She used to smoke cigarettes here, in high school, right after swim practice.
At her parents’ house, she kept her smokes in the back of her underwear drawer in a double Ziploc bag. The older kids told her cigarettes got stale, and since it took her a month to go through a pack, she did her best to keep the tobacco fresh—although she never noticed if they were fresh or stale; it was all the same to her, as inexperienced as she was.
After swim practice, she and Katie met at the corner of their suburban neighborhood. They snuck down the street toward the magical wall of green. They slipped past the gate, plastered with black and orange “No Trespassing” signs. Then, it took some work to get back to “The Hole,” what with all the vine overgrowth and thorns.
That’s what they called it, The Hole: a big old pond in the middle of a rich, suburb, hidden on all sides by trees, thorns, and barbed wire. It smelled like wet moss, and when it rained, there was a pile of old highway concrete where they hid. They crept back there to smoke when school was too rough, parents too annoying, or even the time they thought they were Wiccan for a second and tried working spells. The Hole was their haven, shared only with older kids and their alcohol and weed. Parents didn’t know about The Hole—would have ruined the allure.
Now, the girl is thirty, and she returns home to the news that The Hole is gone. Some contractor is trying to turn it into houses, but his plan isn’t going well. Of course not. Doesn’t he know the ground is saturated with the memories and broken hearts of hundreds of busted up kids? She stands on the edge. The trees are sheered, cut back to meager remembrances. The pond is drained. Papers she burned with the names of ex-boyfriends? Gone. Tears shed for her grandmother’s death? Dried up. Just like the pond. Just like The Hole.
She wonders where kids of the new generation go for escape. She hopes they’ve found an equivalent. She hopes they still sneak out to smoke cigarettes, no matter what the Surgeon General says. She hopes they still seek solace. Somewhere. Otherwise, she thinks, being a teenager would be too damn hard.