A story about Nelle, Tennyson, Pepper and Nix, four teens living in a dystopian world where every citizen wears a Tally--a device that tracks health, earnings, and even future intentions.
The look on Nelle’s face as she runs the warm-up mile in Phys Ed tells me she’s already forgotten about statistics that say I should have never been born. She is sharp and focused and for once, I see the benefits of being oblivious to emotions like she is, because I can’t stop playing my kiss with Nix over and over again in my head. This is some kind of sick punishment that should be used by counter-terrorist agents to interrogate people. Make images appear in their head over and over and over again until they crack.
I finish the mile just behind Nelle and start stretching. I’m supposed to be breathing in five seconds and out five seconds as I hold each stretch, but I can’t stop seeing the look on Nix’s face when I told him to eff off—(I wish I had just said eff instead of the real thing, but it doesn’t quite have the same effect)—it was like somebody made gravity stronger, his shoulders slumped, his eyebrows fell, his mouth hung open. He even looked shorter in that moment. Condensed into a box that he was never meant to fit inside of.
I look at the other girls around me in their black jerseys—white numbers branded on their backs—and I look down at my Tally. Five hundred calories eaten today. Two hundred words spoken. One mile ran, two miles walked. It is 12:46 PM. Ninety three degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve earned one hundred and thirty five Points today.
I hear Nix’s voice in my head, “Does it bother you?” he asked, looking at my Tally with a frown, like the way a doctor looks at a patient with a tumor the size of a watermelon after he asks them “Why did you wait so long to come in?” and I am furious with my brain for not letting go of this boy. Just let me exist in peace, let me get on with homework and high school boys and games of volleyball so intense that I feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins for hours afterward, a high so wonderful it feels like the only way to live.
I know where this train of thought is leading me and I try to stop it. Like when you hear a strange noise from your parents’ bedroom and you do anything to not imagine what’s going on in there, but an image still makes its way into your mind, completely uninvited and unwanted and you can’t stop it—because I felt that sweet high yesterday when a hilarious, frustrating, hot Mexican guy kissed me, kissed me, kissed me and I ruined it by telling him to eff off and I wish that this were the end of the story, but it feels more like the beginning of a tragedy.