A Reply to “A Schedule” + A Little More

I’d like to start this post by just saying how much it meant to me to read the replies you all wrote. It means more than I can articulate to have people believing in my, people who have never met me or talked to me, but have only known my through this blog. It’s more special this way – there are no biases, you aren’t here just to flatter me, and if you didn’t like my blog, you’d leave and needn’t reply. I know these things, though they’re hard to really accept sometimes, and so I truly appreciate your support. Starting Sunday (because in Israel, the week starts on Sunday) I will begin my writing schedule, and we’ll see how it goes. I hope that I won’t disappoint myself!

I also would like to thank those of you who say that they wouldn’t guess my age… Age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, as far as I’m concerned, but I’ll admit that I’ve always had a little nagging doubt in the back of my mind – I’ve worried, you see, that I’ll somehow become or appear childish without meaning to, and that my friendship would be denied or pushed away. That hasn’t happened, and I’m relieved – and I’ll take those words of surprise at my age as compliments, because I know you mean them as such.

So. On a side note: is there some sort of requirement that people who wish to write have low self-esteem? Because, clearly, I’ve been gifted with an overabundance of that particular asset.

**

Test-time

Tense.

Chairs scraping.

Clock ticking.

School-building: hardback chairs with metal legs,

grey, grey tables, scratched, scored.

A fly buzzes.

Heads turn, murder in their eyes,

longing to swat the

interruption.

Then, suddenly,

it’s over.

Laughter returns to faces,

Sighs of relief can be heard,

High-fives exchanged.

It’s done,

it’s over,

it’s finished.

Ethan

It seemed that no matter how his hair fell, he looked fabulous. If it was in his eyes, it looked boyish. If it was curled up a bit, it looked sexy. If it was cut short, it showed off his perfect forehead. That was the kind of man-boy he was. He could wear whatever he wanted, and did. Anything from black boots, black jeans and a biker jacket to a waistcoat, pinstriped pants and loafers. In his pocket, you could easily find either a pack of cigarettes or a watch on a chain. If all that weren’t enough, he also projected his comfort and self-esteem and acceptance of who he was. His presence was enough to make anyone weak-kneed, men and women alike. He wasn’t even twenty yet.

He stood smoking outside of his apartment building. As I walked by, he looked up at me, and I saw that his eyes were wet, on the verge of spilling tears. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out “Ethan? You alright?”

He mutely offered me a cigarette, lit it for me, and leaned back against the brick wall, one leg going up to prop himself. He was wearing his black boots, I noticed. I stood beside him, puffing away, feeling more intimate with him than I ever had before, despite being his neighbour for over six months, and despite us having many mutual friends. It seemed that I saw him all the time – around the building, at clubs and pubs. He was a fixture of the Soho night-life, and I often found myself dancing just a few people away from him. It wasn’t that he was a snob, exactly. He wasn’t posh, his father didn’t go to Eton and he hadn’t even finished university. He was just a regular bloke like me. Of course, I couldn’t pull off half the image he had, but then, that’s me.

“Boyfriend,” he sighed. He took a last drag and then threw the butt down. He stomped on it with a force that made me shiver a little. He looked at me, and I think I must have looked a little guilty, since his eyes flashed from heartbroken to angry to resigned in quick succession. “You knew?” He’d already ducked his head, pulling out another cigarette from his pack.

I couldn’t deny it, but I didn’t want to let him in on the fact that, well, we all knew. We all thought he knew it, too. We’d seen them together almost every night of the past few months, but we all knew. The boyfriend lived in Manchester, only came to London every month or two. He’d been over just three weeks ago. So, obviously, we all thought that Ethan knew.

“Sorry, mate.”

He shook his head. His hair flopped, looking perfect no matter what he did. That hair, that hair that my eyes always fixated on, it was still as glossy, as perfect, as natural as it always was. But the rest of him… Well. For the first time since I’d met him, I wasn’t intimidated.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked. I knew it didn’t matter one whit, but I asked anyway.

“February. February 9th, ’88. Why?”

“No reason. You’re two days younger than me. I always thought you were older than me. Never mind. Come upstairs, come on, I’ll make you some tea and we can watch whatever football game is one tonight, right?”

He chucked his smoke way across the street so it hit the building across and a little spray of sparks shone red-hot before falling to the ground. Brushing a hand through his hair, he followed me into the building.

McS’s Feet

It was one of the last really warm days of autumn. You know the kind of day I’m talking about. It’s the day right after you start to notice that the leaves have really all turned into wonderful shades of red and orange. It’s the day right after you start to move all your heavier clothing to the front of your closet and the top of your drawers. It’s the day that takes you, and everyone else, by surprise and makes the atmosphere seem happier for no reason except that the wind is blowing warm and soft and the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

Only it wasn’t day anymore. It was evening, now, the wind still blowing warm across the young faces wandering around the not-very-well lit paths. The sweet notes of a guitar strumming were emerging from one window while a heavy bass note could be heard through the walls of a building across the way. The smell of marijuana was thick in the air as it almost always was, while still seeming to be entirely smokeless. The leaves rustled in the dark tops of the trees, and now and then one or two would flutter down to the ground, hitting a shoulder or arm on the way.

Through the partial darkness, McS walked in bare feet. She walked along the gravel paths serenely, back arched just a bit – maybe naturally, or maybe because of many years of dancing. Her blond hair was cut short, with just a swoop of bangs across her forehead signaling that she was style-conscious. Other than that, she defied convention. Her face was unadorned by makeup, her clothing was simple and usable, but she carried herself with such confidence that your eyes couldn’t help gazing at her with a sort of awe.

One of her toes bore a ring, but other than that, her feet were completely bare. She wasn’t afraid of glass or stones or twigs to come in her way. She didn’t even glance at the ground as she made her easy, charmingly swaggering way back home; her shorts and tank top clung to her, showing off her muscles and her curves, while never seeming tacky, flashy or exhibitionist.

Her feet were bare as she walked, and she knew – just knew – that she could walk around the entire earth if she were to put her mind, body, will and heart into it.

Being Other

A toss of the hair, a gesture with the chin, a purse of the lips – these will suffice to change a person utterly from one thing to the other. From a shy, timid, slightly awkward person will emerge an attitude, a style, a replica of the actor onscreen. Confidence has nothing to do with it at that point – once someone changes, they’re in the moment and no matter what happens, the attitude will remain, the stance will stay upright and the chin raised.

Such small things, such subtle mind-shifts and twists – on such things hangs the balance of a show. But once a person is out of self, succumbing to that infamous of Greek gods, Dionysus, and loses the identity of the self, then there is no pause, no doubt, no fear. Nonexistent wine gives the head its buzz and the body its confidence; nonexistent masks take over the face and expression; nonexistent muses come and spark drama or comedy at the needed times.

Being other is liberating. The fear before succumbing to that loss of self is overwhelming, almost paralyzing. The moment the threshold is crossed, however, the fear evaporates like a magician’s rabbit – instantly, utterly, although still biding its time somewhere hidden where the audience can’t see it.

Being other is mastering fear. Being other is being free.

On Th’Eve of Classes

I went to college one rainy day,

And now it seems I’m here to stay,

Until a hopefully snowing December morn’,

When from my collegiate life I’ll be torn.

The days are moving slowly,

Orientation for us new and lowly,

Friends are hard to come by,

With head tucked under and shy.

My rhyme suffers with fear,

For tomorrow is a day I hold dear,

Classes begin and I’m ready,

The smell of knowledge is heady.

I cannot say I’m good enough,

And this makes it rough

To have confidence in success,

So instead I’m stressed.

Seeing the talent in this school,

Makes me feel like a right damn fool.

I hope I’m not the only one here

Who’s holding back her tears.

I’m scared.

I’m ready.

I’m excited.

I’m scared.

I’m not good enough.

I’m good enough.

I’m unsure.

I’m scared.

Ink

A curly-haired guy in his early thirties sat back on his swiveling stool and snapped the black latex gloves on his hands. He picked up his tools, dipped them into the tiny ink-cups, the size of a fingernail or so, and pressed down with his foot the switch that connected his tools to the electric current. He adjusted the current, making the needles buzz louder, dipped them into the ink again, and began his work.

The two girls sitting in the room with him were vastly different. One was experienced already, having undergone the process earlier that week. The other- well, the other was me: nervous, afraid, excited, ecstatic. I’d been waiting for this for years, known it was coming for years, and had waited patiently for years to prove to myself that I wouldn’t change my mind. Even through the height of my nerves, it felt right. I felt right. The buzzing in my ears, the slight shivers in my body, my legs positioned awkwardly and my arms propped on the armrest I was facing- it was all exactly as I’d imagined it.

“Take a deep breath,” the tattooist said. “I’ll touch for a second and then stop.”

He touched the needles onto my skin. It seared and felt like fire and then, just as abruptly as the pain had come, it was gone. I breathed. My body shook. Then he said “Ok, now let’s continue.”

At first I couldn’t control the shakes. Having a tattoo done on your spine makes your nerves, your physical nerves, tingle and jump. My arms felt like they were buzzing with currents, and my shoulders shook uncontrollably for a few minutes. But I mastered myself, my body, and the pain. It became bearable – even enjoyable in a perverted way, because it was pain that was marking my body with a beautiful design, one I’d chosen years ago.

But it did hurt. It felt like someone using an excruciatingly sharp marker on my skin – I could feel the tattooist coloring in the lines, the needles going back and forth on my skin. Again and again he wiped away ink and blood with a paper towel. Again and again I breathed in a sigh of relief when he loaded the needles with ink again and let my skin breath and relax for a few moments before beginning again.

When it was done, I had my design. I had my tattoo. I had my ink.

Boots [Part II]

Part I

Sandy wasn’t sure what to say, so instead of responding, she looked around the shop. It was like she expected it would be. The shop was only sparsely lit, the clothing racks were mostly full of black garments, with the occasional shocking pink or electric blue peeking through. A television that was hung on the wall was showing an old horror film with the sound muted. Sandy gulped, eyes fixed on the fake blood spraying from a man’s stomach.

She tore her gaze away from the gruesome image, worked up her courage, and spoke.

“Um, can I see what boots you sell, please?”

“Sure thing,” the red-haired woman chirped. “Size seven-and-a-half?”

“Yeah, how could you tell?” Sandy was so surprised at the lucky guess that she looked up into the red-haired woman’s face and met her eyes.

“I know about boots. ‘Cause of that, I know about feet. Anyway, I’m the same size, so I know what seven-and-a-half looks like,” she winked at Sandy, and disappeared into a back room.

A half hour later, Sandy had tried on three pairs of boots and hadn’t liked the look of any – either they had too many laces and complicated bits of string, or the buckles were too big or they didn’t cling right to her calves.

“Maybe I should just forget it,” she moaned.

“Oh, Honey, don’t think like that – we’ll find the perfect ones for you.” The red haired woman was packing the discarded boots back into their large boxes, folding the tops meticulously over the gigantic heels. Sandy cast a sideways look at the curtain that hid the store-front window from the interior of the shop. As the woman finished replacing the last pair of boots, she said shyly “What about the ones in the window? You know,” she paused, received an encouraging smile from the red-haired woman, continued. “The ones I was looking at last week.”

The red-haired woman smacked her forehead, an act which Sandy thought should have left marks there because of the amount of heavy and spiky silver rings were on the woman’s hand. “I should have brought those out first thing!” The woman exclaimed. She smiled apologetically and bustled out of sight into the back room again, yelling over her shoulder. “They’re an older model, you see, which is why I didn’t think of them straight off!”

Within a trice, she had Sandy’s feet in her lap, the boots from the window on and clasped. Sandy found herself lifted to her feet and steered towards a full length mirror at the back of the shop. She looked at herself- light blue dress, brown hair cut in a simple, good-girl style, arms and legs tanned from the sun, and there, at the bottom of the image in the mirror, the boots. They clung to her legs, the buckles glinting faintly in the feeble light, deadly and beautiful and cool.

“They look… I look…” Sandy was lost for words. The red-haired woman laughed a throaty, deep voiced laugh.

“The word you’re looking for is awesome,” she said.

Boots [Part I]

Boots, black and full of silver buckles, beckoned to Sandy from a store window containing a couple of corsets, a long velvet skirt, a collar with spikes on it and a jacket with so many artful rips in it that it didn’t look like it should be on sale. Unlike the other items in the window that rather alarmed Sandy, the boots seemed beautiful, like roses – tender and elegant but full of dangerous thorns.

Sandy realized she’d been staring at the store window for some time only when a red-haired woman appeared in the open doorway. She cocked one perfect eyebrow at the sight before her – Sandy, light brown hair tumbling in the wind, wearing a flowered white sundress and staring open-mouthed at the boots in the window.

“Need some help, Honey?” the red-haired woman asked. Sandy jerked out of her reverie. The wind died down just at that moment, and her bangs settled back on her forehead. She ducked her head, hiding behind her hair, shook her head “no” and walked away briskly. The red-haired woman ambled back into the shop, and knew that she’d be seeing that shy, flowery girl again soon.

All week long, Sandy thought about the boots. She tried not to, but couldn’t help it. She also thought about the red-haired woman a lot – there was something in that woman’s gaze, in her voice as she said “honey” so casually, that exuded a confidence that made Sandy profoundly envious.

It kept coming back to the boots, though. The red-haired woman had been wearing boots very like those in the window, Sandy remembered it well – the way the boots reached up all the way to her knees, with black and white striped pantyhose peeking above them. The boots, with their multiple-inch heels and the silver buckles along the sides, had made the red-haired woman’s legs look endless, beautiful and deadly. Sandy felt that if only she could have boots like that, everything would feel better.

By the end of two weeks, Sandy made up her mind. She collected her paycheck from the diner’s manager, changed out of her yellow waitress uniform and into one of her favorite pale blue dresses, walked to the bank to cash the check and then strode, with more confidence than she felt, right into the shop where she’d seen the boots.

The red-haired woman looked up from behind the counter, smiled, and said “Well, hello there, Honey. I had a feeling I’d be seeing you again.”

Lucy’s Diary, May 5th

May 5th, 2008

Dearest Diary,

After many hours of pointless, useless and otherwise simply obnoxious paperwork, I am free to dwell on my own thoughts once more. The flight landed, and I have never been more reluctant to get off a plane as I was this morning. There was a man a few seats in front of me who looked at me rather oddly as I sat there in my seat, making no move to get up and off the plane. But then, I suppose it is rather odd, in the hustle and bustle for the door, that a girl should stay stationary in her seat.

Having finally convinced myself to get up and leave the plane, though, I was plagued by the usual airport routine: passport check, luggage retrieval etc. I was most anxious to get some fresh air, and I almost forgot that I needed to look for my pick-up ride when I entered the arrivals hall.

Of course, they hadn’t forgotten about me – much to my chagrin, I might add. There was a man with a hat and a sign waiting for “Miss Lucy Blake” and I had no choice but to approach him and follow him to the town car, of which he was the driver.

While I wish I could have written in the car, it was much too bumpy and couldn’t be managed. Moreover, having gotten no sleep on the flight, I fell into an uneasy one on the ride over to Pratt and Smith. It was a long ride, because as I’ve said before, P&S is in the middle of many square miles of fields upon fields.

We finally arrived, and I was met at the gates by the woman who I’m supposed to consider as “the mother of all the young girls in this glorious home away from home!” Her words – not mine.

She escorted me to the offices, where I got many a dirty look for joining with them so very late in the semester. True, their semester lasts until the end of August, but my lateness is apparently enough to give me a black mark before I’ve even started. That relation of mine who sent me here [you see, my dear, that I am still too angry to even write her name] will be feeling more of my wrath with her in my phone call to home this week, you can be sure of it, Diary.

It is evening now, and I’m settled in my new room. It’s rather cozy and nice right now, but that is only because my three roommates are currently at the study hall doing their homework. I was assured by Miss Flynn, the self proclaimed Mommy of us all who is actually the supervisor of the girls’ living quarters, that the other girls will be along shortly and will escort me to dinner, which begins at promptly seven-thirty every evening.

I freely admit to you that I am dreading the introduction of these girls. They will be my staunchest companions in the coming months, if only because we are forced to live within the same very small room and share our bedtimes and awakenings. Wish me luck; I believe I hear the sound of giggling in the hall!

Much love,

Hastily,

Lucy