Exercising the Mind- Part of Chapter 2

It’s halfway through June, which means it’s halfway through CampNanoWriMo. I started the month ahead of schedule, then went to California for a wonderful wedding, and let myself slip away from writing. Then I got back home and back on the wagon.

Yesterday I went in for a yearly skin check with my dermatologist.  He decided to biopsy a spot on my foot. The spot had previously been biopsied about 6 years ago and the results were normal. However, they did a punch biopsy which can result in sampling error. So yesterday my Dr. decided a shave biopsy was in order. They numbed my foot and carved that thing right off. On the plus side, he thinks there’s very little chance of it being abnormal. On the minus side, I have to stay off my feet as much as possible for a few days. This is very difficult for me. I walk my dogs twice a day, I go to spinning, Pilates, swimming. I lift weights and just, in general, enjoy mobility and being able to put pressure on my foot.

But rather than fight it, I’m looking at this not as being sidetracked from working out, but as a push to write more. Guess who doesn’t need her feet to type? This gal. So over the past two days I’ve written for hours at a time. I’ve done more than 6,000 of my draft. I feel like I’m back on track to finish June CampNanoWriMo as a winner!

So, a word about Chapter 2, since I didn’t post all of Chapter 1. Adva’s best friend is Cyn. Adva and Cyn get to school on the first day and- scene:

Chapter 2

My ambition in life
Is to look good on paper
All I want is a slot
In some big corporation

-“Terminal Preppy” Dead Kennedys

When your parents and other adults relate to you their most favorite memories of high school, what they usually fail to mention is that it’s not much different from middle school- one extra grade, tons of extra hormones. What high school is, though, is a wakeup call for most people. The friends you make in high school, the groups you join, the activities in which you participate will define you for a minimum of four years. But really, for a lifetime. It is with this in mind that my fellow freshmen and me cautiously proceed to the place that will dictate our lives for the foreseeable future: The cafeteria.

You’ve seen it in movies and it’s true. Your table in the cafeteria and the people who inhabit that table with you every day define who you are. You might be nothing like the people who share a table with, maybe you ended up there by accident. Oops, too bad for you. That table and what people on the outside call the people at the table and what they think about the people at that table becomes who you are, whether you like it or not. The first day of high school pressure isn’t about forgetting your locker combination, losing your way to class, or tripping on your new platform shoes; it’s about where you choose to sit, or what table chooses you.

Have I introduced this complex situation enough yet for you to wonder where it is that I ended up sitting that fateful morning of the first day of high school? I’ll ask you to hold out just a little longer to find out about me, while I tell you all about what I see when I walk into the cafeteria as a fresh from the bus, fresh faced freshman.

The double doors swing open, I swear it seems to be in slow motion, and everyone turns to stare at the new crop of people joining them for breakfast, gossip, and catching up. The first thing that hits me is the smell. A maple-y, bacon-y odor mixes in the air with Ralph Lauren, Beyoncé, Brittany, and Tommy Hilfiger. There may be hints of classier perfumes, too, like Chanel, or Liz (Taylor or Claiborne), but I wouldn’t know. I’m still a fan of Bath and Bodyworks Plumeria body spray, which I can tell now is a fatal, social mistake. The popular girls can literally smell the fear on you if you smell like a body spray rather than a sophisticated perfume. Strike one for me.

“What is your damage?” Cyn whispers to me, since I’m still standing in the double door entrance to the cafeteria, when the rest of our bus mates have pushed by to find their rightful place. Did I mention we both love the 80s- movies, music, fashion? We often quote 80s movies to each other, especially when there’s no other perfect way to say something.

“Nothing.  I just can’t believe what is happening in here. It’s like clique-central. Where are we supposed to go?”

Cyn looks at me and shrugs, “Who cares? Will you just get out of the doorway? This isn’t your spotlight moment, dude.” She chuckles and drags me into the room.

I shift my backpack onto the other shoulder and scan the room. Imagine this part like a movie montage.

To my immediate left are two round tables pushed together by the jocks, or rather, the minor sport jocks. Soccer, tennis, track, and field hockey players are crowded around the two tables. They rock Fila, Nike, puma, and yes, reebok shoes, shorts, and logo tees. You might think wind pants and velour track suits are a thing of the past? Wrong. The girls are slim with single toned hair- brown or blonde, mostly straight. Ponytails outnumber hair down, though a few French braids can be found in the mix. There aren’t tons of guys at this table, mostly because they may dabble in the minor sports, but they hang with others in the major sports. The guys that are here are nondescript, brown/blonde wavy-ish, mid-length hair. They’re all cute in an all-American sort of way; they’re also all nice. What is it about the guys that play soccer in high school? They’re so friendly and nice. The girls, too. In fact, Katie Genard looks up and says, “Hi Adva! How was your summer?”

“Oh, um. Good,” I mumble back not really believing I’ve been noticed in this crowd.

“I read your summer reading list article in Teen Raves magazine. It was awesome!” She turns to the rest of the table and announces, “ Guys, did you know Adva keeps an amazing blog? You should totally check it out. What’s it called, again?”

I hate being put on the spot. I want to be a writer, and in order to do that you have to have an audience, but this feel so weird and awkward. I’m a terrible at self-promotion. “It’s acrimoniousadva.wordpress.com. It’s not that great, I’m just starting out.”

Katie laughs and wave her hand, “You’re just being modest. It’s awesome. You’re a great writer. And Cyn, didn’t you do the artwork for the cover?”

“I did,” Cyn responds. She painted this beautiful portrait of bubbles that I use as the header on my blog.

A guy I don’t recognize looks us up and down and then speaks up, “Sounds like you two are quite the artistic pair. I wonder what other sorts of beautiful art you two make together.” He starts wiggling his eyebrows and elbows his buddy. We get this a lot. Cyn had super short, messy hair and dresses fairly androgynously. I have wild, curly hair and wear jeans and white men’s V-neck t-shirts every day.

“Really? The year hasn’t even begun and you’re making remarks about us being lesbians? Good work outta you, jock-o, sorry to tell you, though homophobia is so 2010,” Cyn grabs my arm and storms off. I silently take back what I’ve said about all the minor jocks being nice guys. Though that guy is probably just slumming with the minors until the heaving-hitting major jocks show up.

 

Here it is- Part of Chapter 1

In addition to writing fictional pieces, I keep a writer’s notebook. I jot notes and ideas to myself everyday.  Somedays I use it like a journal and chronicle what I’m thinking about that isn’t related to writing (or hasn’t been molded into a story idea yet). Thanks to a comment on my last post and some writing I’ve been doing for myself, I discovered a fear of sharing my work. I started this blog to put my writing out there, and realized I’ve done everything but. I’ve posted student work, I’ve lamented and complained about my writing, without sharing it. That changes today. When I hit the Publish button, I can say with some trepidation and pride- I’m really putting it out there.

You maybe familiar with NaNoWriMo, the novel-writing project in the month of November.  Well, the awesome people who put that together organize two summer camps using the same premise write everyday, around 1,667 words, in order to get a messy draft out of the way. By the end of the month you’ll have 50,000 words, or a short novel at your fingertips. June Camp NaNoWriMo started today. I wrote 2090 words. I’m using this month to draft my book, tentatively titled, “Punx Not Dead (Yet).” It follows a nerdy high schooler who gets in with the punk crowd at school.  She changes herself to fit in, falls in love with a drummer and  learns all about the cardinal rule of punk rock- Be Yourself. What I’m posting here has not been edited in any way. In fact, I just finished typing it 30 minutes ago. I won’t go back to do any revising and editing until I’m done with the draft.  So, sorry if there are tons of errors. I’ll get to them later. Right now I’m working on taming the inner critic and just getting the writing out of my mind and onto the page. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

As I’m talking my words slip to the floor
and they crawl through your legs and slide under the back door
rendering me freakish and dazed.
Well here I am. I don’t know how to say this.
The only thing I know is awkward silence.

-“Freakish” Saves the Day

I look at their excited faces and I can read their minds, “Yay! High School!” I’m pretty sure they can look at my eyes and read my thoughts just as a loud and clear, “Yay. High School.” Notice the difference in punctuation there. It helps you read the same words in a different tone. My parents’ tone is joyful, excited, she’s got the whole world in her hands. My tone is ambivalent, reluctant, let’s get this show on the road.

My sister, Davina, stands next to me, while my mom readies the camera.  Dad bounds forward and brushes hair from Davina’s face. He sing-songs, “A smile won’t kill you, Adva,” while smiling. My family does a lot of that- smiling. I think I used to, too, until puberty and adolescence and middle school, and boys, and bitchy girls. Now there is not much to smile about.

High school starts today and I’m ready for the four years to be over. I’m not one of those girls who will go to prom and spring formal and winter carnival and homecoming and whatever other occasion might come up requiring a disgusting sequined, off the shoulder dress and blistering heels. I won’t join the yearbook or soccer team. I won’t go to parties when other kids’ parents are out of town and get rip-roaring drunk. High school, for me, will be four years (hopefully less) of doing work I could have done years ago. My parents refused to let me skip a grade in elementary school because they were afraid of the social and emotional ramifications.  So this morning, instead of being almost halfway through with this major hurdle that I have to deal with before my real life begins, I’m just starting. I’ll do well in all of my classes without even trying. The only classes I’ll excel in are my language arts classes, and I’ll do so well because I’ve already read all of the district-mandated books. On top of all my school work, and to keep boredom at bay, I’ll continue reading anything I can get my hands on, blogging, and writing freelance articles for whatever magazines will take my submissions. After I graduate I plan to go to NYU. I’ll study  English and become a magazine editor.

All I want to do in life is to read and write. I hate math. I hate science. I can tolerate Social Studies, mostly because it’s all reading. P.E., art, and music give me hives. I hate that we have to take artsy electives. I’d rather take core classes and finish school early. I know I’m in a minority here; adults talk about high school like it was the time of their lives. The glory days just mean something different to me. We live in a fairly small town and it’s confining. You’re grown into the person everyone at school thinks you should be. My glory days will come later, when I’m free from the small town bullshit. So today I start down the road that will lead to my real life, my own yellow brick high school.

“Adva, honey, please look at the camera. All these photos of you are practically in profile!” My mom smiles over the digital camera and waves me back into the moment.

Davina looks up at me and squeezes my hand, “Are you so excited about starting high school? NYU is only four years away now!”

She looks adorable in her plaid dress with lace details, knit white tights, and shiny patent leather mary janes. Her dark curly hair is pulled back into a loose French braid, though lots of strands are already blowing wild and untamed. I run my free hand over her face and squeeze back, “I’m excited for you! Fourth grade! That’s a big deal!” My mom, the one family member with some sort of artistic vision, captures this exact moment. One younger sister, one older sister, and one big day.

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride?” My dad asks through a half-eaten bagel hanging out of his mouth.

“No, Dad. I’m going to ride the bus with Cyn. I told you a thousand times,” I roll my eyes. Parents are always saying we don’t listen, do they really wonder where we learn our selective listening?

He puts his hands up guiltily, “Okay okay! Do you at least want some breakfast?” He gestures toward the bakery bag, lumpy with more bagels.

“Do we bagels because we’re Jewish? I swear I’ve never seen anyone else in this town eating bagels. Where do you even buy them?” As the only Jews in town, that we’re aware of, and possibly within a 20 mile radius, we take to ourselves to stereotype our people. It wouldn’t be acceptable, for say our mailman Stewart, to joke about our bagel consumption, but within the family it’s how we kept our faith alive.

We really only practice our religion for Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah. Without a temple or an active Jewish congregation, my parents had become fair weather Jews. We probably could have slipped below the Christian radar in our community,  however,  thanks to the tell-tale signs curly black hair, accountant father, Hebrew name- I’ve dealt with a lifetime of teachers planning  Christmas parties in class, only to realize a few days before that there was “a little Jewish girl” in class. Usually on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Friday party, the teacher would call my mom and explain the situation in the most embarrassed and reverent voice she could muster. My mom would hem and haw and lecture the teacher on cultural sensitivity, and then send me to school in a red and green sweater with Christmas tree cookies just to screw with the teachers.  She’s weird, but pretty awesome.

My dad pours dry cereal into a plastic container. “Fine, you don’t want the food and sustenance of our people? You can have corn and rice oh’s.” He slides the container across the counter and smirks. Davina walks by and places her dish in the sink. It’s sometimes hard to believe we’re sisters. Looking alike seems to be all we have in common.  Davina is popular and sweet. She’s always getting invited to sleepovers and birthday parties. She has a big group of friends. She’s athletic and perky. She cheerleads for a YMCA football team and plays field hockey. I have no doubt she’ll be homecoming queen and all those other fancy titles popular girls get in high school.

I check the time on the microwave, “Gotta go.” I holler goodbye to my mom and give my dad a quick hug. “Have an awesome day today, V. Enjoy Mrs. Trudy, you’ll love her!” I call over my shoulder as I head out to catch the bus. The truth was, Davina would love, and be loved by, all of her teachers. She never gives them a hard time and never causes them to have to repeatedly write, “does not work to potential” on her report cards.