Lullabies for Little Criminals

I went to sit on the front steps. I brought down the whole pitcher of orange juice and drank straight out of it in the manner I believed to be that of a big shot.


Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer to you.


There were a lot of things that I had done that I felt funny about. I had let someone give me a homemade tattoo of a tiny moon on my knee with a bottle of India ink and a needle. I’d screamed my head off, but I’d let them do it. I had worn an undershirt in summer, thinking it was a regular t-shirt. I had laid down on a mattress that had been put in the trash and contemplated the clouds. I had drawn a face on an eraser and had named him Marc and had carried him around. I had fed the stray cat that everybody said had rabies. I’d been bitten by dogs twice. I had collected beer bottles in the park and had harrassed the corner store owners to cash them in. These were the kinds of things that you did when you didn’t have a mother. Once my friends mother had taken us both to the swimming pool. She was wearing a bikini and let us roll the flab on her belly like it was bread dough. I’d never felt anything like that. I wanted desperately to have my own mother whose belly I could poke whenever I pleased.


One time I’d been out by the river getting high with Zoe and her sister. On the bus ride home, I’d turned to a guy sitting next to me and said, “Somewhere there is a sparrow singing in B minor”. I swear to God, pot made me a genius.


I knew that the trick to save yourself from this type of situation was to act totally crazy; to act fearless, like you would try to poke one of their eyes out with a library card if they came any closer.

-Heather O’Neill


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