“ A Girl minus Woman ”
A camera is seated on a chair facing the window at knee height the building has 7 floors.
The window is open and there are no curtains the white paint comes off like skin. Legs shifting nervously infront of the camera.
Asa is wearing a nightgown that is from the a 60’s. It’s see through with bluish and green flowers. She stares in the mirror but sees only cubes of skin, puts on red lipstick and plucks her eyebrows.
She looks around the room when you finally see all of her. Asa is pretty but not beautiful. She gets up and paces some more goes to her bookshelf where they are aligned perfectly. She opens a book and asks the question “ Will I remember this?”
Asa picks up her camera walks over to the window and drops it out into the street buying time.
It breaks apart she paces in circles till her arms begin to flail.
Finally the camera is her. She stands on the ledge of the window it’s early morning only the leaves are out. The air hits her ...wind connecting dress and hair.
She gives a brief smile to the mirror then a look of pure horror and jumps timidly feet first.
Now you see what she feels it is unmistakable her body leaves a mark.
Two years ago.
Her therapist asks “Do you feel like death would be a relief?”
Asa stares at him intently “Yes” she says.
His hands slide to bury his mouth and he looks away with a mixture of pity but also jealousy.
A month ago.
Asa is seated in a restaurant alone waiting for her professor Mr. Fogner, to arrive. He’s late as usual but she doesn’t mind. The restaurant is a mid-range diner with bad lighting. Old witnesses smile and talk but they become interesting only when they engage. Asa’s thoughts go to an old birthday party she had years ago. The image recedes to her pouring salt over her friends eyes under the instruction of Becky. She invited all the girls from her class but one. She is flooded with guilt.
Why didn’t I invite her? she thinks
I am her.
She is dressed in clothes that don’t really command attention or a style. Somehow she manages to look appealing without trying. Asa eats her soup and starts to feel sick that he will be there soon. The waiter comes back and asks if she would like anything else. He is friendly in a fake I want a tip way. His superficial nature depresses her even more.
When Mr. Fogner finally arrives she will have to engage him, answer questions and look pretty.
He was close to 58 yrs. old had a daughter who hated him.
“Hey there” Mr. Fogner said his beer belly in her face. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine, I’m just remembering.”
“Remembering what?” He started talking again before she could answer launching into his latest complaint.
Asa talked without even looking at him directly. Her eyes stayed on the soup which seemed to be growing even after she had picked at it for close to an hour.
She went on “I had a sleep over birthday party when I was 12. I befriended this girl Becky she was the resident “bad girl” of the class and we managed to basically humiliate all of them after they had fallen asleep. You know the usual we froze their training bras and sprayed silly string in their hair. But that wasn’t enough so we poured salt on their eyelids”
“I feel bad now.”
She wanted Mr. Fogner to care and have some insight into her. He looked at Asa and just wanted. He stared at her and his mind leap to being touched inappropriately. He noticed her skin opened up through her blouse and there was a small makeup stain on her collar. He convinced himself that she was some sort of creature with limbs.
So he forgot she was real.
Finally he responded “ Oh sweetie don’t even bother with the past. It’s gone look at me I spent years with a women who I loved because she was right for me in the past.”
“And my wife....” He swiftly changed the subject to a more suitable topic...himself.
Mr. Fogner went on about his latest epiphany for a good hour. Asa watched as his wrinkles spread and cracked open across his face.
“An iced landscape” she laughed
“Excuse me?” Mr. Fogner said then went on “My daughter won’t even talk to me...”
What if he had women and a wife did it matter?
Asa didn’t get how her unwashed body so trite and unplump attracted these men. But they came every so often with gifts and wisdom.They never got very far because she already felt used. She knew their minds and needed it to survive. It created a weird dichotomy in her head of hiding the things that were human nature. She decided I’ll build textures that frighten them away then climb inside myself, have men and hate myself in peace.
In class Mr.Fogner drummed on the tables and laughed a deep santa laugh. He seemed to have a good understanding of what made up happiness. He collected drums from Africa wore lose fitting Bahaman shirts and jogged early every morning. The first day of class she was late. He smiled as she sat down ...a teachers smile. Asa took it differently she started curling her hair before class and going to the restroom every break to reapply lip liner. She thought Mr. Fogner would want her but when it almost happened she realized her legs and arms lacked knowledge.
He only talked to her in a dirty way once.
That day everyone left class and they sat together. Asa bound her legs next to her chest.
She had on a belly revealing white top and low cut jeans.
Mr. Fogner looked at her intently and moved his chair an inch closer.
He asked “Have you ever hear of Tantric?”
Asa lied “No, never”
He went onto describe his latest trip to India and explained existence was meant to be savored.
That people should always do what they feel because this life was only a farce.
Then he proclaimed“ I mean, I can have sex for hours...I can hold an erection for hours
without stopping.” Asa didn’t say anything for awhile
“Hmm I’m still a virgin.”she blurted.
Thinking he would stop, just stop talking to her that way. Her stomach felt hollow
eyes revealing her disgust that she had brought this on.
“Oh really” he looked embarrassed and surprised.
She couldn’t go through with it.
They left the room.
The trees seemed to multiply on the block as she walked back to her car. She drove around and got lost in the countryside. The gray sky had nothing to offer no stars just muddy clouds for miles. She stopped at a gas station got out and noticed a few old men staring. She took her scarf from her purse and wrapped it around her mouth and buttoned up her tan pea coat. She was eternally in the state of in-between constantly wanting a man and the sky to open up and make sense. For this life to have an agenda she could dissect and place in her hands.
Asa counted on nothing but a simple aching pain in her stomach that seemed to appear without reason. And she thought that word doesn’t do itself justice it was to simple to feel the lashing of a hand or whip. No, the slow motion that sucked your breath into black and gave you the wanting of oblivion was the only way to describe human pain.
The men laughed about the lottery and some sports team she despised. They moved in such jerky motions that she glanced as she filled her coffee with cream.
They stared at her without blinking and then the cashier rung up her coffee. She felt his eyes too.
It was the same motion from Mr. Fogner that curiosity of only her lips and warmth. They couldn’t get the words without that and this will be her death.
The smell of gas filled her nostrils she smiled at the shapes inside each oily puddle and looked forward.
The drive lasted exactly an hour back to her parents house. It was a large drafty farm house outside of Boulder, Colorado. They had a barn in the back that held only space and air. At night her father would leave for his real job a night watchmen at the local hospital. This is when Asa began her own life's work. Her camera was cheap but she managed a beautiful self portrait at age 13. Her body looked better on paper she thought. And her lifelong fascination with trying to explain what she never understood began.
The first day in her studio she walked in with the camera looked at the barn walls and saw them. They were brittle stark white skin that seemed to reflect her own. She knew her parents were off at work so she undressed and stepped on the straw floor. The camera was mounted on a stack of old milk crates.
Asa saw her body as ugly really but felt powerful for being able to look at it.
The first photos were burned years later. The others were collected into an old pale suitcase and buried before she decided to jump. The photos seemed unreal to the onlooker but were a reminder that yes you will be buried someday.
Two weeks ago.
Her new Photography Professor asked “If you could be any animal what would you be?”
Asa remembered a camping trip she and her younger sister went on together. They ended up at a camp ground in West Virginia. There she saw a creature that was unreal and too large for a normal butterfly. She got closer as the mint green wings leapt furiously and raged to live above the ground. She prayed to let it survive.
It’s tissue thin body moved drunkenly sideways as she took a stick gently by the legs to prop the dying creature. She looked at the being with such a curiosity and felt that it was somehow a sign of things to come. When it died she felt as if she had witnessed something that most people tried to avoid.
Asa found out later it with known as the Luna Moth. The sheer name was peculiar a moth was supposed to be plain and uninteresting butterflies stole the glory. They also saw a rare Albino deer on the way to the campgrounds another sign she thought.
“I would be a Luna Moth because they are rare and live short lives.” Asa said.
The teacher laughed fakely “Woohoo man SHOULD I read into this?” as the class laughed
Asa’s face turned red she looked up
“No” she said.
Giving into what everyone was comfortable with.
“I thought this whole question thing was hypothetical” Asa went on hoping to deflect.
Her eyes moved down to her shoes remembering how worn they were. The teacher asked a few more mundane questions. Asa answered untruthfully so the interview would cease. She also realized most of her answers would be very telling to anyone within earshot.
And her classmates had taken an unhealthy interest her movements.
How can it be something so simple as explaining herself in a Photography class would cause horror and such an anxiety her face was stripped of skin. They saw her open raw and she knew it.
She went out into the world without understanding it’s complicated structure. One day she decided to pack a bag and leave with whatever money she had in her account. It was actually Ron’s idea. She met him about an hour earlier at the local mall. He was seated on the stage smack dab in the middle of the shops selling drugs she later found out.
She borrowed her mothers gold rings and necklaces from Eastern Europe wrapped them in a used napkin and left. The drive was wet cold and the snow hit her car in a furry. She was wrong to leave without a plan or without a word. She belted down the highway not wanting to stop. Passing the lights of suburban houses she killed her memory and tried to begin again.
In the mountains finally her car rumbled so gracefully she wanted to feel more. So the gas pedal was hung and pushed. Asa rolled down her window to hear the wind whistle loudly. The morning crows were out since march was supposedly their month. She kept going till a cop turned his bells on and followed each movement of her wheel. She pulled over with a fresh feeling of independence.
I wasn’t doing anything wrong ...I wasn't doing anything wrong ...she repeated over in her head as his body floated closer.
“Do you know how fast you were going miss?” the cop asked
Asa laughed “No...um...how fast?”
She smiled as he surveyed the back seat.
Ron was covered with a shiny pink silk comforter and there were beer bottles aligning the floor.
“License and Registration please.”
Ron sat up but stayed quiet.
“Here you go ser” Asa said giggling a bit
He took the license back to his police car but kept looking down then at Asa , then again at the license as if it changed each time his eyes met hers.
Her laughter turned into disgust at herself. Asa looked back at Ron and thought...if I am free why do i still feel sick?
The officer gave her a piece of paper she threw away at the next rest stop. It was bright yellow and held the words "Virginia ticket and 120 dollars." The ticket remains unpaid decomposing in a landfill somewhere.
“Why the hell did you laugh you should of cried your cute enough to get out of a speeding ticket.” Ron smirked.
Asa looked at him he was tall gangly and told her how great it was to hitchhike across the country. She would realize later he was a woman hater and sociopath. He made her nervous with talk that circled into broken truths.
“I don’t know why I laughed” “This whole situation seems unreal” “Yesterday I was sitting in a college classroom on my way to being a psychologist and today, well...I’m no one.”
Ron turned on the radio
American Woman came on. He sang it for her emphasizing “American woman STAY away from ME...darlin let me be...”
She laughed along but knew he meant it.
They found the city he raved about. It was tucked in the middle of North Carolina and didn’t seem as impressive as Ron had described. The area was filled with transients and drugged out hippies wishing it was still the sixties.
Asa looked out of place with makeup and a nice coat. She didn’t fit in at all.
Ron instructed “Put your money in the glove box so we can keep track of what we have.”
They made their way to a cafe and Asa sat down next to an old man with a sad looking dog. Both the man and the dog seemed to have mange.
“How are you doing?” she asked politely.
“Well this son of a bitch thinks he can take what's mine and that spot I built years from scratch. I ought to take this here buck knife and slit his throat.”
Ron looked over as the man took his talking voice to a barking mad yell.
Asa sunk into her coat and realized she would never fit in with anyone let alone these people.
Ron came up to Asa kissed her on the check and stated “You’re mine and don’t forget it”
and said “I’ll be back ok. Stay away from that old man he’s on acid and God knows what else.”
He laughed and waded into the dark parking lot with an older man.
Ron disappeared inside Asa's car offering the only money they had for drugs.
He came back with red eyes and a blank expression.
“You’re beautiful.” Ron said.
He held up the back of a cd and the street light reflected into her left eye. She couldn’t get her mind off her stomach it turned so harshly and growled.
Ron kissed Asa so gently and simply she decided to go home as soon as possible.
She didn’t want this. A boy to love who had already been in jail.
Ron had just gotten out of drug rehab for having a meltdown in school. He had yelled at the principal while high on LSD and took a fire distinguisher to the trophy case. She would find this all out after the fact.
They found a motel. Ron lied and got the room for half the price. He also taught Asa how to hustle free food. He explained that it was his intelligence that got him free things. But Asa knew better it was his face that drew pity from the fast food workers, the mold of a lost youth.
Asa went into the bathroom she looked at her stomach it was sunken in. She had no feeling in her left pelvic region from the surgery a few years earlier. She tried to make herself pretty but it just didn’t equate with the bright lighting she thought.
She opened the door slowly to not make noise. Ron kept his eyes on the tv he was awake.
“Do you want me to read your tarot?” She said
“I’m not that good I need the instruction book though.”
“Yeah I guess” Ron laughed at first but watched as every last syllable fell from her lips as if it were some truth sermon on his future.
As she looked up each card she noticed they all spelled out disaster. She decided to change the meaning of the cards to something more positive.
Ron looked at her and pushed the cards off the bed.
They kissed and rolled around a bit. Asa confided she was a virgin and that was enough to scare him. Ron of course had not been a virgin since 13. He told her he was afraid of the dark because his father would appear at night carrying various items to beat him with. He explained the items in a very detailed way sometimes it was a blue weight belt sometimes a ladle with metal. He held her close and went on. She felt the sickness turn to nausea and knew she was going to vomit.
She held on.
In the morning Asa took a hot shower brushed her hair and tried to cover up the black under her eyes. No matter how many times they told her she was pretty it didn’t matter. She stared at the mirror and concentrated on one flaw after another till her faced seemed to morph into something subhuman.
Ron grabbed her and said “Lay ontop of me” So she did
He moved up and down and moaned. Asa opened her eyes wide and thought without feeling anything but his shutters. She wondered how he got so much pleasure as she was still fully dressed and just laying on him like a sack of potatoes.
“Lets get breakfast” Ron blurted out
“Hmm ok...then what?”she asked
Ron thought “Then we keep going till we reach Florida.”
At that second Asa realized one important thing. Not only had she forgotten her blow dryer but she forgot to let anyone know she was leaving. Her parents had to be insane with worry. But worse than that she wasn’t as strong and carefree as she thought.
At the diner Ron ordered Asa a huge breakfast.
She stared at it hoping something would happen that Ron would be arrested for using the majority of her money to buy drugs or an earthquake anything so she wouldn't have to eat that large southern pile of grease.
“What's wrong, why aren’t you eating?” he looked annoyed.
Her mouth began to fill with salvia the thoughts rushed into her mind rapidly then burned into her stomach. She felt a wave in her mouth that crackled and overflowed with an emptiness she had only felt once before.
”I think... I think I’m going to be sick.”
Asa ran to the restroom and vomited softly so no one could listen.
She came out and Ron hugged her and tried to lean in for a kiss.
“I just threw up. Do you really want to kiss me? “ she said
Ron laughed “I like you. Just because you're sick doesn't mean I’m going to stop liking you.”
Asa smiled and sat still.
Truckers passed by as Ron held her head beside his. This was the only time things felt all right for them. It was before she decided to jump before Ron started beating her with abusive words and occasionally a fist. Before he was taken to jail to rot.
They sat inside a peculiar air that the families and truckers recognized instantly. It was that moment when you realize we only choose alone.
But this was all before Asa decided to jump.