Pink Raspberry

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
An intimate coming of age character story in which a girl doubts herself and overcomes her self loathing.

Submitted: August 09, 2012

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Submitted: August 09, 2012

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Glow

 

My name is Maggie. Maggie McPherson. Another party after another football game. Parties like these make me want to vomit sometimes, but everyone is here, anyone who is anyone that is. From the highest of the high and the lowest of the low and for what, so we can separate ourselves into the groups we always do anyway. Pointless. “It’s a party” they say, “mingle, it’s fun,” ha mingle amongst our own rather. What is the point of “mingling” if the people you are mingling with are the people you see and talk to everyday? I’m just happy I changed out of my cheerleading uniform into my normal clothes, my Maggie clothes, before showing up. I always keep my holey jeans and some kind of worn tank or t-shirt in my cheerleading bag and ditch the uniform as soon as its socially acceptable to do so.

I sip from my cold beer can while seated on the concrete stoop I’ve made my spot for the moment. To observe, if you will. To take in the big picture. To observe the glowing paper lanterns above me strung up in the sky and the twinkle lights entwined with the trunks of  the trees they hung from. Admittedly this is my favorite part about parties, the lanterns blowing in the breeze dimly shining their own whimsy light from inside and the lights twinkling below them. It’s quite magical really and peaceful. To observe the kids clustered together surrounding me, laughing and doing ridiculous things to make their friends laugh. Girls chatting up their crushes or trying to get the nerve to do so. Boys eyeing the girls and acting macho in front of their friends. Suggesting eyes flirting over tops of plastic cups. I observe all of this, as I have at every other party I’ve been to in my high school career. It’s not like I don’t participate in all the teen fun, I do, but I also sit back and watch, in solitude, the absurdity of it all. I would love for once to attend a party in which people could have intelligent and interesting conversations rather than showing up to dish about the latest gossip; who was with who and who said what to so and so and all the random hooking up. It’s old and it’s boring, it’s the same conversation and the same situation every time.

I raked my hands through my perfectly strait, perfectly blonde hair as I sit with perfect posture and sip from my can with my perfectly glossed lips. Or so everyone tells me anyway, perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Perfect makes me want to gag sometimes. I keep telling myself that one day I’m going to rebel and dye my hair some ridiculous hair color, like bright red or raspberry pink. It would be pretty rad. My parents would die. Not to mention my cheerleading coach. I can hear them now, “What have you done to your perfect blonde hair! And right before Homecoming!” With the required head shake of disappointment following of course. It amazes me that I know so much about other people simply by paying attention and none of them really know me, or actually care to, I don’t think. Ugh. But, still, I remain perfect on the outside, to keep up the script I’m to memorize and follow I suppose. It’s easy to be what people want you to be as long as you trick yourself into believing that’s who you are anyway.

I pulled out a pack of cigarettes from my bag and lit one up and smiled as I exhaled the rough smoke thinking how aghast coach would be if she saw me smoking. I always feel a little defiant when I sneak a smoke under the bleachers at half time. Like I get to be someone else for a moment, even though I have my uniform on and my big curled ribbon bow in my hair, actually that makes my smoke break even more enjoyable. The pretty little cheerleader that can make a crowd go wild tumbling across a football field, like it’s a piece of cake, with my forever smile plastered on my face and those goddamn spirit fingers. I detest spirit fingers. I hid the spirit stick at cheer camp once, I thought the entire squad was going to have an aneurism.  Anyway, my parents pretend they can’t smell the lurking smoke around my window and in my clothes. It’s better for them if they don’t have to address an “unsavory issue” with their perfect daughter. Ah such is life in good old Sunshine City.

“What’s up Sunshine?” came from a voice I knew well.

-I cringe at the horrific nickname I had been dubbed Maggie Sunshine,  Little sunshine of Sunshine City, since, well I don’t even know, probably my first debut into society as an unsuspecting infant. I guess that’s what you get when you’re a blue-eyed blonde-haired perky oh-so-full-of-life girl with a smile for everyone. Radiant even. Dear lord, this is what I’ve become I sigh inside my head.

“Hey Darling.”

Darla “Darling” Davis. One of my oldest friends.  We don’t necessarily run in the same circle any more but we had a special moment in 5th grade when we both wore glasses and enjoyed library time and bonded over the Ramona Quimby books. Our favorite was when she took one bite out of all the apples her mother was supposed to make apple sauce with and when asked why she would do such a thing, her response was, “because the first bite is always the best bite.” I couldn’t get over that. I’ve loved Ramona Quimby all my life purely for that statement alone. People would think I was babyish if they knew I still read my old books sometimes, “you need to study or practice more with your free time.” I imagine these words spoken in an annoying condescending way that makes me want to throw my pom poms in someone’s face and tell em to shove em up their ass. Of course I don’t.

Since our fifth grade library days, I’ve gotten contacts. She still wears her glasses. Her frames are tortoise shell colored and compliment her hazel eyes beautifully. She could have gorgeous curls to fall around the tortoise shell frames that covered her light hazel eyes. If only she would invest in a little hair product and a hair dryer. Not Darla, she claims she doesn‘t have the time nor the patience, plus her hair is hers and she doesn’t want to change it otherwise she wouldn‘t be Darla, or something like that. She was always going on about one thing or another. Darla’s  hair is a rich brunette color to die for that curled wildly around her face and down her back. The only alteration she subjects her hair to is a brightly colored streak mixed in there somewhere. Tonight, it’s brightly colored peacock blue. I love her hair.

Oh, we call Darla “Darling” because that is precisely what she is. A darling. But genuine like, not just on the outside. That girl is kind to every person she encounters. She seems to have a knack for making herself right at home in any group of people in any situation, and they accept her! I mean people generally don’t call her up and ask her to hang out but she is a mystery and adored by all. I think it’s because people wish they had the kindness inside themselves that she has within her.  She is nice to everyone and here’s the kicker, she’s a virgin. And she doesn’t broadcast it but she’s proud of it and very strong minded, although some think she’s a bit dippy and unpredictable, which she can be. But she pulls it off with a cheeky smile and a wink every time.  The best part about Darla is that she’s not all preachy, judgmental and gossipy. You can have a conversation with her without feeling like a giant whore. It’s not like she’s this born again angel or whatever, she always has some wonderful story behind all of her beliefs. See, she has this idea that she will go off to some romantic third world country that’s fallen to despair  and meet some handsome stranger that doesn’t speak English and they will fall madly in love with one another and live happily ever after, teaching each other language and customs  and teaching the poor children how to read and write give them  literature to read and all that jazz. An even bigger kicker, people respect her for it. Don’t get me wrong, people think she is totally bonkers, she’s like the “special” person in town that people just laugh and shake their heads and say “Oh that little darling and all her new-fangled ideas”, I mean they legit say “new-fangled”. Like we’re in some kind of black and white tv show or something, living our lives in muted fuzzy colors of gray, ironically enough, some genius gave us a super bright name like Sunshine City. I guess Sunshine City and I have more in common than our names. I feel gray and fuzzy yet from the outside I’m the lovely Maggie “Sunshine” McPhearson. Cheerleader, honor roll student, daughter to parents who sit on every committee known to man in this city and work in big shiny offices and throw holiday parties and all that crap.  A pair of regular outstanding citizens, those two, and I’m their lovely prodigy. It’s like I’m their pet or some shit, “sit up strait Margaret,” “smile pretty Margaret,” blah blah blah. They are the only ones that even call me Margaret.

I sigh deeply and have a another sip of beer, because that’s what young ladies such as myself do, sip. I’m taken from my poisonously bitter thoughts by Darla plopping down next to me and popping the tab of her own beer can and set two unopened ones next to us. Apparently she was planning on invading my stoop for awhile.

“What’s up” she says with her cheeky smile.

 It made me want to puke and smile all at the same time. I couldn’t help it, she was my oldest friend, the urge to smile took over and I smiled back to her and said,

“Hey lady, what’s happenin in the world today? Find some god forsaken “romantic” third world country to run off to and meet the man of your dreams and help the little children and whatnot?”

“Well, I’m thinking somewhere in Eastern Europe. I mean how much more romantic can you get than being surrounded by a fantastically superstitious land of people, not to mention darkly gorgeous men.” she exaggerated a wink.

I just laughed and said,

“That’s why I love you Darling, Only you could make superstitious people that hate Americans in a foreign land of poverty, in which no one speaks English seem romantic.”

“I nearly swoon over it daily. So what’s wrong, you look deep in thought, slightly homicidal actually.” She said as if it were the most dramatic thing ever.

“I was just thinking and watching the party and losing myself in the lanterns and the lights wishing I had a glow like that. They seem so free up there hanging in the wind, just glowing on, without a care or wonder in the world.”

“Well they are paper lanterns and plug in lights, really under human control. But I can dig  it.”

She shrugged as she pulled a cigarette from my pack and then handed me one and we shared a lighter and clinked cans. We sat for a moment in silence, drinking and smoking, staring off into the sky and the lanterns and the stars with music and conversation around us, but I felt as if we were in a bubble where no one could see or hear us for the time being. Isolated, cut off, protected even. I don’t know why I brought it but one minute I was staring at the stars smoking and sipping and the next I was spilling out every “radical” horrible “un-Maggie Sunshine thought I had inside.

“Darling?” I asked lowly and quietly, my heart thumping in my chest.

“Hmmm” came through wistfully with an exhale of smoke that curled into the night air.

“Do you ever feel like people want you to be, think that you’re, someone you’re not and you just accept it by flowing through with no say or opinion about anything because it’s easier and it will make people happy. That it will make them like you? Do you ever wonder who you would be or what you would like if you were born somewhere else, or went somewhere that people didn’t know you? I mean you could be anything you wanted but how would you know what to be if you didn’t have someone telling you what to be. Do you ever wonder if people really know you or think about, or even care about, what you’re thinking about or how you feel? Do you ever think that who you really are is not what you are on the outside and get terrified sick that you’ll never know who you really are and wind up going through life not making a difference or not doing anything important, just blending in and doing what you’re supposed to do because people will send you to social Siberia if you don’t think the way they do or think you’re weird if you like something different than them?”

“Well, no. Hell no. I look at it like this, remember that movie The Breakfast Club, the one where they have to sit all day in detention and everyone is, like, completely different from one another and they all are sucked into the vortex into the black hole of conformity in a society in which social class defines what and who you are supposed to be. The typical  cliché high school stereotypes… Well the one girl, Ally Sheedy plays her, I don’t remember her name in the movie, anyway she’s totally awesome, like legit weird as shit and super cool. Well she says at one point when they are getting all deep and talking about friendship and life and all that jazz, anyway, she says, “I don’t think the kind of friends that I’d have would mind.” She’s basically saying that people aren’t truly your friends if you can’t be your true self in their presence and if they dismiss you or turn their nose up at you for not complying with everything they say, then, and she paused,  I’d say it’s time you get yourself some new friends.”

Oh right, of course she’s bubbling with the “be yourself” wisdom that she adores so much, and I thought this in my head in the imaginary mocking voice I’ve crafted for people that irk me.

“That’s easy for you to say, you have that kind of will to be as weird and quirky as you like and you enjoy what you do and I bet no one has ever expected any certain expected proper,behavior from you and they all adore you, including your parents, Darling.” I said with a snort (which was quite un-lady like if I do say so myself). “You don’t know what it’s like to have your “best friends” be so sweet and loving to your face and rip you to shreds the minute you have your back turned. You don’t know what it’s like to have a guy promise you the world so that he can get you into his bed or car or whatever, have his way with you, get what he wants and leave you behind when it’s over like it was nothing. The girls hate all the other girls and all the guys only want to sleep with the girls and I go along with it because I think that is what I’m supposed to do, I think that people will like me if I do what pleases them. I’m supposed to go along with it so that I can be accepted within my circle of friends. And everyone goes along with it just the same and we know it and yet we still do it anyway, like we’ve lost our selves to do things that people want you to do only so that they don’t turn their backs on you, which is ironic because they do that anyway, and even better, still pretend to be your friend the next day. We become engrossed in being the prettiest most adored person there is to be. I do it too. I crave the attention and I feel like it’s fun and I’m living out my teen years and then when it’s all over I feel bad and I feel ashamed. It’s exhausting. I’m afraid of who I really am because I don’t even know who I really am anymore. I’m just the girl that is always happy and never says no to anyone.  I feel alone, even surrounded by my friends, I don’t know or like the  person that I‘ve become. Like before, when I said I think I should have been born in a different time or place. I don’t belong here. If I were somewhere else I could be anything I wanted to be, become someone new. Have a great love story, or do something important or something really spectacular. Sometimes at night when I’m trying to sleep I wish I lead some kind of deeply tragic life with only a deeply tragic death to follow to be remembered by. Like, how fucked is that? I mean, what type of person thinks that way? I’m supposed to be this ridiculous awesome adorable smiley bubbly person and I hate that. I loathe myself and who I am. I haven’t done one legit important thing in my life. I mean I get strait A‘s and I‘m head cheerleader. And I say please and thank you, I‘m the respectable young lady my parents expect me to be and I‘m the girl that pleases everyone no matter what the cost, even if I don‘t want to take part in whatever it is that‘s going on at the time. I can‘t even say, I‘m ashamed to say how many times I‘ve had sex with a guy and I didn‘t really want to but didn‘t want to be “childish“ and say no and just waiting for it to be over.”

I looked down at my beer can afraid to meet her eyes. I’d never said any of this out loud to anyone, not even in a diary.

“Well, Sunshine, I‘d venture to say that you‘re living out your dream of living tragically. I mean that‘s pretty fucking tragic all in itself?”

I choked out a baby laugh and took a sip of my now semi warm beer.

“Right?!” I think I may have a few twisted bones in my body.”

“I think you just slipped into a routine that you didn’t care for but didn’t know what else to do because you’ve been told all your life this is what you were supposed to do. Now you’re conflicted because you don’t believe in all this proper happy horse shit you’ve thought you believed in and wanted all these years.”

I paused and thought and thought and we finished our beers in a contemplative silence. I didn’t stop with my spew of unhappy thoughts at that. I continued as she popped the tops of the other two beers and we shared a cigarette as I talked, as she listened, twirling her curls making them even wilder that before.

“People have said to me that there is a glow in my eyes, some sort of radiant glow or some shit like that. I always get really embarrassed too. They say that I have the ability to make people smile with my eyes just by looking at them and I dutifully giving them a glowing eye smile and say why thank you, that’s just lovely to hear. - I mean it takes everything I have not to  tell them to get fucked. But I would never say that to someone. I can think it, but I can’t say it aloud. Puh. I don’t see any glow when I look in the mirror and I don’t feel it. I don’t feel any kind of glow inside. I think it used to be there. But it’s gone. Lost. I feel as if any radiance I may have once possessed is dull and faded. I’m not even really sure if there ever was a glow, maybe I just wanted so badly to believe it.  Believe I was different, that I was special.”

Darla tossed her curls back from her face and put her arm around my shoulders and said,

“Look my little Maggie Sunshine, you speak of this glow people talk about right? Well if they see it, even if they secretly hate it, they see it and they want it for themselves. Some people are just born to suck the life out of those they wish to be like, they take what they want from you but keep you close so that they can feed off of your energy, off of your glow. It’s there. They see it. I see it. You might have lost is but lost things are meant to be found and you can find it. All you have to do is try. You’re Maggie. Maggie fucking Sunshine McPhearson. Why do you think you got stuck with something as ridiculous as Sunshine… because you glow and shine and you are radiant. You don’t have to be some lump of cookie dough rolled around and smashed down to be formed by some awful plastic cookie cutter in the hands of someone else who wants to cut you out and decorate you  and beam with pride at their creation. Make your own dough, pick out your own icing and sprinkles and decorate yourself girl. Create your own cookie.”

A small sigh escaped from my lips and formed a smile, leave it to Darling Darla to say something totally weird, charming and wickedly smart and clever all at the same time. Her hazel eyes twinkled a wink at me and we clinked cans again, downed our beers and toasted decorating our own cookies, and I said,

“Thank you Darling.” and kissed her cheek.

She wrapped her arm around me and flipped my hair over my shoulder and kind of whispered into my blonde locks,

“I only listened to what you had to say and told you what you already knew yourself. You just needed blurt it out and hear it from someone else, to hear it from me. You can be anyone you want to be. You can be the best Maggie there is, the ONLY Maggie McPhearson there is, and honey, that’s the real Maggie. You just have to admit the truth, not to anyone else, but only to yourself. And after that. You’re free. Free to explore and enjoy life on your terms and not anyone else’s. Remember the girl with the glasses and freckled nose that didn’t care if going to the library and reading was the “in” thing to do. You loved it, and that is what you chose to do. Bring that girl back.”

She clasped my hand, kissed my fingers, and got up to shimmy away to another poor soul who needed a little Darling perspective in their life, leaving me sitting on the stoop in an astonished state of dumbfounded admiration. How does she do that? Her words echoed,

“you’re free.” 

 Those words bounced around in my head until they became soft and lulling in my mind and they seeped into my heart. I sat and took my time smoking another cigarette as my eyes drifted up, up into the glowing lanterns and I felt the heavy cloak of solitude lift from me, it’s almost as if I could see it floating up into the air, passing through the lanterns, up into the stars. The bubble I had escaped to began to melt into the ground and I could, again, feel the pulse of music and I could, again, here the hum of mostly drunken chatter. A small smile captured my lips and a small thought saturated my brain. 

I stood and lifted my bag onto my shoulder, waved across to Darla “Darling” Davis, my book buddy, breathed deeply and set off into the night. I coasted through the music, through the clusters, through my friends, through the glowing lanterns. I walked towards the empty sidewalk and down the road. A new road. A road that would allow me to see and experience life through someone else’s eyes, someone else’s perspective. Through Maggie “Sunshine” McPhearson’s eyes. From her perspective. With my own opinions about life. My life.

As I walked home that night I made my first impulsive decision that I can recall. I went home and dyed my  long blonde hair a gorgeous shade of pink raspberry and painted my nails to match. That night I laid my head into my pillow with my new raspberry colored hair fanned out across my fluffy pillows adorned with ruffles and lace with a Ramona Quimby book in my hands. I feel asleep just like that. That night I feel asleep easily with a new found ease I had never felt before. That night I slept deeply without guilt or shame. I was free. Free to summon the glow back to me that I had buried some time ago.


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