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FILM / Drew Barrymore Was Everything, and Then She Was Stabbed Three Times and Hanged from a Tree / Erica Hoffmeister

Image courtesy Dimension Films

Image courtesy Dimension Films

It is twelve minutes long: the opening scene in Scream. One minute for every year I’d lived before I was proverbially gutted, eviscerated, hanged by puberty—left to bleed to death in my 12x12 foot bathroom, the one on Ronald Street with the laminate, light blue 1950s bathtub, with the always-ripped-down shower curtain because I had brothers, so many damn brothers, that were always ripping everything apart.

And I was fourteen when my best friend and I drew thick, black lines over our eyelids, caking them in oblong circle-shapes that made us look like drawn cartoons, like prostitutes I heard someone whisper, so we pushed the few coins we found between couch cushions across the garage blackjack table and pulled fishnets over our legs too—muscular, yet thin from a diet of top ramen packages and little frozen pizzas, not because we were poor (we were poor), but because we were hungry. We were hungry for everything and we were bored and it was summer, after all. It was hotter than the devil’s crotch sweat whatever that meant, and so we walked to Circle-K and bought slushies with our change, when we paid for everything with change, a gallon of gas: .96 cents, a pack of those mints that dissolved in our mouths so we could talk really close, tell secrets when our gel pens ran out of ink, before text messaging, when that concept made as much sense as carrier pigeon. We had T-9 calculators—technology was booming, and we were living. So, we slurped our suicide-flavored slushies, a squirt of every flavor even the melted ones, poured Big Red and Surge into the bottom of our cardboard cups because we were good girls, and sugar highs were all we knew; sugar highs and adrenaline, as we walked to the video store ourselves, feeling the cool air conditioning burst onto peach fuzz skin, in places we didn’t shave, pretended to shave, said we shaved, gave us goosebumps in secret places, but we were older, now so we walked right up to the Rated-R section, the scary movie section, because it was summer and we rarely slept alone, without each other, and we were older, and the slushies would help us last all night for a double feature, something to scream about and wake up my mom, to grab my best friend’s arm tight, hide between her swimmers’ shoulders, pretend we were brave, pretend we were scared, pretend we knew anything at all.

There was a time when that was all we had: a big, plastic rectangle with a fragile strip of film, a handful of change, a missed phone call if we were lucky. I repeated my phone number to the clerk: 765-2151 no area code, no ID. We wore eyeliner, after all. And when we got home, the sun set behind those ever-brown hills, the heat still dripping in big swaths between our thighs, so we took off the stupid fishnets and held them in our hands like nylon balls, with tight-gripped fists before we’d need to use them, and we covered ourselves in the long night. When time that felt like a curtain that we could just open and close, big and velvet and heavy and finite. Tangible. Like the big, white portable phone that rang when we walked in my house, is that for me? I asked, but it wasn’t, of course it wasn’t, so we dumped the plastic bag of candies and VHS tapes on my twin bed we both fit on and popped it into the TV/VCR combo that I thought was so cool, the one I’d constantly be taking to Gary’s TV when my flathead screwdriver wouldn’t repair an issue, when things were mechanical and real, when we broke things with our hands, fixed things with our hands. Square thoughts like puzzles in a simple, hard world that made sense because we could touch things, destroy things, break things, mend things, when nothing, and everything was permanent.

Are you ready? The phone rang, not mine, but a mimic white portable phone on the tiny warped TV screen. It rang, and Drew answered and we knew what was coming. Or, we pretended to. We sat on edge, with my folding chair propped under the doorknob so my brothers couldn’t barge in, watched the scene unfold—we wondered if we’d grow breasts that big in the next year or so, if three or four years could really pass that quickly, if that’s how things worked—how we were so naïve to assume it would always stay the same, that things would ever change. And we watched and we tightened our jaws and faked squeals and we knew what was coming, or at least we pretended to. First, it was the burnt popcorn. The gutted boyfriend in the letterman’s jacket. And then, it was the broken glass, the high-pitched scream. We rubbed our eyes in disbelief, blackened our hands, smeared our faces, gasped long, hollow breaths every time that damn phone rang and rang and she just kept fucking answering it. With every small death, came a larger one, and we knew, as she held that phone tight and her parents answered honey? that all bets were off.

She was stabbed three times and hanged from a tree.

Eventually, we turned it off. Fell in love with the killer. Wrapped our bodies close to one another and pretended not to know what was coming.

Erica Hoffmeister grew up in Southern California and is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild, 2019). She holds an MFA from Chapman University, and teaches college English as she writes in a variety of genres, from poetry to young adult fiction, with several works of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction published in various online and print journals. For now, she resides in Denver with her husband and two young daughters while she perpetually misses home –wherever that feels like at the time.