Molly says Meg Ryan is the gold standard. We can identify the traits of an ideal woman by watching her old movies.
“Some of these are from the eighties though,” I say. “Is this all still relevant?”
“Meg Ryan is always relevant,” Molly says.
We started with Top Gun. We just finished When Harry Met Sally. Next, we will watch The Doors. We are working chronologically, and I write our observations down in a notebook. For Top Gun, I wrote: take me to bed or lose me forever. For When Harry Met Sally, I wrote: drive across the country with a boy.
I roll over and look at Molly.
“Do you think we’re getting the important stuff?” I ask.
“Definitely,” Molly says.
Downstairs, something cracks. Molly’s dad has a new girlfriend, and her keening moves up the stairs. Something bangs against the wall. Something shudders.
Molly is lying next to me on the floor. She takes her toes and pushes them against my upper thigh. They leave white, toe-sized blotches in my skin when she takes her foot away.
“Do your underwear have bears on them?” Molly says.
I roll away from her, but she is grabbing at the band on my left hip.
“Tell me why I’m the one whose mom left, but you’re the one with underwear with little bears on them,” Molly says, and she is scissoring her bare legs at me, flashing sheer black.
Downstairs, something is breaking. Something is being thrown against the wall. Molly pauses to listen, then rolls back over to me, rolling her eyes. She rests her head on my shoulder, faces the TV, and I am jealous of her, of her dad drinking, of her mom leaving—all the ways the world makes itself felt to her, all these sensations she has experienced that I can’t understand. In eight months, her boyfriend Jason will get her pregnant, and the three of us will sit in the waiting room at Planned Parenthood. When she goes into the back, I will let Jason hug me, our chests pressing into each other each time we breath.
We start a new movie.
From The Doors, I write: be difficult and pretty and cleave yourself to an impossible love.
From Sleepless in Seattle, I write: find an old movie and tether your life choices to it.
From When A Man Loves A Woman, I write: it is possible to be blackout drunk and adorable.
Molly says, “Let’s get ready.”
We are sneaking out. We are taking her father’s truck. We are fifteen, but we learned to drive at twelve, because we are from the country. Her father will pass out, and we will take his truck and make right hand turns until we are completely lost or back where we started from. We will smoke cigarettes and play the music loud. Molly will drive fast. Sometimes, she will scare me.
Now, she is pulling dresses off hangars in her closet. I feel fabric land on top of me. After a while, I am blanketed in her clothes. She picks up a shimmery black dress that landed on my shoulder.
“Wear this one,” she says.
“Hold on,” I say. “Just a few more.”
We start a new movie.
From Courage Under Fire, I write: don’t be too different than what people want you to be.
From You’ve Got Mail, I write: see above.
“Come on,” Molly says. “I’m bored.”
I look up. She is wearing a blue dress, and she is older now. She says, “Sara, are you ready? Are you ready yet, Sara? It’s time to go.”