REPORT A PROBLEM
I am spinning. Around and around I go. I can’t stop. I am spinning hard and faster with ever step. I hear the wind whipping in my ears and my heart pounds but still I can not stop. I am out of control, I am losing my head, I don’t know what to do and I’m wondering if I will ever know this. I am still spinning, even faster than before. Spin, spin, spin. Someone help me, someone grasp my arms and make me stop and help me regain my balance in this world. I am falling fast. Too fast.
I’ve dropped my pen on the floor of a classroom in heaven. The teacher is lecturing us and hopefully doesn’t notice when I kneel on the floor to try to retrieve my writing utensil. The other students shoot glares as if I’m being bad, like I should act like them and they adjust their effulgent halos snootily. The pen is rolling rapidly towards the side of the room and I realize there aren’t walls. They don’t need walls in heaven. I fall with my pen down to earth while former classmates smirk and pretend they are really the angelic ones.
Right now I am into slow-song, introspective lyrics, female singers. Tori Amos. Aimee Mann. Norah Jones. Their songs pound in my head. I turn the volume all the way up. It comforts me, gets me away from all of it. When my siblings make their cruel comments, when my parents get on my back for not being the perfect child my brother is, when my friends irritate me, I listen to their lyrics and feel at peace. Its weird because when I was little I always thought it was stupid when the older kids had their headphones so awful loud.
I wish my parents had stopped with my brother, I really do. Three is a horrible number to have. Three means two team up and one is left. In my case, it’s me. T and M seem to believe it is their mission in life to provoke me. I don’t think they know I feel hurt too. At the same time I say things to them, hurt their souls, and I feel awful. I wonder what ancestor I got this trait from, this fierce temper and tendency to open my mouth and let the scalding words poor from my lips.
Like a wild animal, I deal with pain in solitude. I slink away, curl up and hurt, I can’t bear to let anyone see I care. In front of people I laugh gaily, my mask in place, and steal away to have one shuddering sob and lock the pain inside. I don’t know why I think of crying as weak. I never cry for long. It never helps me all that much either, its as if only a few drops of the pain make their way out, but the rest is still suppressed inside. I can’t let it out, ever.
Happiness does not help my writing at all. When I am sad I can write and write and write but I can’t now. I am happy. It is nearly Christmas and in three hours I am going to the mall for a bit of a lark with Christina and so I have nothing to write about. I haven’t had anything to say for a while, which is why I am going to backdate this entry. This is entirely idiotic, this entry, but don’t hold it against me. I’m in a good mood and I can’t write in a good mood.
I've always wanted to be able to draw, but I never could get it down on paper properly. I am a perfectionist. I hate it when things are not exact. But eat your heart out, all you artists of the world. You can draw the sunset, well so can I. You can paint trees in the wind, so can I. You can paint the faces of the world, young and old, rich and poor, yeah, well, so can I. You can paint landscapes, and stationary objects, and living beings, yeah, well, so can I. I can paint music. Can you?
Some days I can write for pages and pages, on and on, never stopping. Some days I feel like I could out write Shakespeare, Dickens, and JK Rowling. I made a typo there. Instead of writing JK, I wrote KJ. That’s right, my name. There is significance there, you see. That is how I feel sometimes, that I could out write every single bloody person on this earth. But other days I feel like I just want to lie there and listen to my music and not think at all, and I can’t write at all. I hate those times.
I had to write. I had a book, I wrote there. I’ll release it into the world, hoping someone will care. This is an excerpt. We’re driving to a destination somewhere north of our departure point. All you’ll know of me is that, and what I’m about to tell you. For all you know I am a freckle-faced twelve-year-old with no family but an aunt. Or I’m 15, tall, blonde, wealthy. Or I’m 13, poor, dark, on a bus. You will never know. I like being a mystery, but maybe you know me better than those who know my name.
I still had no paper, but I had a book. I wrote in that book. Here is another excerpt: You will never know my name. Perhaps I am Alexandra, or Emma, or Michaela, or Beatrice, or Megan Margaret, or Sally-Anne Emily Elizabeth Catherine Christina Emily Jane, or Kelly Anne, or just Jen. I’m not going to tell you. Call me what you will. I enjoy being a mystery. Look for my messy handwriting in blue ink on the following pages, and in other books I will leave around. Or don’t. I promise to keep writing, even if you don’t care.
If I could pick my family, I would have an older brother. He would tease me mercilessly, but I would love him because he let me put snow down his shirt after I said it would make me happy. He would rather die than let anyone know he had a soft spot for his littlest sister. If his friends checked me out he would tell them, no way, and after his football games he would pick me up and carry me around the field first. We would tell each other to bugger off but really we wouldn’t mind each other.
If I could pick my family, I would have a sister my age or a little older. We trade tips on make-up and such and when some creep dumps one of us we promptly both vow never to speak to him again and we keep the promise unless we agree to annul it. She is popular and loves sports and her favourite subject in school is lunch. We talk about everything and when we fight we are icy but we got over it fast because we need each other to talk to late at night when the world is scary.
I would have a sister who is the oldest in the family. She would be in college and very clever and seem so very cool and independent to my other sister and I. She would want to brush my hair until it was silky smooth and then pile it on my head crazily, funnily. Sometimes she would show up to pick me up from school in her cool car ‘just because’. Our fights would be infrequent but strangely amusing, about silly things like the meaning of flowers or whether Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Eleanor Roosevelt was the better role model.
We would make plans for all of us, the three sisters, to tour Europe before we get old and Brother would tag along to make sure I wouldn’t date anyone at all but he wouldn’t mind if my other sisters did because I am the baby and they are older. We would live somewhere in a big city somewhere in the East Coast, in a big one floor apartment or a large house on the outskirts. Our parents would be not home a lot because they are workaholics, but they love us and we love them so it is okay.
They would attend my gymnastics meets and horse shows and ballet performances and they’d cheer me on even when they weren’t supposed to. My brother would yell, that’s my sister, and I’d feel special. I would go to my younger-older sister’s field hockey games and tennis matches and she’d salute me jokingly with her racquet or hockey stick before she started and we’d fall over laughing when I made a military salute back. We would go to my oldest sister’s art exhibition only to find that portrait of my younger-older sister and I and we’d be so proud of her.
Most people like trees best in spring and summer, or in fall. I’ve never met anyone who likes them best in winter like I do. I don’t know exactly why, maybe it’s their silhouette against the blue sky. Maybe it’s their complex tangles of thin branches, or perhaps I like that they always seem as cold and detached as I seem. I like that they sway in the wind and creak when they bend. I like that they are just there, always listening as I spill out my troubles. Its comforting, the cold bark of a tree under your fingers.
When I was very young, I stayed up in this one tree for hours and hours. I was in that tree once during a storm. I bent with the branches, the wind whipped around me in a sense of power that left me breathless. It was amazing, that rush of power. There were these three trees close together; also, in this field thing I used to go to. You had to climb one first to get to the second, and then use the second to get to the third, which had the highest branches. I can’t find those trees anymore.
Lunchtime. Somehow I’ve gotten myself into an argument. I am only half paying attention, the other eye on the wind outside knocking the old beech tree against the wall. My mouth moves and words come out but I’m arguing automatically. Until she speaks. “But I don’t care about Africa!” I look at her, rendered speechless. They accuse me of immaturity, but she’s the one with the childish answer. She turns her back on me. She turns back. “If you want to know about Africa and junk, read a book.” “I have.” “Why?” “I care.” She’s the one rendered speechless now.
Lunchtime continued. She stares at me, trying to think of something to say. I rub my tired eyes. She won’t listen to me. No one ever does. She won’t take me seriously. I know just what she is thinking. “Oh, don’t listen to her. She’s crazy.” When I’m older I will make people listen. I’ll enlighten the people who hate me now and I will make people take me seriously. But for now, I will talk until someone will take me seriously. Perhaps someone will, someday. But not today. I’ll wait until then, I suppose. How long must I wait?
Lunchtime continued continued. I honestly have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Maybe I should give up. I don’t know. Everyone’s always saying I’m just a little kid playing at politics. When I try to speak, to share my ideas or at least start an intelligent conversation, everyone will sit there and laugh and shoot little knowing glances to one another that say ‘Oh, that’s just KJ. Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy,” and KJ will sit, staring out the window at the old beech tree bashing against the brick wall of the school and pretend not to care.
Get out of the car into the cold DC morning Hear the roar of the leaf blowers, smell the fumes, Taste the gasoline on the air And wonder for the thousandth time Why they don’t do this the afternoon before. Trudge across the stone path and down the stairs Past the blue tables, covered in dust. Go inside, to your locker and your friends. You are clad in flannel pants and a uniform All short skirt and Steve Maddens And un-tucked shirt. Sometimes you walk around, talking To others, clad like yourself In sleep pants and short kilts and heels
My day at Stone Ridge continued, for now I no longer go there and I must remember every moment. Pack up your things and rush To your favorite class of all: Social Studies I’m such a geek, you think as you feel the burn of embarrassment Because you said the Estate Tax instead of the abortion conflict Rejoice because you have thinking homework Unplug your laptop, lug your things to lunch. They provides you with Bad lunch meat and flimsy salad Sit with Nikki, Amelia, Carolina, Marci And wonder why you never sit with Leigh or Mara or Erika instead.
I throw back my shoulders Are they too far back? Never matter. Head erect Eyes forward Smile in place The picture of confidence My brown hair with red highlights flows Down my back, as confident as I am It took me forever to get the perfect outfit I am wearing a diagonally striped skirt With orange, white, yellow, and dark red I wear a white tank-top with a red polo on top I wonder, is it too preppy? Too Abercrombie? My advisor has a hyphenated French name I am the first advisee to show up I smile and introduce myself
The next person is quiet and dark Shy. Her hair is the length of mine Her eyes are downcast Her name is Tina She is from Singapore After Tina comes Miranda Miranda’s dressed all in black Her black bracelets clink when she walks She has a black sock bit on her arm She wears black nail polish Her eyes meet the advisors’ challengingly But she avoids my gaze I don’t know the name of the next boy He is gawky, nerdy Button-down shirt, shifty eyes, glasses His eyes are pointed firmly down at the table We sit in uncomfortable silence.
Later, we buy schoolbooks We are lugging a pile of seventeen or eighteen textbooks Up to our lockers Miranda lugs her books next to me. “This is the new SAT,’’ I tell her, huffing. “If we can’t get the books up to the lockers, we can’t get in. Miranda laughs. “What school do you come from?” I ask. “Norwood,” she answers, “You?” “Stone Ridge,” I say. “Ohhhh,” she says in a knowing tone. I wonder what that means. We bond over heavy textbooks on the way up I go home. Collapse in my room Wonder what tomorrow will be like.
Isn’t it weird how one minute the world seems to be spinning under your direction, and you are all set to conquer the universe, but the next minute the world seems to fall out from under your feet and leave you hanging by a thread of sanity threatening to give way? That’s how I felt earlier. But then, out of nowhere, the world seemed to sail back under my feet and give me back my feeling of controlling the world and everything in it. I was back in power and unstoppable once again. Funny how those things happen, isn’t it.
I’ve been in school for a couple months now. At first it was exciting and I looked forward to every day. A while ago, though, the exciting ‘high’ was stripped away from ‘school’ and suddenly I got why all the high schoolers look so bummed: they found out that high school was not the fairy tale you read about as a child. Instead it’s just what you’ve been doing all along: happiness, sadness, elation, struggle, madness, drama, failing, passing, grades, where you grew up, where you decide never to grow up and you realize: this isn’t so bad after all.
I'm back at Stone Ridge. Catie and Jenny are both ghosts, and only we can see them. We go to the art room, there is this teacher, and she says to me, "What are you doing?" I say, "A bunch of my friends and I are working on an art project." "KJ," she says later, "Where are your friends?" I realize she can't see them. I say, "My friends aren't here yet.” Later the teacher comes in. I want to know if they can see me when I'm with the ghosts. I wave my arms around. Then I woke up.
My cousins and I were on the yacht, and sailing off somewhere. And then... Something happened, and we had to turn around. Apparently my Great Aunt was living on an island nearby. Except she was, like, a cannibal. And apparently, Dream!KJ thought that she picked someone on the island to have for dinner, and Dream!KJ got really scared, because she didn't want to be dinner. Then I read this brochure, about the island, and it says she takes people from other islands, and she's been doing this since the 1700's. And Dream!KJ was all, woah. And then I woke up.
I want to crawl into my bed and go to sleep for a really long time. I'm simply tired of life. I feel old, like I've suddenly aged faster than everyone else in the world. Its not one of my rotten moods, or me being pissy, or PMS. It’s not me being depressed. I just... feel old, old and tired, and I've only been around for fourteen years. Suddenly everyone seems so juvenile and silly, and carefree, and I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Except I don't, and everyone is not like that. That is all.
J'ai beaucoup d'ennui. J'ai beaucoup d'inquiétude, parce que je suis une fille étrange. Qui s'inquiète? Moi! Je tourne mes pouces aussi. J'ai beaucoup d'ennui. Pourquoi? Parce que... Je ne sais pas le dis. Je ne sais, aussi, si c'est la voie fausse de la dire. Je suis étrange. Tres étrange. Trop étrange. Je vais parler en anglais. Wow. My French teacher would be proud. This is my last entry (at least for December). It feels kind of strange. I’ve been depressed, elated, and just plain weird, and my mood ranges like that through my entries. Je suis fini. Au revoir.
The Tip Jar