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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…

Wednesdays


"I don't like Wednesdays." E announces to me outside of her school.
I am swinging her backpack onto my shoulders as we head to guitar class.
"Why Wednesdays?" I ask her.
"No reason." She explains after a few leaden footsteps.
I take in the details of the street, the sidewalk, the driveways, the dry cleaners that became a Ferrari showroom, the restaurant set back from the sidewalk that changes its name every few months. The sun is banging into our eyes and E holds my hand and looks down, waiting to be lead to the courtyard we turn into.

There are cockroaches on the floor when we enter and another walking up the wall of the room where we hang our coats. There are teenagers crammed into the tiny space, enjoying their weekly stand-off with us, when I try to rest her backpack and lunchbox on the windowsill, weaving around them as they smack gum on their lips and laugh. They never stand in the entry room, where there are benches and space. No, they cram in here and make it so the little ones like E do not have a chair to sit on when they change their shoes. It is a weekly dose of petty madness.

We decide to wait outside of the classroom instead of the entrance, once I shove her jacket into a makeshift space in the racks far from the cockroaches.


After class,  I shake our coats well, making sure no insects have decided to hide in them.

At home, she does her homework at the kitchen table while I make dinner. Her face looks long to me.
I stir the ragu and offer her the spoon. She knows I am asking if it needs salt without saying it.
She blows on it, takes one nibble, then again.
I see her face going through motions, as if she is acting like she is really thinking.
"Good." She says, with one nod of her head.
"So, tell me why you don't like Wednesdays." I ask her.
She stares at her pens.
"Maybe Wednesdays remind me that we live here." She says quietly.
"You mean by the river?" I ask her.
She shakes her head no.
She draws the word R-U-S-S-I-A on a corner of a page and then crosses it out.
"Yes we do." I say under my breath. "Yes we do."

I go back to the pot, adding a twist of black pepper. This pot that I used to boil rice on East 1st Street, when the thought of a daughter was impossible, much less a life stuck together with glue and twine halfway across the world.





Comments

liv said…
Oh, look at those long fingers. The hands of an artist. She is looking so grown up there.

Stuck - god, that's the word isn't it?

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