the Change I Wish to See

...and whatever else it takes to find my pants

....

Michelle probably should have known better.  She was twelve, but even at twelve your conscience has a cadence - a rhythm, a pace, something which gives you pause when your next step feels like a stride you wish you never took.

Her older brother Bobby had told her his conscience sounded like a parrot, reminding him of things he already knew when his surroundings made him prone to forget.  She had ignored his warning that “I know it sounds stupid” and launched into the chicken dance, squawking “bird-brain, bird-brain.”  At eleven years older than her, he was basically just a third-wheel parent - one she could wet-willy and poke with impunity.  Michelle could never remember much of anything he had told her.  Seven years after Bobby left home for college and for good, she found the only things she did remember about him were that his friends were weird and something about everyone having palm lines - or was it fault lines? - and what happens when you rub them the wrong way.

She stood up from her head of the class seat.  Any other kid would have at least made eye contact with Mr. Bittman.  A few would not have dared to leave at all, given the five minutes they had between bells.  Michelle, though, understood that there was an arrangement between herself and the person she imagined Mr. Bittman to be - the kinder, gentler, more serviceable Mr. Bittman.  She just walked out, breaking into the sashay that had made her infamous.

When the hallway was quiet, she treated it like a parade route, glancing from side to side, catching glimpses of herself in inanimate objects never intended to be points of reflection - a freshly Windexed classroom door window, the glossy silver inner frame of an open locker door.  Today was no exception.  When the hallway was crowded, though, her strut parted a red sea, as student after student seemed to press up against crimson locker fronts.  But neither setting ever changed her pace.  Each step was as habitual as the last.

Michelle pressed her hand against the clouded glass.  The bathroom door had not been marked “GIRLS” in months.  Someone had carved the “I” into an “A,” because for below average high school boys, a prank's vandalism is funny even its joke is not.  Inside, Michelle headed past the stalls to the far mirror.  Disappointed in it before she even looked, she ripped off a sheet of paper towel from the dispenser on her left and wiped the glass.  She brushed her dark cherry hair away from her face, curled it behind her ears and looked at her lips.  They were poutier than her mom's.  She was proud of them.  They set her apart.  Lots of girls at school were retiring their training bras.  Plenty of others were filling out their jeans.  But you either had great lips or didn't.  No one grew into great ones.  Even the ugly duckling kept the same beak.

Satisfied that she could sit through the rest of class amidst teen girls whose newest obsession was the Dorothy Hamill wedge-cut and teen boys squeezed into flared jeans, Michelle turned to leave.  Everything seemed as it should be - aligned, in order - but with all her focus on the mirror, she had not heard the bathroom door open almost a minute ago.  And so she was surprised when Dana Lewis punched her square in the face.

....

4 comments:

LiLu said...

Interesting... looking forward to the continuation...

I love her description of the teacher.

Katie said...

This is really well done and so vivid...don't let the NaNoWriMo thing stop you.

Nina said...

wow.

very interesting.

f.B said...

lilu: ty. was aiming to present him as another person she could use..

katie: much obliged. i dunno about being stopped... but i definitely won't make 50k words in two Sundays

nina: thank you. if only i had the stamina for more...