against the glass, and stared the nearest lobster straight in the eye. Dad said my hair was lobster red. My mother said it was Communist red. I didn't know what a Communist was, but it didn't sound good. Even pressing my hair flat against the glass, I couldn't tell if my dad was right. Part of me didn't want either of them to be right. "Let me out, " said the lobster. He always said that. I rubbed my hair against the glass like the tank was a genie's lamp and the action would stir up some magic. Maybe, somehow, I could get these lobsters out. They looked so sad, all huddled on top of one another, antennae twitching, claws rubber-banded together.
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Are you French?' I asked instead. 'Oui!' Foreign. Foreign spy. French Communist Party acted on Stalin's instructions during part of World War II. French Communist spy. Stop it stop it stop it I turned to Art, a black kid who was a foot and a half taller than me and whose pecs were about to burst of his shirt and eat someone. I gave him a two on the delusion detector. I didn't trust those pecs. 'Hi, ' he rumbled. I waved weakly.
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People say teenagers think they're immortal, and I agree with that. But I think there's a difference between thinking you're immortal and knowing you can survive. Thinking you're immortal leads to arrogance, thinking you deserve the best. Surviving means having the worst thrown at you and being able to continue on despite that. It means striving for what you want most, even when it seems our of your reach, even when everything is working against you.
Mile's fingers pressed into the small of my back. "Basorexia, " he mumbled. "Gesundheit." He laughed. "It's an overwhelming desire to kiss." "I thought you weren't good at figuring out what you felt." "I'm probably using the word in the wrong context. But I'm pretty sure that's what this is.
I was the big sister. I was supposed to set and example and lead the way so people would say, 'Hey, you're Alex's sister, aren't you? You two look exactly alike!' instead of 'Hey, you're Alex's sister, aren't you? Are you crazy, too?' The only example I was ever going to set for her was to always check her food before she ate it.
I am real. This'-he put his other hand over the first-'is real. You see me interacting with other people all day long, don't you? I talk to people; I affect things in the world. I cause things to happen. I am real.' 'But-but what if this whole place'-I had to suck in air again-'what if everything is inside my head? East Shoal and Scarlet and this bridge and you-what if you're not real because nothing is real?' 'If nothing's real, then what does it matter?' he said. 'You live here. Doesn't that make it real enough?
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