Multiple Narrator Narrative
What a Sad Girl Eats
She likes to eat candy, but not the way she used too. When she was younger, a bag of jelly beans or gummy worms would be followed by a finger or two down her throat in a lonely school bathroom. Now, she eats her feelings but keeps them pent up inside of her, bringing her a rush of happiness that she can’t get anywhere else. Her best friend helps keep her sane, telling her how boys prefer girls who have meat on their bones, who weigh enough to get their periods. The space beneath her bed is covered with wrappers, hidden away from the prying eyes of her health conscious parents. The bright candies hurt her stomach but make her feel comforted and warm inside.
What as Sad Girl Thinks About
Going to class can be too much sometimes. When she can’t take it, she’ll walk to a cemetary down the road from school and take a break from her life. The cool grass against her skin make her feel grounded and the solitude is comforting. Her head is often so clouded that she can’t think but when she cuts class to be alone outside, her thoughts are as clear as the sky she stares up at. She thinks about her brother, who’s mental illness keeps him at almost constant risk of hurting himself. She thinks about her ex boyfriend and how he hurt her, leaving her crying, lying in the middle of the road watching his car pull away. She thinks about the future, and if she’ll be alive to experience what it has to offer. She can’t wait for college, a career, and kids, but she doesn’t know what those will bring and if she’ll be able to help herself through it. These solo field trips bring her stillness externally, but inside she’s full of movement.
Why a Crazy Girl Doesn’t Go to Football Games
She used to love them, the excitement, the cheering, the snackbar, and the acceptance that her school’s team will lose but enjoying watching them play anyway. The first game of the season that year was different. She originally decided not to go, but the solitude inside her house was making her crazy so she joined her friends at the end of the first quarter. Sitting in the hard concrete stands, she listened to her friends talk about the boys in their lives. Some of these boys brought happiness, some brought heartbreak, some brought excitement, the nervous, happy feeling of a newness and the promise of a relationship. She confided in them that she knew hers was going to break up with her, maybe that Sunday when she had plans to see him. They all told her not to worry; she was just feeling insecure and it would end up alright. Thinking about this brought on a wave of anxiety, a tsunami crashing down on her from the top of the stadium. She knew a panic attack was coming, so followed by two friends, she dashed up the steps and then down towards the hallways. She ran and ran, surprised by her own speed. Finally, she crashed into a wall and began to sob, falling to the floor and lying in a messy heap. Her friends caught up to her and tried to console her, but her mind was in such chaos that she couldn’t register what they were saying. All she knew was that she was in danger; from kids passing her in the hallway, from the dark bushes, and from the severed head hiding in the loudspeaker who was knowingly whispering, “You aren’t okay, are you. They’re all after you. All of them.” Suddenly enraged, she threw her purse as hard as she could, hitting a younger boy in the back of the head. He was trying to kill her, probably with the long bloody knife sticking out his back pocket. Her friends called her mom, who came to pick her up immediately. She knew she needed to go to the hospital psych ward but instead, she calmed down, had a glass of tea and went to bed. Ever since then, she’s been afraid to go to football games, for fear of these events repeating themselves.
What a Crazy Girl Talk About in Therapy:
Her therapist is a friendly blond woman who blames her symptoms on her astrology chart, full of Scorpio and Gemini. She tells her that sometimes she wants to jump off a building, not to kill herself but because she thinks she can fly. She tells her that sometimes she daydreams about sneaking into her ex boyfriend’s house and cutting off his wavy black hair with scissors so he can feel her pain, even though she knows that he already does. She chuckles, picturing how he would look bald. Her therapist reminds her of the rules of confidentiality, that the police will be called if she states serious intention to hurt him or anyone else. But she and her therapist know that she won’t actually do any of the destructive things she thinks about doing.
How a Smart Girl Parties
She limits herself to the cheap vodka halfway filling a glass kombucha bottle. She takes as many hits off her and her friends’ e cigarettes as she wants but only two from her wax pen. The best kind of drunk is sober enough to have coherent conversations and to not worry about throwing up but drunk enough to dance and give her snapchat to any boy who asks. Everything in moderation; go out, but not every weekend. Kiss boys, but don’t let them convince you into going further in the back rooms of house parties. She was proud of herself for being safe that Halloween. A boy at the party she went to drank to such excess that he was unable to speak, a mixture of foam and vomit pouring out of his mouth as he stared blankly. 911 was called and the party ended in flashes of red and white lights, the fire trucks roaring away while everyone looked on. She felt bad for the boy, and glad that she had not had the same fate. She knew she was prone to making bad decisions when it came to drugs and alcohol. But that time, she felt mature for pacing herself and having fun without being self destructive.
What a Smart Girl Has Realized
She knows that she has nothing in her life figured out, but that that’s okay. Her feelings are huge and heavy, sometimes coming close to crushing her. But she’s learned how to deal with them and grown strong enough to push them off. She still thinks about the boy who broke her heart, but doesn’t miss the chaos he brought. Being a teenager is about figuring out who she is, which she doesn’t yet know how to discover. In the meantime, she works on taking care of herself and the people she loves, finding happiness in her relationships.
Laughter fills the small kitchen as all twenty-one of us try to squeeze to get close to the big pot over the stove. The room smells like a sticky, sweet day, and we are all trying to get over to Grandma to sample her famous jam. No matter where you turn, there is a relative who is engaged in some conversation. To the kids it sounds a bit like the adults in Charlie Brown, “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah…”.
It gets too crowded with all the kids running around, and one of the uncles, most likely Uncle Dan, yells at us to scram. We burst out of the small doorway like water from a dam. We run into the adjoining living room and most of the younger cousins go upstairs to push the little red button on the singing fish Grandpa Merle found somewhere. “There’s a little song I wrote, might want to sing it note for note…” plays in the background as the girls go into Grandma’s closet, try on all her pretty dresses and pretend that we are queens going to a ball. It is how we see her, and sometimes if we are lucky, we can drag the boys in to be our princes, but not today. “Take me to the river, plop me in the water, take me to the…” We dance and sing along with whatever song is mumbling along in the background. Someone bangs on the ancient piano. Finally, we are adorned with old aprons that Grandma’s mother made for her and some that she had made for Nanna and her daughters. We all file back into the kitchen and squeeze together to watch the process of the jam being put into jars, and after, we shuffle to the table for Grandma’s homemade veranika, a dish that we have all grown up learning to make, and one that we all love.
Once we are all seated, we pray for the meal and begin to enjoy the food Grandma worked so hard to make. We are not disappointed. We all talk and catch up about our crazy year and how we have been, the kids bragging about all the cool things they got to do trying to one-up everyone else. These kinds of meals are periodically sprinkled with quiet moments, which are almost always broken by an antsy cousin who complains that he is bored of sitting and waiting for the fun to start back up again. It’s funny that there is complaining even though this is the most looked forward to event of our entire trip.
Slowly we are excused from the table and now the conversation is interrupted by the singing fish, “don't worry be happy now ohhhhhhhhhhhh…” Next we are all called down to the backyard, and we walk with Grandpa Merle as he brings a handful of sunflower seeds and cashews for his friends in the trees. We watch in wonder as he seems to talk to all the birds and squirrels in a way that we have only seen in cartoons. We try not to scare the birds away with any sudden movement or noise, which inadvertently makes us look like we are walking on the moon. Once Grandpa Merle’s pockets are exhausted of sunflower seeds and cashews, we go back into the house where all the dads and uncles are sitting around the living room with a beer, and all the moms and aunts are gossiping in the kitchen.
The sound of buttons spilling out onto the carpet causes a stampede of little feet running from the kitchen, where we were sneaking extra dessert from the pans. We are still adorned with old homemade aprons from long ago, and we all fight to get to Grandma, because this is our favorite activity whenever we are at her house. The button tin has been brought out. We run up the stairs and find Grandpa Merle, as always, sitting on the ever warm chair, reading the paper like he always does while we sneak extra dessert and he pretends not to see. I run into the room first, beating the rest of the cousins, and over to where Grandma is sitting next to a pile of buttons, although I have seen them a billion times, the buttons seem brand new and different than before. We each circle around and carefully sort through the assortment of buttons. We know each button has a unique story. We each choose one that we like, and then we wait until everyone else has taken a turn. Grandma always goes from oldest to youngest, which means that I almost always get to go first (unless Seb, Lizzie, and Kenzie came, but they rarely do). The button tin has a rich history of kids, grandkids, and now great grandkids sorting through it for a story from Grandma as she laughs and watches us with pride and joy. The button tin used to be an old cookie tin. It has since overflowed from that tin into an actual box. We all circle around. My button is a deep blue velvet button with a little ship that is embroidered in gold. I hand it to Grandma and her smile grows as she laughs and starts into her story.
This particular button was from a coat that her mother had made her when she was young. When Grandma was growing up, it wasn't very often that she got a store bought dress, but her family had saved for months so she could have a party dress for her 12th birthday, and the button belonged to a coat that her mom had made to go with the dress. She absolutely loved that dress. On her birthday, when she was running around playing in the forest behind her home, she tripped and her coat was torn. When she got back home, her mother stitched it right up. She took a button that she had found and sewed it on as an extra to help keep the mended part sealed. As she finishes her story, her laughter fills the room like sunlight in the morning, the rest of the cousins get their story told, and we all get to keep the button we have chosen. My cousin Logan asks excitedly like he always does, “Tell us a story Grandpa,” because we never get bored of the stories that are shared in this room, and Grandpa Merle always has the best stories.
“Well when I was a little boy it was very different, and when I was 5 or 6 or so I would hop on a train to see where it went, and packed a sack of potatoes or some odds or ends from dinner the night before that I had stashed away in my napkin, and I would go down to the fires that were all along the tracks and would have dinner with the hobos. We had the best stew and there was almost always music and dancing. It was a good time.”
The story always ended with him laughing to himself and saying, “that was a good time.” He would continue on, and we would all get drawn in as he told the beautifully woven stories of people he had met long ago. I don't think you can adequately describe the joy and admiration that writes itself on all of our faces as we listen to Grandma and Grandpa Merle’s stories. We just enjoy sitting and talking with them. The most important thing about family Grandma tells us, is the fact that even though we don't always get along or enjoy being with each other, we always have each others backs. This has been drilled into me and my cousins since we could talk, and it is such an important thing to remember, especially since as we have gotten older, and we don’t get to see each other every year. We have gotten closer to one another, because we know that no matter how cruel the world can be, Grandma's house will always be a little sliver of heaven.
The golden light comes through the window blinds, lazily casting a spotlight on the dust in the air. I sit at the edge of my seat, my shoulders slumped, my eyes downcast, and my mind filled with everything I shouldn’t be thinking of and nothing to do with the work at hand. My laptop is laid open in front of me on the long glass table, quietly humming. The screen is a blank document, pure white, a flickering black cursor line taunting me in the top left corner. I sit silently, counting proverbial sheep in my mind’s eye, as the emerald green grandfather clock goes tick tock in the background.
Glumly, I scratch my ear and run my hand through my hair.
“Hello world.” I type, pecking at the keys.
I press the delete key, once, twice, nine times more until nothing is left on my screen except that taunting black cursor in the top left corner.
I hate that cursor.
I straighten my back and run my fingertips over the metallic black keyboard. Finally, they settle in that position I learned so many years ago in elementary school, when writing was easy and school seemed more like a lesson in fun rather than a lesson in boredom.
Pointer fingers on the “F” and “J” keys. Thumbs on the space bar. The rest of my fingers fall into line, mirroring each other on that smooth metallic black keyboard.
I look down and immediately chide myself.
“Don’t look at the keyboard.” I echo in my head, the ghost of my old computer teacher still haunting me.
And so I began to write.
First the easy part. Name, date, period, class. Title, what should the title be?
“Honey, I shrunk the kids.”
No, that’s been done before.
Clearly I’ve begun to struggle.
Dot. Dot. Dot. More time passes.
“A short story written for the Phreaner writing contest.”
God, I’m clever sometimes.
I look around and write eight quick words, use a comma, a brief pause to look around and take in the scene, and ten more words come. I struggle through this bit, the introduction. A quick description of the setting, a brief background, and I’m off, the flags been waved and the lights turned green.
I hit enter. A new line, a new paragraph.
I hit enter again. The words are coming far easier now, better, faster, stronger.
Now that Kanye West song is stuck in my head again.
I hit enter one more time, more confidently than the times before. The words come too quickly now. It’s like a dam has been broken in my mind and all I can do is write and write and write and the words won’t stop and neither will I because I never know when the dam will close up again until it eventually I feel like I am gasping for air and my mind has far outpaced my own fingers which dance across that metallic black keyboard until finally I cannot keep up and have to force myself to stop, to slow down, to think.
I look down, ghost of teachers past be damned. My hands are splayed across the keyboard, representative of a dead fish. My fingers are tired. The dam’s been closed up again. I take a break.