. . . . In high school Jeff had called me by that nickname, the smoking goddess. In elementary his hair had been long and silky, not hanging ragged like now, not slick and unkempt all the way down to his shoulders. But in high school a military bristle. Smoking goddess. Sometimes in my calc class nowadays, I thought back to trig. Jeff had walked in a week after the beginning of the school year. His first day there, he sat behind me and began to torture me. He “loved” me, and it was high school love, the truest love, maybe. He would mock me in the halls saying “Stuck up rich bitch,” or “Fuck you, Prada princess.” I made my lame comebacks: “dipshit,” “spaz,” or “druggee.” In the tiring, humid afternoons of trig, as the teacher’s lecture bounced of the chalkboard and painted cinderblock, I had never been able to turn to the window without finding Jeff imploring me, in one way or another. His cat whimpered quietly for further attention, and its whimpers receded behind me. His papers were always As when I passed them back. “I know where I’m going in life. I want something you can use. Go waste your daddy’s money on that liberal arts shit.” The work program. The car was bright orange except for a fender he said was “primer gray.” After third period, he peeled out and the tires gave a raptor-like screech that you could have heard in Pflugerville. The type of car was Dart, Trans Am, or Nova; he talked about many makes and which one it was got lost to me. I knew it by the black spray paint on the dented hood, which read “PEELMOBILE.” It had clean leather insides, new-looking dials, but the leather of the steering wheel seemed to have shallow cuts covering it; he asked me to drive it but I never would. We went away during lunch. We did it seven times in the plush backseat of that Dart, Trans Am, or Nova. His hair was like being brushed by a pineapple on the naked skin of my chest, which had been even softer then, a baby’s. Jeff was bigger. Bigger than my boyfriend. It hurt as he pushed it in, which it never had before. I thought it would be unbearable to go on with him but most of the pain eased quickly leaving the sweet, surgically precise pinch of his teeth, and then just felt good. It was more about the smell of the leather and the boystink of his skin and hair. He would drop me at the same corner store, then drive back to his friends alone so no one would know. I would walk back to school and pass him where he leaned on a wall. I asked him for a cigarette. Like nothing had happened. “Sure, my smoking goddess,” he would say. I did not know it was a ritual at the time. He never told anyone, did not care if people would praise him. He never understood conquest, nor the desperation that human beings are supposed to feel for being plucked as separate notes, obliterated by the deafening wind that is this world, these bodies. . . .