The writing below is from a May 19 post on my Myspace blog.
Below I have cut/pasted a very rough piece of a much larger project. It is fiction, with the unavoidable sprinkling of truth. Don’t be mean!
Not to quote Erykah Badu (but I will any way): “Keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.” Please note: this may be a misquote.
Also, my Mac does not support the Myspace blog editor, so I had to change all italics to caps. Entirely un-esthetically pleasing!
A few years ago, not too long after ______ and I moved to our apartment in Bucktown, I was struck with the notion that I would take up skateboarding again. I say “again” because I stopped using my skateboard right after I grew breasts.
You see, I was the only girl in my group of outcast female friends…
okay, time out: it’s not that my friends were outcasts. I think I always just assumed that they must have been hideously unpopular if they were hanging out with me. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was–in both official documents (like school records and teachers’ recommendations) and unofficial transcripts (locker room discussions, bathroom graffiti, notes passed in history class)–the school weirdo. But my friends…well, they were actually moderately popular. You know, like they all had the essential Esprit bags and Guess clothes. One of them was miraculously voted onto the homecoming court. Another had a job at the Limited…automatic popularity! I am not sure why they were hanging out with me. Perhaps years spent playing Barbies and taking dance lessons together had inspired a certain amount of loyalty in them.
But back to my original point: I was the only one of my entire usual lunch group (six in total) that did not want breasts. I was happy and completely content with my flat chest. Anorexic Heather was saving for one of those water-filled bras that could transform even the greatest plains into the Alps. Melissa was doing exercises gleaned from the September issue of TEEN. Amy was going to ask her mother to let her go on the pill, because rumor had it that a superhuman rack was a side effect.
But none of this suited me. Bras? Furtive gropings by sophomores behind the track? I was decidedly disinterested. I was busy with the math team and the school play. And furthermore, I could perform any skateboarding stunt that my male friends could not. I was tiny yet surprisingly long-legged. And fearless! Sometimes I regard my 14-year old self with awe and envy. Try to skate down the stairs at the soccer field. 52 steps in total!
“Of course I can do it,” I scoffed. And a few minutes later, when my friend Steve took off his t-shirt to wipe blood from my chin, he did it with respect.
This all changed a few months later–on April 19th, to be precise. The morning started innocently enough: I decided to wear a black body suit that day, because I had a dream about ballerinas the night before. I utilized my mom’s “Peachy Keen” blush because my grandma had recently mentioned that black could wash out one’s color. In fact, that secretive cosmetic application (makeup was forbidden before the age of sixteen by my totalitarian mother) was the most exciting event before third period.
But then at 10:25 am, as I walked from Geometry to Chemistry, the moment of truth arrived. In my memory, it happened in slow motion. I saw Heather at the end of the hall. I waved, but she didn’t seem to notice. Her eyes were staring intently at something. Something very appalling! I followed her gaze…directly to my chest. My eyes widened with shock. I could feel myself gasping for breath. I had tits! Without a doubt, and they were at least a B cup. I ran to my locker and pulled on a sweatshirt that smelled like formaldehyde and dead squid, unworn since an excruciating biology class the preceding semester. I swiftly acquired the habit of holding my books in front of my chest. A scholastic armor!
And that –as unfeminist as it might sound–was the end of my career as a daredevil skater. It literally happened that day. I rushed home from school, skipping an important yearbook meeting, with the intention of skating around the neighborhood for a few hours to burn off steam. But I just couldn’t keep my balance. The slightest shift of my weight sent my body on to the pavement. After my tenth fall, with bloody elbows and knees, I put my skateboard on the highest shelf in the garage. And that was it.
But then, that first summer in Bucktown, I realized that I wanted to take up skating again. My mom sent me my old deck, after laughing for 15 minutes on the phone. I ordered new parts on the internet. No need to show my face at the skater store at the ripe old age of 25.
Because I was fairly certain that my skills were inferior to even the most hopeless
Tony Hawk wannabe, I decided that I would only attempt to ride my board at night. And the first night out, I decided to ride it over to the Rainbo Club. Now when you think about it, that’s a pretty long trip from my place on Paulina. Lots of intersections and creepy side streets (because skating on North Avenue was not an option). I donned an outfit that my 14-year old self would envy: an intensely faded Nirvana t-shirt and a pair of army green work pants. A red sweatband and pair of super-rare (and incredibly ugly) gym shoes finished it off. I stuffed my front pockets with Band-Aids (just in case) and a copy of WASHINGTON SQUARE was jammed into my rear pocket. I was ready for business.
I am sure you are laughing at this image. For one, I am not sure you’ve seen me wear anything other than a dress…moments spent lounging in undergarments are an exception. And while I ride my bike everywhere, I am definitely not sporty. But suspend your disbelief!
I am definitely an optimist. Okay, scratch that. I am more of a realist. “Expect the worst, be surprised by the best” is my code. Disappointment is the worst emotion. I am no stranger to Easter egg hunts with only one squashed chocolate egg in my basket.
So when I strolled out my building’s gangway that night, I was not anticipating any miracle. In fact, I was assuming that I would be turning around in a few minutes to change into a dress and apply antiseptic to my knees. I was envisioning a sad, humble moment wherein I gave my useless skateboard to one of the neighborhood kids.
But then! It happened. I glided across the sidewalk with the greatest of ease. Jumping the curb? No problem! Sailing through a red light past the busy El station. No embarrassing fall! In fact, I seemed to fly to the Rainbo. Elegant, easy, breezy.
I propped my board in the corner by the bar. I proceeded to get really, really drunk. This was when I was drinking a lot of gin. I mean, A LOT OF GIN. I read a majority of WASHINGTON SQUARE. Booze really enhances the flavor of impossible love squashed by society’s unwritten codes.
I stumbled out of the Rainbo around one, after a casual-yet-heated mini-tournament of pinball with my friend Jeremy (remember–he is the guy who is obsessed with time travel. You met him at my birthday party). He reminded me to grab my skateboard on the way out. As soon as my feet hit the sidewalk, I knew that I could definitely not skate. I didn’t want to ruin my new and perfect record. It was a long walk, but it would be a good opportunity to smoke a lot of cigarettes and talk to myself.
The trip was faster than one might imagine. Soon I was on Wabansia, just a few blocks from my place. I was throwing a cigarette butt into the sewer grate when a large white van pulled up next to me. No joke! It was the cliché child molester-mobile.
Oh, don’t laugh!
A chubby man–with a fucking mustache (!)–leaned out of the window.
“Hey, buddy…do you need a ride somewhere?'”
I hesitated for a moment, assuming that there was no way he was addressing me. I mean, I was a woman! With breasts and an overpriced art school education!
But then, when he opened the door, and said, “Come on! I’ve got some really good doughnuts in here,” I took off.
I ran down the alley, narrowly avoiding a rat. I squelched the urge to scream. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him trying to squeeze his van between some trash cans. Fuck! I have never been a runner, even before countless packs of light cigarettes. I just really hate it. I climbed a fence, ripping my pants. I ran through a backyard, and pulled myself over a stone wall. Suddenly I was so athletic! I hurtled through a gangway, finding myself across the street from my apartment. Relief!
That was the last (and only) evening of late night skating. The ripped pants were thrown into the trash. My skateboard was soon covered with a stack of paperbacks and colored pencils.
It’s not that I was afraid of being abducted by van-driving pedophiles.
I think I just wanted to go out in glory, with a good story to share at dinner parties and on promising dates.
I know this is a sentiment you can understand.
Time for showering and cat-feeding and working.
I promise that I think of you every day, even in the midst of interesting activities.