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This could be a brand new start.

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Somebody lets out this 800-decibel belch, and that's when Britta wakes up. The blinds are askew and there's drool on her cheek and the sun's in her face. Ugh, too bright. Bad sun, go away.

Britta flumps over on the couch, feeling her shoulderblade stick to the leather. Another night of pot and drinking, another crossfade, shit. Her head is a squeegie, when did her head become a squeegie after benders? Do kids still call them 'benders'? When did she get old?

She coughs, pushes herself over to the armrest. You know what Britta misses? She misses lapsang souchong. Drinking smoke, the best damn cure in the world. And she misses maté like a little ache in her chest, like she was thirteen and had a crush all over again. The couch smells like beer and B.O. What is this crap? When did her life turn into this? Splayed across somebody else's pleather couch - oh God, Vaughn's going-away party; was it fucking Starburns' couch, was that where she was? - her face propped on the arm now and sorta sticking to it, too, like she wasn't pushing thirty and at some $45/credit hour converted high school for the summer because she needed the GPA-boosting credits and needed them bad.

She wants a shower, needs a toothbrush, and everything feels heavy and her clothes feel stretched-out. This was - was not what she imagined for herself when she was a girl. She did not picture pushing her half-dead body with a mouth full of slime and sweat gluing her pants to her thighs off a couch in the morning. She plods in her boots to the kitchen. The whole counter is full of beer cans and vodka bottles and the only clean dish is a measuring cup. Britta pours in 1/3C of cranberry juice from the jug with a brief salute to her urethra. "Get 'er done, girl," she mumbles.

Less bleary than before, Britta takes a better look around. What a crock of crap. The place is seriously trashed, to the point where Britta is mildly impressed that people from Greendale could have even done it alone. Damn, nothing was spared. Clearly she's been running with the tame crowd, the study group. (Or a normal crowd, whatever. This mess isn't normal.)

Ugh, she feels so gross. This whole situation is so gross, and she needs to detox somehow. She can feel the sense-memory of a cup of lapsang souchong swishing around in her mouth, that's the weird part. She can feel how it was warm and clear and richer than cigarettes. The cranberry juice's just made the goopy feel all over her teeth that much worse. God, she'd fucking kill for some souchong. Her chest feels so fucking empty.

Fuck. Fuck. She needs to leave, suddenly she's got to leave. Britta trips over some guy's shin and manages to nod at Starburns, who's chasing his hangover with more booze, fumbles with her keys, slips outside to get into her car as fast as possible, shit shit shit.

"Shit," she says, breath hitching, slamming the door shut. Her breaths are big and deep in the car humidity. It smells musty. It tastes musty along her hard palate. Shit, shit, she has to drive away from here.

When the windows are rolled down and the car has started, and she's backed up, out of the parking lot, out from the area, that's when she catches her breath back. Fuck. Lady Gaga is whining about Roberto on the radio and here's Britta, head still clanging from her hangover, driving without sunglasses back to her little apartment, and she's completely disowning that moment, that sticky panic. Even when the nicotine jitters subside a little as she takes a thin drag from her emergency pack, that heavy emptiness behind her sternum still settles a little deeper.

Then, the night before gets back to her, and she remembers it all. Oh, shit, what did she put herself through? All of that humiliation. That's why she was super ready to get wasted when she got back to her place that night, to change out of that dress and back into something she knew, clothes that made her feel like herself again and all that other shit to forget. And fuck Jeff and his bullshit and the bullshit she does for his approval and the things she forgets when she's around him. She hates what she forgets when she's around the group. She's tired of forgetting things. Forgetting herself. It's been, like, a whole year since she's thought of the souchong. She used to be stronger than this. What has she turned into? Declarations of love and a try-hard attitude? That's not Britta Perry. She doesn't want to be that. She inhales heavily on the cigarette, weak heat ballooning her chest. Something's gotta change.

This is not Britta Perry's best moment, but it could be good moment. It could be, later. The foot modeling, okay, that was a lucky break, and so was the waitressing job, but the Peace Corps and the Habitat stint, and the soup kitchen months, those were eventual good moments. Days with Shane and Paul and Vanessa with their maté mornings, those were rewarding in a way that wasn't a Vaseline smile on some preppy college application. They were real, they were warm and round and dark like textured smoke. And it sounds, it seems really cheesy, but this moment right here, in this car that's woken up enough to really get going on the roads, whose inside is beginning finally to smell like the outside air and tobacco, it's like - First Day of the Rest of Your Life business. Like, Britta feels her eyes blink wider and her shoulders fall back a little and this wind in her hair and Ke$ha now, oh shut up, Ke$ha, you're not helping, this feels like she's driving into something rather than away from something. Like she's becoming something different in the bright sun. Her brain is working. She's remembering what her goals were, what she used to tell Vanessa as they got dressed in the morning and counted their bug bites. She was reading Carolyn Forché's poetry, she was going to Fresno's Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies when she got back stateside, she was going to be the change she wished to see in the world. All of that. She wasn't going to wake up on couches and taste like mucus. She was going to get off her ass and do something.

Britta pulls into her parking spot, turns off the car. Takes a breath, and another one. Wow, okay. It's been a long time since she's thought like that, like there were actual, real possibilities in the world for her other than being jaded and feeling defensive over everything. She swallows and wets her lips. But there are possibilities for her. There really are. Fuck, perfect time for an epiphany, the morning after a college party, during the drive of shame. She laughs, looks up and through her dusty windshield and hears the birds on the telephone wire, oh my God, this is totally a cosmic joke, but the birds are, like, mourning doves, and they were always her favorite with their low, sweet sounds, and she feels like she could claim the cooing was for her. Really, she could. This hasn't been the easiest year, or the worst by far, but their little song and their pretty, puffed bodies - they feel like something good is gonna happen. Britta's not completely sold, but somehow they feel like hope.

She gets out, toes what's left of her cigarette into the asphalt and looks up at them again. She's definitely gonna scrub the couch off of her body, shower and brush her teeth, she really feels she needs to brush her teeth, and then maybe we start making the difference here. This kind of inner momentum, Britta knows that it goes away if you don't take care of it, like when she was trying to grow rosemary in her kitchen and it died because she didn't water it. You have to water it. Like, maybe she'll pick up the shit that's still on her floor from the last month, or switch her College Algebra course for the Sociology of the Oppressed one she had been eying for the last few weeks. You've gotta keep it going, and she wants to. She really wants to badly. And, hey, who knows, after the shower and the cleaning and the movement, the forward movement, maybe she'll start planning something and brew herself some tea.