She is born, the exact moment of sunrise, in a warm, wet mess, with her mother’s forehead bulging, and cheeks a rosy pulse and blushing. She’s a normal child, with a cute giggle, light skin, and a promise provided by her parents. She grows up, slathering mud on her hair and grazing on plastic shovels in a disheveled sandbox. She eats her baby food, then easily digestible foods, liking her vegetables, but hating the meats.
She crawls around the bottom floor of her parent’s grand house, a delightfully sizeable and gorgeous house overlooking a cliff in a dainty neighborhood up the hills of a progressively leaning, liberal populated small city. She is enrolled in supposedly unique and “open minded” daycares and preschools, then a child’s private art school. She paints and listens to music and learns grammar and words. She also pees her pants whenever she sees something scary, and can never keep still during nap time. She makes friends cause she’s adorably obnoxious and flirtatious; quite the creative spirit with an exciting personality. She is given love by her family, and her lifestyle.
She is dressed in nice clothes, because they’re visiting relatives today, and all her relatives live in nice houses with nice jobs and nice cars; they always eat at an ethnic or “cultural” restaurant, but only one that is absurdly expensive and praised by the white bleached magazines they read. She pulls on her mother’s dress, saying that she thinks she saw the waiter spit in their food, but the mother brushes her away and says it is impolite to think of “them” in that way.
She has a lot of snacks and desserts, and she learns about different types of cuisine at a very young age, tasting and experiencing things that her tongue is not physically developed enough to yet enjoy. She’s exposed to the “arts” and to the “white people party, with an occasional ethnic guy to make us look tolerant”. She watches those silly cartoons and those propaganda pushing children’s movies, some specifically chosen by her parents to preach, or some picked out of partly bored persuasions.
She gets her first art set, a collection of pastels and chalks, with some special paper to scribble on. She likes drawing out nonsensical things, like flowers and puppies, trees or mothers. She likes candy, puts up with milk, and even walks around a lot, especially with that cuddly dog of hers, in that posh garden where the murky skinned woman in a hat and dirty clothes plots plants and carries a canteen of water and whiskey. She’s a fun, bright, and imaginative kid.
She graduates from a child’s private art school. She says goodbye to her friends on the last day of seventh grade, while they’re in the bathroom talking about how boys will think they are cuter if they throw up in toilets. She thinks they’re crazy, and says she doesn’t even like boys. She lies.
She likes a boy in her English class who is always curious, asking questions, and participating in the discussions. She’s far too shy to contribute herself, or also to even talk to this boy. She sketches him in the back of her sketchpad, away from assignments and notes. She knows she’ll never see him again, but she scratches the chalk anyway.
She went to public school because of the money her family owed. She says to herself she’ll be “open minded” and is fairly nervous on her first day. She does not talk to anyone, and walks around with the middle of her mouth perching at the tip of her nose, and the sides of her lips stretched downward, aiming at her neck like arrows poised to strike. She eventually meets someone who also wastes class to doodle, and who also likes eccentric dress and talk. She shrieks and giggles with this friend, and she is introduced to other friends, and soon all she ever does is mope around with her companions.
She signs up for art classes, and learns to loathe math class. She composes herself an “individualistic freethinker” and soon attaches to all the other art sissies at her school. She likes that they have weird topics of conversation too, and also choose to wear things that don’t match or just appear lazily tossed together. She does not adapt to all these people and social things, however, and realizes that “fuck the norm”, though in a less explicit manner, is a pretty decent catchphrase. She discovers her friends feel the same, and they begin to disregard the populace by all copying each other and becoming a clique themselves.
She goes to a public high school, and becomes distressed by the revelation that, “yeah, I do kinda like boys.” She smokes some weed and thinks it makes her more creative and thoughtful, then she smokes it cause it’s fun and it makes her feel good. She buys weed, learns to prepare it, and smokes it with her artsy friends. She tells people she doesn’t believe in drugs or alcohol. She lies.
She paints in private, and writes poetry after reading some painful confessional posts on the internet. She can’t seem to get boys to like her, though, because her loud and happy personality is deterrent from the norm. She cannot accept that she is just being annoying. She continues to stray from what everybody else is doing, except for her friends, whom she discriminately imitates all the time.
She smokes a lot, and is honestly nervous during every drug deal, but she never shows it. She disses on other girls for being sluts, and then decides to fuck a guy in her art class and another cute guy whom she dated for a couple months because they both liked to hike or something. She joins a sport at school, and makes a lot more sorts of acquaintances. She gets her art teacher’s email and number, and shows off her work with rawness and vulnerability. She jokes about it around her friends and around strangers, blaming her flourishing creativity on the drugs and stuff.
She gains more stress as college deadlines approach, and high school bleeds away in relevancy and memory, leaving behind just the scraps of stems in a crumpled plastic bag. She’s vomiting in the toilets again, like she did with her friends in art school on their last day, and does it so more boys will fuck her. She struggles with body image, because nobody appreciates her artistic passions or person, so she ignores those desires and focuses on the norm. She wants the norm to accept her, so she begins to drink and party and suck dick. She is rejected, however, for saying a joke that was too weird or having no manners when passing the joint with real people instead of her dorky white friends.
She’s skin and bones, lacking muscle and support; her intrusive family finds her stash and sees her throw up in the guest bathroom. She speaks with the family therapist, confessing she is “depressed” about the things in her life. She sees herself as a pensive person, and utilizes this to enhance her mirage of an “outwardly artistic and life-loving person”.
She quits throwing up, and just ups the partying. She stops talking to boys, at least for anything other than a quick friendship or fuck, forgetting to text back real ones, and joking about obscenities she might have been appalled by in her youth. She packs the pipe, and lights that joy.
She applies to her dream college, a place much like her private art school, and she hoped that maybe now her life would be given that sweet push it needed. She is denied. She is heartbroken, and picks a place out of state to just get away from all the bullshit.
She maintains a drug habit and scratches poetry into the veins on her body that nobody else can see. She moves in, leaving behind her previous life, and looking forward to a new one. She says to her family it will be great, and she says to herself “dammit, I’m not sure, but I’m thinking things might finally be what I’m looking for in life.” She lies.
She hates college. She thinks the classes are too hard or trivial, and smokes weed in every waking moment, soon adding cigarettes and liquor to her excess resume. She has pills of all sorts and prescription, kept in a zip lock baggie in the stuffing in the hole in the pillow in her pillow case. She only associates herself with a few people, abandoning social concepts, and adopting a more realistic sense of “fuck the norm”; albeit, this time unintentionally.
She debates dropping out just to go out and relish life, but she doesn’t want to have to confront her controlling, neurotic parents, and all of her friends are so busy or so far, working on their own lives and not in any position to lend a shoulder to rest her head on.
She goes to a local art museum on a rainy day with her only friend made, and she walks around, disgruntled and on the verge of collapsing. She sees these beautiful pieces, and wonders what it’s all about. She asks, “Were these people depressed like me? Did they feel what I’m feeling? Feel what this is? What’s the point? Can I ever be happy? Why am I doing this? Why am I doing anything? Why have I ever? Is there love? I-is…is there something I’m missing?” She sits and cries, but wipes her eyes when somebody looks over, and goes out into the alleyway for a cigarette. She regrets everything she’s ever done, yet she cannot just forsake it to oblivion. She gets nostalgic and feels over-empowered by feeling and sensation, melancholy and personal, numbing her and invigorating her all at once. She quivers her lips, and stops breathing. She thinks, “…am I missing?”
She goes on with her education until she is caught with drugs on campus, followed by write-ups and fines, and eventually she is expelled from school. She refuses all the calls from her parents, packs up all her things, scrambles together a bit of cash, and stays in a local cheap motel. She calls all the old gals, but they’re busy, or poor, or spiteful; she calls all the old guys, but they have girlfriends, or jobs, or grudges. She’s trembling in a bus stop, in snow and uncertainty, feeling at last a genuine pain and doubt.
She does not eat, and what she does manage to get she just throws up. She goes into withdrawals. She goes into depression. She lies in the streets during traffic, but somebody always comes and moves her. She messages all the old classmates from her high school, including the ones she never talked to, the ones she didn’t know, and the ones who she spoke to only for convenience or boredom.
She says she’s fine; she just needs a little bit of help. She lies.
She does happen upon a single person, who reveals that they were heavily infatuated with her in high school, but they never had the gall to make it anything more than a daydream. She licks her lips as they speak of family in that part of the country, and an old vacation house with a spare key hidden in the garden.
She buys the bus ticket as the person explained how they only used the house during summers and the occasional Christmas, but to look out for random checkups and such. She arrives and scours the garden, finds the key, and unpacks her bags on the softest bed. She lives here for a week, when sure enough, somebody does come to checkup. She is in the bath as she hears the door open, and upon the sight of her unkempt clothes and meal remains, a muted screech, and a slamming door.
She lowers herself into the back of the cop car, snubbing the officer’s attempts to put her in there himself. She is arrested for trespassing and such (also that little bit of mescaline hiding in the breadbox). She does not mention the person who told her of the key, because she feels it would ruin their family life, and nobody deserved that. She did not call her parents. She called her old drug dealer from the college, not the economics jackass down the hall, but the guy in the shady deli who overpriced his goods because he knew college students would be afraid of an authentic criminal. She says she’ll give him up to the cops, as vulgar and as desperate as she’s ever sounded.
She never talks to anyone like that, and had always lived her life in fear of people beyond her vision of “love” and “happiness”. She remembers her parents, and when they said, “If they’re not in this neighborhood, they ain’t safe.” She smirks. She is so outside her neighborhood now. She is so outside the norm, that she is nothing but.
She beats her knuckles against the brick in frustration, until they bleed and swell up like paint blots. She maniacally screams, but nobody regards it. She awaits the dealer, but he never comes.
She wanders about, from party to party to alley, getting off on cheap chem dust and beer pumped though tubes. She gets a job playing with the paintbrushes of the artists of the night. She rents out a cheap apartment; no furniture, no color, no pulse. She stacks up addictions and gets stranded in hopelessness, until she spends all her money on drugs and alcohol and no food. She’s still shoving fingers down her throat, but now nothing even comes up, aside from the occasional spurt of blood.
She thinks back to her younger self, those first moments of dragging a pastel across a page, finding such a simple joy in the lines, in the shades, in the chalky but warm crumbs of possibility and escape. She thinks that the powders then were so different from the powders now.
She is stricken by a pain—a pain that has been throbbing for a while, but only now is it silent enough for her to hear it. She collapses from her cancer, lying upon her sins in her bathroom. She is alone. She chuckles and says, “I’m still that artist I was before.” She doesn’t lie.
She’s as naked and as open as the day she came to be. She murmurs, “Yes…y-yes…this is what I want…this is it…t-this is it…this is it…this is…ugh…this is….t-this….” She dies.
© Copyright 2016 Cory Cortez. All rights reserved.
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