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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

smoke


Fumbling to make her sandwich in the dim light I shiver once, then again. It is time to nudge her slowly until her eyes open, remind her to brush her teeth and make sure the school bag has the right books in it. We move around each other in one of our many choreographed silences, hairbands offered, phones tucked into pockets, scarves pulled once, the click of a light going on, the turning of the lock, the elevator jangling down. Tiny dogs are barking in the early morning air as we go outside.

The yarmarka (outdoor market) that stood in two neat rows for weeks, is suddenly gone now. Without warning the tents and boxes of fruits are nowhere to be seen. People are smoking cigarettes in the wet air, shoulders bowed against the wind off the river. Sometimes it feels like everyone is smoking here, hacking and spitting on the sidewalks and the walls, tossing lit butts in garbage cans that then smoke and catch fire. Most mornings are punctuated with the smell of burning plastic.

"Are you still with a fever?" She asks me at one point.
"I think it is gone now." I answer. "I just feel like crap."
"Okay." She says, drawing the word out.
People are tiptoeing around a giant puddle, their feet sticking in the mud.
"You should still have soup for lunch." She reminds me.
"Alright." I tell her.
"You know, I like to skip." She says. "Even if I don't feel good I like to skip."



Comments

liv said…
Funny, the coincidences even when we are all thousands of miles away. I too went to the Farmers Market on Sunday, knowing it would be the last of the season. Well, maybe there will be one more, but only pumpkins and squash available.

Spent the week in fever and tossing pain from a kidney stone, not pleasant. Hope you are fully recovered soon. I have a ways to go.

But I will think of that little one skipping, ahhh, that makes me feel better already.

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