(by B.)

I am eighteen years old and I worry about the world around me. I have no choice; my generation is dying and no one is moving fast enough to stop it.

I am eighteen years old and do not remember being young. Other generations can be nostalgic for their first dance, first date, first kiss. My generation will not have the luxury of nostalgia; it is hard look back with fondness at that special first dance when we had to go through metal detectors to get there. My generation will not be able to remember; not all of us will live long enough to remember. We're dying, on the street, in the schools, in cars, at home. Too many of us are dead already, forgotten. They never had a chance to truly live. Some don't even have the audacity to dream of life beyond the age of twenty-one, for they know it will be a miracle if they actually get there.

I am eighteen years old; I remind myself of this constantly because it is not what I expected it to be, nor did I really expect to get here.

I am eighteen years old and a senior in high school. I try my best to look at the pictures of babies of my friends and not cringe for the lost youth that holds the picture. I have just applied to college and try my damnedest not to remember those who didn't live long enough to even apply.

I am eighteen years old. I was born in the heartland of two married, normal parents.

I am eighteen years old; my name does not matter nor does my face. I dress like everyone else, look like everyone else, live like everyone else. I am the average American teenager. This should scare you.

I am eighteen years old and a self-nominated spokesperson for America's dying children.

I am eighteen years old; my friends drive too fast and drink too much. I laugh at the accidents, the crashing into things but in my heart, I cry I look around mv class; on a Monday morning and see the dark shades of a hangover.

I am eighteen years old, part of my school's intellectual elite. I take the tough classes, study on weekends, "do my best." I come to school not to learn but to leave, leave my house, leave this town, get the hell out of here. I have the right scores, the right numbers, the right activities. I am a shining example of the potential of America's youth, a point of light.

I am eighteen years old and a teacher's pet for classes I came to only part of the time. I'm a good kid; I've never brought a gun to school, never threatened a teacher, never worn a hat in class. I always wear my school ID badge above the waist and never get caught when I don't.

I am eighteen years old and carry Mace in my purse. No one asks why any more.

I am eighteen years old and lucky to be alive. I try not to think on that fact too much because those that do die.

I am eighteen years old and do not cry. I cannot cry for the dead for I envy them their peace; I cannot cry for the living because I do not have enough time to cry all the tears.

I am eighteen years old and do not smoke.

I am eighteen years old; I'm not a statistic.

I am eighteen years old. I can vote now but do not care who runs the country. I may not live long enough to see my future.

I am eighteen years old; I have a mother, father, brother, step- father, step-mother, step-brother, half brother, and a cat. Keeping track of the names is a hobby of mine.

I am eighteen years old; every day I try to convince myself that this is not my life. I cannot imagine what I would do if I believed the truth, that this life is actually my own.

I am eighteen years old and cynical. I have reasons to be.

I am eighteen years old and believe in God. Who else can save us from ourselves? Definitely not Newtie.

I am eighteen years old and have moved again. Every time I call "home," I ask if anyone else is dead or pregnant.

I am eighteen years old and not a mother yet. Congratulate me.

I am eighteen years old and HIV negative. I know this because I spent the two weeks of waiting in a masochist's dream world, limbo. I thank God that I am negative because I don't know how I'd tell my mother if I wasn't.

I am eighteen years old; I read Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Victoria Holt.

I am eighteen years old and have gone from being poor white trash living in a camper in a trailer park to middle class nothingness living in a four bedroom, two bath house. I miss being poor white trash. At least then I had an identity.

I am eighteen years old and now live in the ideal American town. This is where sit-coms come from.

I am eighteen years old and do not belong here.

I am eighteen years old; I like to go shopping with my friends and go to the movies.

I am eighteen years old and still duck when I hear a loud bang.

I am eighteen years old; my friends are junkies, dealers, honors students all. I miss them.

I am eighteen years old and am losing my family. My cousins are lost, to guns, to drugs, to the streets of LA.

I am eighteen years old and my mother found my spermacide in my sock drawer. I still want to know why she was in my sock drawer in the first place.

I am eighteen years old, the typical American teen. I like pizza and French fries and the mall.

I am eighteen years old and have moved more times than I have fingers to count on.

I am eighteen years old and not afraid to die.

I am eighteen years old and I worry you. I should; I worry me too.

I am eighteen years old; I could be your child, your neighbor, your friend. It doesn't really matter who I am; the true thing that matters is that I am alive. It doesn't really matter if you like who I am or not; I exist whether you like me or not.

I am eighteen years old; all I want to do is stay alive, graduate high school, and go to college.

I am eighteen years old, I want to see tomorrow but am scared of what it might bring.

I am eighteen years old and I don't know what to do; I never planned this far ahead.

I am eighteen years old; I am the future. Someday, the people like me will have to run the country, the world. I think that I will move to Switzerland.

I am eighteen years old and I am everyone. I hope you hear our cry.

by B., 1996

(by Sandra)

I am twenty-two years old and I worry about my microwave. I think it is slowly cooking me.

I am twenty-two years old and I do not remember being young. I was small and stunted and people picked on me because I wore two left shoes. I remember regressing my memories of THEIR MOCKING LAUGHTER. Oh it all comes flooding back to me now. So I guess I do remember after all.

I am twenty-two years old, I remind myself of this constantly, because I am now twice as old as I used to be and also because my birthday was last month and I keep saying I’m twenty-one.

I am twenty-two years old and have two stars on my badge at MacDonalds. I try to look my best when friends show up with their babies and cringe when they spew barbecue sauce all over the table. Why can’t they put them in the high chair? Those things have a special detachable baby puke table, with a rim and a spout to pour the effluent away.

I am twenty-two years old. I was born on the back seat of a station wagon whilst my mom and dad raced to the hospital. He was pissed because mum had told the ringmaster that I was his because he had more money. Dad beat the shit out of them both when he got to the hospital. Later I was born and dad took me back home whilst they wired mom’s jaw.

I am twenty-two years old; my name is Sandy and so is my face. I dress like everyone else, look like everyone else, live like everyone else. I have average genitalia. That is, one breast and one testicle. I fold my toilet paper. This should scare you.

I am twenty-two years old and a self-nominated spokesperson for the black Franco-American lesbian amputees with testicular cancer. I will not let their plight be forgotten!

I am twenty-two years old, my friends drink too fast and drive too much. I laugh at the accidents, the tangled orgy of raw flesh and hot metal, offset by the anodyne poetry of their agonized screams. On a Monday morning I try to persuade drunks to immolate themselves in return for five bucks.

I am twenty-two years old, part of my chess and electronics club’s intellectual elite. Currently we’re looking for more members as we have an odd number of people which makes chess difficult and our electronics project requires three people. Thursdays at 9 in my trailer.

I am twenty-two years old and a teacher’s pet for classes that I really should be cleaning the school during, but like to work with paint, and clay and also on Monday we’re going to bake cookies for mommy. Teacher told me to take my hat off but the scar made my classmates cry so I’m allowed to wear it now. She hasn’t seen the gun yet. I’m saving that for show and tell, as soon as I can get some bullets!

I am twenty-two years old and carry a purse. No one asks why. I wish they would. I keep Horace in there. Horace was a frog, but he turned into a skeleton.

I am twenty-two years old and lucky to be alive. I try not to think about that too much because daddy said that it tried to choke me because I was bad and if I told people about it they would see I was bad and make me eat barbed wire which is much worse.

I am twenty-two years old and I am lucky to be alive. If they’d caught me shoplifting then they would have sent me away for a course of raping and a rehabilitation of forced drugs assassination. By extraordinary chance I never shoplifted but the urge was there.

I am twenty-two years old and do not cry. I cannot cry for the dead because I envy them their peace. They have it all so easy, I hate them. When you’re dead you don’t have to worry about you’re Breasticle.

I am twenty-two years old and take crack by suppository.

I am twenty-two years old; as are 0.1% percent of the world but half of those are lying.

I am twenty-two years old. I can’t vote anymore. They revoked my right to vote after what I said in my speech at last years West Town Society for the Idolising of Jesus annual meet.

I am twenty-two years old; I have a mother, two fathers, a surrogate half cousin, an uncle/brother and a pet chihuahua / pitbull cross named terry. Remembering the names is a hobby of mine. Also weighing cats.

I am twenty-two years old; everyday I try to convince myself that this is not my life, often with the help of hallucinogenics, I often succeed and spend the day helping Biscuitman clean up Captain Porkchop’s ejaculate from the power tools in Uncle Bob’s Quality Meats and Wildlife Preservation Syndicate.

I am twenty-two years old and cylindrical. I have my reasons. Stop judging me!!!

I am twenty-two years old and believe in Saint Jesus the Recondite and Unaccountable, and the Telestic Church of Involuntary Expirational Transcendance. I shall be saved, as per the teachings in the Tome Of His Lore, He The Amazing And Notoriously Fickle And With A Penchant For Burning Stuff, Particularly Stuff That Wriggles.

I am twenty-two years old and have moved again. I am the unluckiest human being alive. The world hates me. Everyone I know is dead, or, worse, pregnant.

I am twenty-two years old and dressed myself today. Congratulate me. Then help me get this bra untangled, I’m losing consciousness.

I am twenty-two years old and I have contracted anorexia. This really thin girl vomited on my food. I didn’t know, it was my mom’s carrot porridge. I’ve got the disease now. I feel lighter already. I threw up the porridge. It’s starting.

I am twenty-two years old; I read Byron, Sun-Tzu and Adolf Hitler.

I am twenty-two years old and have gone from being a spoilt brat, mollycoddled by a nanny state, to being a moody pervert, repressed and evangelical, a product of astounding luxury under the illusion of poverty, a child of television, a selfish fool who’ll trample nature in my search for spiritual well-being and social acceptance in VHS and glossy magazine format. I miss childhood. At least then I needn’t accept any responsibility for myself.

I am twenty-two years old and now try to live a lifestyle that is a parody of itself, based on sitcoms and sensationalism, yet lacking the actual day-to-day predicaments that only a good writing team can produce. Life fails to deliver what television promised. I am bored. This is what the next generation of sitcoms will be based on.

I am twenty-two years old and am unable to let go of the desire to belong. I must be a part of something, for surely life is given meaning by following the tracks laid before me? How else can I judge my ineptitude?

I am twenty-two years old; I am addicted to the acquisition of trinkets. I ease my guilt with escapism.

I am twenty-two years old and still bang when I hear a loud duck.

I am twenty-two years old; my friends are crack-whores, bishops and Anna Lingus, the porn star. Actually I only have one friend. I miss her. She’d do anything.

I am twenty-two years old and am losing my family. My brothers are lost, to guns, to traps and Mr Macgregor killed my cousin Benjamin.

I am twenty-two years old and my mother found my bottle of Vaseline, asian love beads and copy of Boys! under my pillow, even though I bought her her own copy and taped my pillow to the ceiling.

I am twenty-two years old, the typical American teen. I like pizza and French fries and the mall.

I am twenty-two years old and have moved more times than I have teeth missing. But mom always lets me come back after an hour or two.

I am twenty-two years old and glibly bandy around talk of my death to shock the uninterested and impress the irrelevant.

I am twenty-two years old, I worry you. I should. I stand outside your window at night wearing the thong I weaved from leaves that I pulled from your reed plant in the front.

I am twenty-two years old; I could be your brother, your daughter, your pet seaweed, your comma delimited list entry. Sometimes I think that my weewee is shrinking.

I am twenty-two years old; all I want to do is stay alive, finish my babysitting course and be blown by a midget whilst baby kittens suckle my nipples.

I am twenty-two years old, I want to see tomorrow but am scared in case I wake up in the Congo with oversized pants and no belt and have to trek through the buttock-leech infested swamps with my hands in my pockets only to meet armed members of the militant wave-with-both-hands-or-we-take-your-thumbs heroine tribe.

I am twenty-two years old and I don’t know what to do. I think I’ll write something dramatic in bold.

I am twenty-two years old. I am become death, destroyer of worlds, My Angst Ate my Suffering in a Void of Meaningless Existential Nihilistic Self-Oppression.

I am twenty-two years old and I am omnidirectional. Do you really think you’re smarter? I do, but I know I’m right.

Retina, 2004

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