I wound in and out, between brachiosaurus legs, painting their toes yellow. My dream logic told me that I was painting them yellow so that other dinosaurs would see them and could crush their acorns beneath them at strategic moments. And I was a squirrel. A mischevious little squirrel among dinosaurs, throwing acorns here and there, getting my golden curls matted as I rush through muddy branches to escape being crushed by megafauna. I yelled,
"Damnit dinosaurs, stop stealing my acorns! Get your own damn acorns, damnit!" but my high-pitched chattering fell deaf on their saurian ears. Finally, after endless squirrel cries, one sympathetic parasaurolophus turned towards me, her brightly-colored crest flashing in the sun.
"You silly, crazy squirrel. This is the Mesozoic era," she honked, "oak trees haven't evolved yet."
"What do oak trees have to do with you stealing my acorns?!" I chirped.
"You fool! You damned fool!" the parasaurolophus screeched, "Acorns come from oak trees! There are no acorns!" I fell back on my rodent haunches and let out a heart-wrenching chirp, uprooted from the very depths of my immortal soul:
"Hey, wake up! Wake up Carson!"
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don't belong here! Send me back to my time, oh gentle giant of the Cretaceous!"
"I beg your pardon?" Ms. Hollingsworth gasped. I came to and, for the second time today, found myself staring into an unfamiliar pair of worried eyes. Her big yellow smile hadn't disappeared, but the ruby red lips framing it had begun to quiver and close in around it.
"Oh, uh, nothing. Just a bad dream, I guess."
"Well, that's fine little guy… but, uh, next class is in ten minutes. You missed your entire 10 o'clock class, but that's just fine for your case, little guy," she said.
"Hahahahaha!" she laughed and strolled away, leaving me to my quiet bed and my dinosaur dreams, and dinosaur metaphors.
I used my amazing, superhuman math skills to reason that, since there were ten minutes until the next class, it was about 10:50 AM. This meant that I had spent most of my morning lying down, hiding from school. But I knew I couldn't hide forever. Could I? No, of course not. They knew where I lived, they could easily track me down. No, it was time to get out of bed and face the world. I knew from the way the nurse talked to me like I was a kindergartener I could've easily talked her into sending me home, but, I mean, it was only high school. There was nothing to be afraid of. I knew if I just took things one day at a time I would make it through all right, and I'd stop freaking out and having anxiety attacks. It was all going to be okay. The fear was in my head. Nothing was going to happen. It would be all right.
With this new, forced positive attitude, I leapt from the bed and made my way out the door.
"Oh, feel better already?" the nurse beamed.
"You're goddamn right I do!" I yelled, slamming the door behind me before she could respond.
John the Principal:
I gave her the phone as the ten o'clock bell rang. I went back into my office and slept on the floor, near the cumspot. I tried to put thoughts of sex out of my head, replacing them with thoughts of sugarplums. Sexy, sexy sugarplums. Shut up, imaginary Freud! Freud! Freud! Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!
I looked over the list of students, a snarl fixed on my face. I ate the list. I ate my pencil as well, and all the lead I had for it. I began to dance around the office, trying to push my fake penis between my legs, but it hurt too much. It was a wonder how much it hurt. I thus kicked over a number of items on my desk, which had to be cleaned.
I had to piss. I went to piss, and pissed. On returning, I cleaned up my desk. Seeing it clean, I felt tired and went for another cup of coffee. I drank the coffee slowly and deliberately, returning to my desk, letting it scald my tongue. I was a bad girl, and had to be punished. With no boyhood and no real girlhood, I felt the blood trickle out of my mouth.
I went back in and slept. I was a light sleeper, and knew that my sleep would be imperceptible to my secretary, who would wake me inadvertently for my duties.
I dreamed of naked bodies, all the students I had done or would have done. All of them…and they attacked me. Like maenads, they tore me to pieces, and Adonis appeared before me and ejaculated on the vagina that replaced my face. My chest became pregnant and gave birth to Athena, who, in her wisdom, created the Earth.
Upon the earth there were two-headed creatures, which I took it upon myself to saw apart with a red filament, and sew together with the same, the painful filament running from their hearts to their navels. Then Dennis Miller attacked me with a bat'leth and cut off my head, which began to dance by my eternal eyeballs. The spinning of my nose brought out my brain, and I began to wonder how I was understanding this.
I was not seeing. I was not hearing. I was not feeling. I was not thinking; there was my brain. Cogito ergo sum. Non cogito ergo non sum…aut, ego ego non. My secretary woke me up.
I started dreaming as I slept. I saw Lindsay walking towards me, smiling and laughing, and then she stepped into a puddle and disappeared. I ran over to the puddle and put my head over it, and saw that it wasn't just a puddle, it was a deep pool with a small opening in the ground. I felt myself fall over into it, and was all of a sudden underwater, swimming. I felt my lungs burning as I started to drown in the puddle, and swam upward. Directions were hard to determine, and it seemed like there was no up. I saw light shining down in a narrow pillar, and looked to see the small opening I had come through. I swam up to it and poked my head through it, and all of a sudden the sky was just like the drawing I had done earlier, swirls and lines like explosions in the sky. They were just barely moving, slowly and deliberately, like an ice cube melting. I looked around for land but saw nothing but water in every direction, a perfect horizon of land meeting the sea. There was nothing there for me.
I heard the sound of something breaking through the water, and turned expecting to see Claire. Instead it was an unfamiliar face, soft and undefined in all of its feature. I swam towards it anyway, for some sort of solace in the middle of this ocean. The figure plunged back beneath the water, and I dove down to see what had happened. There was no one there, though, and the water was completely placid except for my movements, spastic and irregular. The sea started to spin, and I felt myself being pulled down as a whirlpool formed. I got closer and closer to the center of it, and as I much as I tried to swim further and further away from it, I didn't gain any distance. I stared with terror at the middle of the whirl, and eventually I was about to fall into it. I made one last grab at the water above me, a futile gesture, and was sucked in. All was dark.
All of a sudden there was an intense burning sensation in my crotch. I opened my eyes and found myself in the cafeteria with my coffee cup on its side in my lap. I jumped up, hitting my knees on the bottom of the table, and fell back into my chair. It was an exceptionally rude awakening, and I walked to the bathroom limping. I cleaned myself up with paper towels, and luckily, the coffee didn't show against my black pants. I walked back to the dining hall to grab my bag and looked up at the clock to see I had slept for about an hour. I started heading towards Painting as the bell rang.
10:00 AM. Fuck. I simply do not understand how I could possibly sleep through three separate alarms. I don’t even remember how many days in a row I’ve been late for school. Well, on the upside, that’s four hours that I don’t have to worry about—these days it seems like the only time I’m really safe and in control is when I’m unconscious (sleeping pills?). Mom’s left for work so I don’t have to navigate breakfast with her, and if I’m this late to class I have an excuse to skip lunch to catch up. Assuming Mrs. Hollingsworth doesn’t continue hounding me. Is it strange that I don’t have sexual fantasies at all anymore? They all relate to killing Mrs. Hollingsworth. Or food, obviously. Last night before I went to sleep I half thought half dreamed about force-feeding her until she choked, throat raw, vomit circulating back through the feeding tube. Rupture below the chin? Jesus Christ. My mind is as revolting as my body. I think they both deserve to be punished today—rubber cement to thin the mind, laxatives to thin the body.
Or, I don’t know, maybe I should skip class and go to the factory. I like the smells from the factory; they make me sick. I want to see if they dumped more of the sample strips out back. My ceiling’s pretty much the only thing that isn’t covered. I want yellow color strips, I think, starting with the pale shades by the window then deepening towards the door to meet the orange-fading-to-red. If there’s more than one strip of a shade I can focus on the color, I can create a food that has precisely that shade. I know the texture, I can smell it, and inside me I can feel the color flecks expand. The first time it was hard to swallow, but I’ve stopped cultivating my gag reflex, and with lots of water it isn’t too hard.
I usually bring the rubber cement out with me, although I think that the factory contributes something too. I don’t know whether it’s just because I associate that shaky, woozy feeling with the factory and experience it even when I’m not on anything, or whether the chemicals in all those colors that turn to grey make me feel like that.
Or there’s the steel mill. There isn’t as much to see, but if you slip through that brown plastic chain mesh near the river you can sometimes see some of the movement. So much power. Oh, yeah, that was another fantasy, slipping between the slamming metal, joining, melting my body into the purity and power of the steel. I know their security is probably good enough that I wouldn’t have much chance, but I always pray that there will be a moment, some sort of chaos or calm, that will allow me to get in.
I’m taking French 1 because the Japanese teacher ran off at the end of last year. This is going to totally screw up my college application. All those schools that say they want you to have at least three years of a language. And I’ll have two and two, unless they can find someone new. And I’m going to be a class with all freshman. Totally going to suck. Except that I’ll be smarter. That could be nice.
The chairs are in a circle. There’s a teacher writing at the board. Most of the class isn’t there yet. I grab a seat, and take out a notebook and pen. The teacher turns around “Bonjour,” she says.
“Bonjour,” we mumble back. I hate the first day. At least this is only my first class. I hope we don’t get any homework. I hate school.
And then she comes in. I’ve never noticed her around town. And I would’ve noticed her. It’s totally a crush. She has the cutest little haircut, with blue streaks. And a pink dress, with just the right amount of irony going on. Eyebrow piercings. She hot. And she sits down next to me.
“Hi, I’m Rose.”
I think I stutter. “Lindsay. You a freshman?”
“Junior. How’s the first day?”
“It’s okay. I just moved here. I don’t know anyone.”
“Let’s begin,” the teacher says. The classroom is full now. The teacher stands at the bored, talking about tests and quizzes and homework and classwork and the project, and how much each of these will affect our grade. No late work, she says. No extra credit. I’m not really listening. I’m starting at Rose. Christ. I’m confused. Why are girls so pretty?
I can’t think about this right now. I need to think about something else. Anything else. Something else. Not Michael. Not Rose. Not school. I desperately need to think of something, anything, anything else. But what?
I’m on a tropical beach. The sound of light waves, gently rocking against the beach. A cold drink in my hand. Lemonade. No, fuck that, gin and tonic. I’m on a tropical beach drinking gin and tonic. There’s a waiter, serving me. He says:
No. I’m not in French class. I’m on a tropical beach in… in the tropics. I’m on a tropical beach, drinking gin and tonic. And the waiter, he says “you want anything else?” and I say “yeah, I want another gin and tonic.” And he brings me another one. I’m on a tropical beach. And the waves, they’re nice too. They are soft and gentle, and that little sound of water lapping on the sand, that’s nice, that’s real nice. That’s a whole lot better than French class.
Now I’m in a cave. I’m exploring. Look at those stalactites. And there’s a bear. But he’s totally cute. He’s soft and cuddly, and he doesn’t judge me at all, for nothing.
Now I’m in a movie theatre. I’m watching a girl and her mother, on the screen. The mother says "But your real mother is Sally." and the girl says "But Sally is actually a dog." Mother: "But I'm allergic to dogs." Girl: "But the allergy was actually a psychological manifestation of your hatred of communism." Mother: "But I'm actually a communist leader." Girl: "But so am I." Mother: "But I'm not actually." Girl: "But neither am I." Mother: "Or am I." Girl: "I killed your mother."
No. A tropical beach. Gin and tonic.
Rose is twirling her hair. And it’s the cutest little thing. Ever. This is not what I want to be thinking about. Death. Think about death. No. Don’t think about that. This about absurdism. And clouds. Think about something else. Think about what college you want to go to. No, that’s depressing. What should I think about?
Rose is chewing on her pen. And it’s pretty cute.
No, no, no. A tropical beach.
Maybe we should try having sex. Maybe I should tell him I’m not into monogamy. Maybe, maybe. Maybe I should just dump him. Today sucks. This year’s going to be horrible. Why can’t I just be happy? Why don’t I have a good excuse to tell him? I hate my life. I mean, it’s okay. But—
I think about summer vacation, why I was little. The trip to Disneyland. That ride. The happy dwarf ride. That was fun. I don’t remember that very well. What else can I think about?
I think about being a chemist. I will be a hard worker and I will be successful and I will have a cute chemist girlfriend who looks like a librarian. Michael doesn’t think we’re going to grow up and get married, does he? He doesn’t think this is that serious, could he? God, I hope not.
I raise my hand.
“Can I go to bathroom?”
I don’t remember. She just taught us this. She repeats it. I repeat it back. I’m totally going to fail this class.
“Oui,” she says.
I go to the bathroom. I don’t have to go to the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror. I inspect myself. Some girl comes out of the stall. She walks over and washes her hands.
“Doesn’t being so vain get boring?”
Huh? “I was just killing time ‘cause I don’t want to be in class.”
“’Cause I can’t stop thinking about how I kind of want to break up with my boyfriend cause I think I’m into girls.”
“Oh,” she says, “sorry I was bitch.”
“I’m just pissed off, and redirecting it.”
“My father hit me.”
I go back to class and start thinking about the tropical beach again.
Class ends. I have no idea what we’ve been doing. I hope I didn’t not say something when I was supposed to. I would have noticed, right? I’m making a horrible impression on the teacher.
I wake up to a door opening and sneakers walking and girls giggling. I'm disoriented- where am I? I'm on the floor. I look up and see Valerie and Sophia turn the corner and stop. They're just staring at me. And why wouldn't they be? I can't deal with this. I will not be a mess. I will not be a spectacle. I sit up quickly and look around on the floor. I grab my backpack and the apple and I run. I run through the locker room and out the door that leads outside. Thank god for muscle memory. I sprint like I have so many times before, but this time there is no one to tell me when to start and tell me when to stop. I just know I have to go. I didn't plan it, but I know exactly where I'm headed. I say I won't be a mess, I say I won't be a spectacle- but look at me. Backpack flopping wildly as I sprint in this skirt and my fingernails dig into the apple in my hand and the juice is getting all over me. I get to my car, my safe haven for now. Everyone's inside so no one can see me and tell that I'm falling apart. I sit down in the driver's seat, but don't get out my keys. I'm not out of breath, but I need to recover somehow. Recover from what just happened, from doing something, from actively moving away from what is wrong for me towards the only thing that will make me happy.
This is the only thing I can do- right? It's either we do the roundabout thing where we live our separate lives and get husbands and houses and cars and babies, and realize that we are in love with each other in thirty years when we're wrinkly and saggy and have no desire for sex. Or now. Right now. Just going. I rip the letter that I wrote to her out of my notebook and reread it. It's absurd. I'm absurd. What happened to me? I put the letter on the dashboard and put the apple in the cup holder. I take out the keys and start the car with a surprisingly steady hand.
I pull out of the parking lot, and feel the last vestiges of old me nagging that I shouldn't leave; can't skip school. I shut it up as I turn on the radio. It's still on the station Sadie set it to- I hear the opening notes of Rhapsody in Blue and I'm smiling.
I'm thinking of her and I don't even care that I don't know what I'm going to do once I get to her. I'm just imagining our happiness and the real kind of perfection that my life will be- the kind that is full of imperfections and mistakes and Sadie's body that is shapelier and more beautiful than any of my other friends or me ever would've let ourselves get.
As I drive out of town and onto the freeway, I feel my heart beating faster and faster until finally I feel like it's going to explode- and then it does- or I think it does. I think I'm dead and then I realize that I just heard a really loud sound and thought it was me dying. What could the sound have been? It could've been an explosion that kills hundreds for all I care. The only thing that I've got on my mind is Sweet Sweet Sadie.
English now. I hate English class. I've read every single book on this damn syllabus in my own free time. No joke: Every single one. I've even been in the play we're reading. I used to community theater. Why'd I stop? Right, Rick. Bastard. I should start doing that again. And now I get to have my interpretations of all of these shot down. I need to talk to Janice. Just talk to her. I never told her I was in love with her. I'm a bastard. Why did I have to fuck that up. I hate myself. I hate Salinger. I love Franny and Zooey. I really love that book. But I hate J.D. Salinger so much. He really is a bastard. And a phony. Haha, I'm so fucking clever. The thing is, I really think I am. I focus on myself to much. I'm too damn selfish and narcissistic. No still water in my room, if you'll notice. Look at these bastards. I mean, I'm not paying attention to what the teacher's saying either, but someone is. And you fucks are talking to each other and laughing at him. So he has an accent. I hate this place. I have no faith in the public education system, but I know that someone here does, and someone's getting something out of it, so why should I fuck it up for them. Seriously. I want to take this kid's head and slam it on his desk until it bleeds. The head, not the desk. Shouldn't make desks bleed, I have a feeling that would end badly. Wow. Class went by fast. What do I have next…Journalism. Our illustrious school paper comes back to haunt me for another year.