Stop yelling “Carousel!” You’re too young to get that reference.
I’ve alluded to this story, but I’ve never actually told it, so here it is in relative detail. When I was in high school, the most beautiful girl in the world hit on me, and I didn’t notice/believe it because I was too shy to do anything about it. Huh… that was less detail than I thought.
We’re going to say her name was Becky, because it very well may have been. Even if she were born with Rebecca, it would have said “Becky” on her letter jacket. Becky was a cheerleader, not only that, but she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” with the exception of the hair. Oh she had the requisite blonde hair. She wouldn’t be the girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” if her eyes weren’t a sparkling blue and if her hair wasn’t a light and fair blonde. It was just, hers was cut into a short dutchboy style hair cut. There was nothing so odd about that, as it was1993-94 (a period scientists would later call “The Early to Mid-90s) such things were deemed acceptable. And as she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” it wouldn’t really have mattered if it weren’t acceptable, I’m pretty sure if that was how she wanted to cut her hair, she would have either way.
Becky and I were in an English class together, creative writing if you must know. Those of you who went to CVHS will remember the East Building, and will understand what that means. The tile floors, rather than carpet, the bare concrete breeze block walls, and so on. Just giving those of you who never set foot in that benighted hellhole an idea. Miss Greely was okay, and the class was okay, and it was creative writing so that was pretty easy and so on…
What happened was that I had chosen a desk, and right next to me, the most beautiful girl in the world chose the desk that was basically the closest you could get to the door while still sitting in one of those demonic plastic chair/desk combinations with the black streaks in the brown resin to make it look as though the surface had once come from a tree. The joke was on them of course, as it had come from a tree, just during the Paleozoic era. I had guessed that the seat nearest the door was her goal, and I sympathized. First day of class, the first day of school, she had worn her cheerleader costume and I had pegged her for someone trying for an easy A and a “Get Out of Stupid English Requirements” card. She had some nervous energy, and if I were a worse writer, this is where I would make comparisons to lithe jungle cats or some bullshit. Not going to though, because what she looked like was more magnificent than all the tigers and jaguars and ocelots in the world. She was the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” and she was the most beautiful girl in the world. I’m not going to discuss legs, or skin, or style, because I already told you. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, that’s what you need to know. And he had nervous energy because he all did. I could sympathize with her desire to get out of that room, I had a pretty strong desire to be free of the whole school.
What ended up happening that first day was that we broke into small groups, me and Becky and another boy who is so unimportant to this story that I won’t even bother telling you his name was Phil. We were supposed to talk about the last thing each of us had read and why we either liked or disliked the main character. I was expecting to hear about how Miss Woodhouse had fallen for Mister Darcy in whatever bit of tat she’d read. Phil had read a sports book, about the big game or the guy who won the big game or GOD I DON’T CARE! God love him, he’d actually read a book once, but he was badly matched and I said he wasn’t important to the story.
I explained about The Dark Half, and how George Stark might be the hero of the book, even though really it’s Thad, but it could have been George. Beck surprised me a bit by relating how she’d read a detective story from the thirties. It wasn’t her usual reading material (As I had suspected, the Woodhouse/Darcy situation was more her speed) but the amorality of the hero fascinated her and she ended up liking the book quite a bit. While Phil tried to add comments here and there, he was rather lost in a talk of detective stories and movies that had dead actors who didn’t even have the good graces to be shot in color. It had was a pretty enjoyable conversation, even if it probably contains more in my head than it did in reality.
I didn’t really think much more about it, even when we chatted a bit the next day. I mean, yes, I thought about Becky because you think about the most beautiful girl in the world when she’s not there. But I still had this idea of spheres of existence in those days. Even if we talked every day, and even though we talked about a lot of different things that people around us didn’t talk about, and even if and even if. She was a cheerleader and I was… not. I wasn’t a jock, nor an achiever, nor… well, a lot of things. I was never a member of any group or subgroup. If you’ve ever seen me at a place where there are a lot of people, you might notice I talk to one group, then talk to another group, and then another, and it almost doesn’t matter which group it is because I can walk into any group and have a conversation. What I haven’t always been able to do though it approach any member of any group and ask them out. She had a boyfriend for a while, and then she didn’t and I still didn’t ask her out because she and not knowing if she was interested and she was exactly the sort of girl your nostalgic heart pictures when I say “She was a cheerleader” and must have had better offers. So instead she was a girl I talked to in creative writing class. It sort of goes deeper than that though, and with hindsight, of course I can see that.
See, I made her a couple of tapes. Now, if you’re some sort of god damn kid who can git offa mah damn lahn, you probably don’t get what that means. I don’t care what you’ve been told, making a CD, or a Spotify playlist, or whatever the hell you kids do now is… IT! IS! NOT! THE! SAME! Making a tape was a complex process where a pair of complementary programs have to be produced. You have to ride the rises, and gently lower them into the lows, each song has to flow into the next and follow the theme you’ve decided on and then it has to be recorded live onto a tape. It was a skill! It was a highly valued skill too, as people sometimes asked me to make tapes for them to give to other people. Anyway, I made her a tape when she broke up with her boyfriend, full of sad songs on the one side and gradually rising into happier songs on the other. And the second tape I made was one on a theme she had asked for and I’m not going to tell you what that is because it’s private.
She asked for the second tape though, she requested a theme, she wanted me to make another thing for her like the thing I’d made before that she’d enjoyed. I mean… yeah.. you’re right. Looking back, I can see it, I can see she liked the way I put music together and that I had good taste in tunes. What? Why are you looking at me like that?
So a few years go by, and she’s in college or something, I don’t really know. I never actually hung out with her, or anything like that. She was the most beautiful girl in the world, but we just sat next to each other in class. Or so I’d thought. It would still be a while before I’d learn about the syndrome that affects pretty girls, where so many people get intimidated by their beauty that they can actually end up with poor self esteem and a bad sense of self worth. She had a friend that I knew, I wouldn’t call this other person a friend because I was and am pretty selective with that word. It doesn’t matter, because she and I met somewhere and that was when she gave me the lowdown. Becky got mentioned, and how she was at MSU or U of M or EMU or wherever it was she went to school and how she was engaged to a guy and then her friend laughed a little and said the phrase that still haunts me to this day.
“She had the biggest crush on you.” Friend said, like it wasn’t ripping my heart out or anything.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“She thought you were cute, and smart and funny.” Friend said as if she wasn’t yanking the other organs out, strewing them on the floor in a gaudy cascade of blood and offal. She kept yanking, hoping that if she found the liver she could devour it and gain all my power. “She was like, totally in love with you, but she didn’t think you were that into her. You never asked for her phone number, or asked her out, she thought maybe you weren’t into the cheerleader type. You should have asked her out, she totally would have gone with you.”
“Well it does no one any good to tell me that now.” I explained. “You could have said something.”
“Would you have believed me?” She asked, biting into my liver and smiling at me with her gore covered visage.
So there you have it, I had no idea anyone was into me in high school until well after it was over. I realized that Becky had a similar problem, not knowing that the guy she really liked was into her too. I mean… I made her two tapes, in some cultures that binds our souls with invisible silken threads that even the gods cannot break, though they look down on us with jealous malice. In the culture of high school though, she thought me aloof and I thought her beyond me.
I have no moral for this, or it’s so deeply woven into the tapestry of the story that if I were to simply hand it to you the whole tale would unravel. Either way, I’m done talking about it for now.
I haven’t tried to submit a story for publication in about 15 years or so, and there is a good reason why. I have never felt a single editor actually read a thing I wrote. Well, I did send one query letter last year, but that only confirmed that editors never actually read anything. A friend of mine knew some publishers who wanted some dark fantasy and convinced me to write a one page for Twins In Death. It took them seven months to prove that they didn’t read the one sheet of paper that had been shoved in front of them. Actually, it was an e-mail, but the fact that they sent a rejection claiming fear of copyright infringement from my group of original superheroes just made me shake my head in disgust. It doesn’t help that I have a physical reaction to trying to do anything with the business side. Writing proposals, query letters, even looking up formatting requirements gives me a massive headache and I have to walk away.
It brought back all the memories of the very last time I even tried to submit something.
The last time I submitted a short story to an editor, it was about an old man punching a Space Nazi. It wasn’t subtle either, it was called “Grandpa Miliquest Vs The Space Nazis” so, you know, there was that. It was a parody story of 1950s invasion movies, only I had the old man be the hero instead of the square jawed scientist type. The old man and his grandkids see the invasion starting on TV and they drive out together on his motorcycle and he punches the Space Nazi. Then Grandpa and the kids take the space ship and fly off into space. The Space Nazis aren’t even pretend subtle. They have no knees, so they always goose step, and talked in a way that even Colonel Klink would have found distracting. Not the best story, but it was funny and silly and kills ten minutes when you read it.
The letter I got back from this editor was a rant about how this particular person was tired of seeing stories about old people being depressed about reaching the end of their lives and only wanted to see dynamic people. This editor was complaining about the story where grandma sits by the window and waxes poetic about the love she never had, or at least the one she let slip away, and demanding a story where she actually does something. Old people doing things, that’s what this person wanted. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if they ended it with “Maybe a story where a grandfather punches a space nazi or something.”
I mean… if you didn’t read the story, okay. Send a note saying “Not at this time.” Or “Didn’t peak my interest” or whatever. I would have got that, but to just be a dildo and demand a story where an old person does something, when I submitted a story of an old person DOING SOMETHING… I would accept that one person was an aberration, but I have never received a letter from any editor, or publisher that gave me the impression that they’d actually read anything that was in the query, story, or article.
And that’s why you will only find my work on blogs these days. Pretty sure Jack Collier would come back with a note demanding stories where holidays are personified and what they’d say about Baby’s First Noir makes me shudder.
Six months ago, I was at Nino Salvagio, which is a local grocery store. Kind of a highish end fruit and international market, you know the sort of place. It’s not really important, but you need to understand that it’s not a corporate place, it’s local. Now I was getting a few things and I saw… her.
She was beautiful, even though there were several things she had going on that aren’t to my tastes. Dreadlocks always look weird to me on blonde girls. Almost… contrived? She had gauges in her ears, which is fine, but not something I’ve ever been fond of. There were scars on her arm, a remnant no doubt of an earlier cutting habit. A few bad tattoos and some misbegotten make-up, and a sullen slouch completed the look. And through all that, she was beautiful. Jaw dropping, heart aching, mind ceasing, utter beauty. The sort of beauty you’d talk about until she became some kind of legend, and when people saw her they’d say “Okay, so one time reality has it over legend.”
Through what seemed to be a considerable amount of effort, she had tried her best to negate what the dvergar that assembled people that day gave her, and all that came to was that she was stunning. Not in a Venus in Blue Jeans kind of way, but in a “Why did you bother fighting it?” kind of way. There was nothing short of going at her face with a straight razor and a hammer that would do anything to hide the perfection of her features. And I’m guessing she hated every moment of it.
I didn’t talk to her about it, of course I didn’t. People say that sometimes “So I talked to her.” But no, they usually didn’t. If they did, they didn’t get an honest answer anyway. She wasn’t going to talk to someone nearly twice her age about her life choices. Had I asked, I would have gotten a few non-committal answers and she would have run to her phone and tweeted “OMG some gross old man just tried to hit on me, or shame me about my tats I don’t know #fuckoffoldman” Because that’s how these interactions really go, I know. I have had to give nosey fuckers non-answers when they try to ask me questions that they have no right to.
I understand, I was an attractive child. From infancy I had the sort of face that made people think I was up to something. At the age of two I had perfected the little lop sided grin that says “I’m going to get away with it, and you’re going to let me get away with it because look at this face.” I grew from an adorable infant to a beautiful child. Some teenage girls clustered around me one day, talking about how beautiful I was, how dark and black my eyes were and so on. I would have been in with a chance if I hadn’t been four at the time. That was what life was like. I was a good looking child.
No one much wanted to listen to me, (besides a few people) I guess, they’d have rathered I was quiet and attractive and did what I was told. I had different ideas, more self-directed. I was adored by many, but also deeply frustrating because I wouldn’t do the “good things” people had planned for me. There comes a problem though, even though I was adored, I could never really trust anyone. No one wanted to listen, they wanted control or at best to be liked by me and my prettiness. I am, several people said, easy to like in a strange way.
I’m good as many things. I can paint, and sing, and draw, and cook, and listen, and write, and make love, and identify songs and why a place might be playing them on Fourth of July Weekend. I do some of these well, and some of them less well. The problem is, there are some people who never let me know I wasn’t doing something well. I was smart enough to identify bullshit when I heard it as a child. For example, I am shit at making clay sculptures. I have one that I keep, to remind me of how shitty I am at it. It’s a good thing I do too, because otherwise people would still be telling me how great I am at making clay sculptures.
Now sure, if I practiced, and worked at it, I could become good at clay. I’m not interested though, I don’t like it enough and I don’t care. Sign of genius that, quitting something because I wasn’t instantly good at it. I was interested to learn that last year, before I thought I was just kind of lazy because I didn’t want to work at things I wasn’t good at. Writing is something I can be good at, even though I tend to entertain myself through my writing too much. I sacrifice flow and readability for the sake of something I find fun. As you well know, I can often go on irritating tangents and fill paragraphs with things that only connect for me and links. However, sometimes I let it burn because I like it burned, so there. Most of this paragraph was filler, but I like the filler. It’s good filler, and I won’t hear a word against it.
I’m pretty sure I was making some kind of point here. Allow us to wallow past the point and into this little pool of thought that’s sort of bubbled over from the main stream. Lay on your back and just float for a moment…
I try to be honest, and posts like this one are an attempt at the sort of honesty I’m talking about. I try to give you an idea of what being inside my head is like. And yeah, this is what it’s like. The sudden gear changes, the references to old books, movies and music, because melody haunts my reverie. Some things are so obscure, and the connections change so quickly, I won’t remember why I thought A was connected to B when I read this later. Syd likes the honesty, it baffles a lot of other people. Some people are always looking for a duplicity that doesn’t exist, and that sort of depresses me because I’m always doing my best to be honest. I’m not good at dishonesty, unless I dedicate myself to it, and then I can’t even stand to be around the asshole that it forces me to become. So I go for the honest thing, because it’s easier and nobler and I can. I know other people lie though, because they do.
Back to the story (about this girl named Blah Blah Blah that adored me)
It always leaves me wondering, how much of any compliment is real. It becomes more complicated when people compliment me for things that are automatic for me. I do some things without thinking and other people are all “Holy shit! You did that thing!” and I’m standing there saying “Yeah… I have pretensions to being a person and in order to maintain the facade I have to do shit like this.” It deeply complicates the matter when 80% of the things people have said to me have been either A) Bullshit or B) Stupid.
Did I mention this above? Screw it, I’ve gone this far and I’m not re-reading this thing again. People will offer empty compliments to attractive people. I often have trouble knowing if I told a funny joke, or if the person I’m talking to just thinks I’m cute. Is my painting any good, or were certain people blinded by desire and as such said they liked the horrible splotches of mangled color? I don’t know if I like the paintings that much myself and around the 30th re-write, or the 90th re-read, everything looks like shitty half formed ideas put together by someone as smelly as a monkey with a typewriter, but not as bright. You can’t trust anything anyone says after a while, and when you’re also smart enough to understand what’s going on you quickly start to feel like you’re on an island about two feet by two feet… and the water is rising. At some point we’ll talk about depression, but not today.
I can understand that girl’s problem and her attempt as a solution though. I would assume she has some intelligence and doesn’t want to just be pretty. She had no choice, but she wants more. She’d like to be thought of as a person, an individual, maybe even someone with a thought and an idea. It’s harder for girls, because society still wants women to be ornamental baby makers. Guys can have thoughts, but no one ever really listens or understands. They just try to keep up as best they can and act impressed when he says a big word. If I could do what that girl did, I just might.
There isn’t much I can do, if I leave off showering I just get smelly. I don’t like being really smelly. My hair actually gets more manageable and gets really shiny on the third or fourth day, so that can be worse. If I don’t shave, I just get rugged stubble. It takes a week to get to the just too much stubble to be sexy, but not enough for a beard which is a different kink all together. I can’t do a lot of other things without running afoul of the honesty issue. I can’t say the weight issue came about because of that. The weight and other things came because of an already discussed depression issue. I’m working on that though.
That’s what can happen sometimes though, people just want to look at you, but not talk or listen to you. It can become deeply frustrating, and can lead to a beautiful young person trying to uglify themselves in various ways. Just so they can try to be taken seriously, even though I’m sure this young woman’s activities are already begin dismissed as “A Phase” by people who were never quite as pretty and probably not as smart. Maybe I’m projecting, but if we’ve gone this far then why not? Who are all these posts about anyway?
I think the other reason I never went to try and uglify myself is that in all honesty I have always had to fight stupid shit. From the age of five, when I first worked out people where bullshitting me about my skills, I decided to just fight through it. If I was going to deal with stupid people saying stupid shit then so be it. Before I’d read enough, or understood enough to know what was going on, I’d picked fighting as the way to go. I’d decided on the natural as my way forward, doing things without aid would be the standard I would carry into battle. My combat is more subtle now, but I still do it the same. I’m not taking diet pills to try and slim my waist. I’m working out and trying like hell to avoid the things that made me fat. I’m not putting on make-up to hide or accentuate things, I just want people to be able to take them straight on. I say this with no complaint about people doing it another way. This is the way *I* have to do it, this is the way that I feel is most honest for *ME* in this instance.
I have always been aware enough of the privilege that these midnight black eyes, long lashes, tumbling ravenesque locks (and so on) bring to not wish to not be what I am though. Of course, I’m also aware enough of the privilege this level of intelligence brings as well. I wouldn’t want to be ugly anymore than I’d want to be stupid or lame or deaf or unable to taste sweet things. I know that the cross I’m talking about is less to bear than some people’s, but while I’m talking about myself, I’m also thinking of that poor girl.
I don’t think she has the strength to really fight. She’s putting up a good front, but I fear this battle may be beyond her. Does she have the resources to fight for her own identity? Can she maintain against the pressure? It’s different for girls, they’re given so much more pressure than boys, and the pressure I felt at her age was enormous. I haven’t seen her lately, I hope she got a job where she fits in better, where she can get away. I still think about her, like I think of so many I have seen.
You wanted to know what it was like in here. Now you have one more piece of the puzzle. When you work the whole thing out, let me know. I’m curious to see if it’s a barn or the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Probably it’ll turn out to be The Pillar of Cheese in the Shape of Jane Austen.