Plain Jane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Have you ever danced in the rain? Barefoot, in ripesummer, when the blacktop is steaming and the puddles are swirling with smog? Ihave, alone and crazy with the possibilities of young life, a $50 paycheck and anex-boyfriend whose name is unimportant. I was 19 then, lightly pimpled, stillfighting hair curlers and tan lines. I met each Saturday night at Rheda's CoffeeShack with a few high school lunch-buddy leftovers. On Mondays I taught aerobicsat an elementary school to old women in pink floral leotards with large whitesocks. The rest of my life, then, was a cocktail of work and communitycollege.

I lived at home with my mother still. She was a perfectionist,with black and white ideology, and a meticulously clean, gold 1996 Escort. Shestill baked cookies for me every once in a while, and we had dinner togetheralmost every night. She was good to me, but I was never good enough. I'd had theaspirations of a 40-year-old drilled into me since I was seven, and an A minuswould never get me anywhere. Looking at her crow's feet and secluded existence,though, I wasn't sure I wanted to get "anywhere."

Jane. I couldsay her name a thousand times over. Jane was magnificent. She wasn't pretty, butaverage with dishwater blond hair and peach freckles. It was at a funeral, hersister's actually, that I met her. She was solemn, but not withdrawn or full ofself-pity, valiantly hugging loved ones and wiping away mascara-tainted tearsfrom swollen cheeks. The whole gathering seemed to exist as a teetering plate,and Jane was the only one able to keep it from crashing to the floor.

Iwasn't part of the drab festivities, I'd come only to visit mygreat-grandfather's grave. Jane's family happened to be burying her sister a fewyards away. I had brought a dozen yellow roses to lay on my relative'smoss-fringed headstone in honor of his 100th birthday. I removed one of the rosesafter paying respects to my faceless granddad Stephens.

Out of civilduty or ignorant curiosity, I took the flower over to their service where Iplaced it between a bright pink bear and an awfully orange flower arrangement. Anold impulse gripped me to kneel and pray, but instead my blasphemous eyes fell toreading the sympathy cards. One with three carnival balloons reminded me ofsummer sack races and elephant ears and read, "Get Well Soon, Sweetheart!Love, Mikey, Aunt Carol and Uncle Dave." I startled myself at the tearsbrimming my eyes, and began to walk away.

Jane was watching my littleepisode by the memorial. She came over to talk to me.

"Hellothere."

"Hi," I smiled, feeling like a thief who'd juststolen from the church offering. It was their private feelings I'd intruded uponand now I'd tangled myself up in my own foolishness.

"I'm sorry tohear ..." My voice trailed off, and I had nothing to say that could finishthe sentence.

"Thank you for the flower. Did you know Heather?"Jane asked, though I think we both knew her question was politelyrhetorical.

"No ..." I replied quietly. Averting my gaze, Irealized I was attracted to Jane. Not physically, but in a morbid fantasy withthe pain I knew she'd known and I hadn't. I was the child on the sidewalk playingwith a spider; Jane was the mother who could take me by the hand and explain whyI shouldn't. Of course, as I stood in silence with all my expectation placedunfairly on her shoulders, I didn't have a clue why or what I wasdoing.

An hour later she and I were alone in a combination coffeehouse andgas station on the corner of Eight Mile and Green Boulevard. We'd progressedthrough the awkwardness at the grave site, and moved on. Jane was open, and I wasa willing audience.

"One time," Jane narrated one of her randommemories, "Heather and I were playing Boggle in the front room. I remember,funny that I do, the one word she found that stuck out in my mind. I always lether read off her list first, because she was younger and I knew she'd cheat if Iread first. Anyway, she got the word knife, except she spelled it n-i-v-e. Ithink I teased her for half the day about that. She may have only been eight atthe time." We shared a smile, thinking of two pigtailed children screamingidle threats across hallways and the kitchen table.

I was an only child,and I wanted to feel the memory. I wanted to crawl around every inch of it. Ifelt all of my life could easily be swallowed by Jane's vivid tales. The morewords that poured from her lips, the thirstier I became, lapping them all up.

I wondered at times during that afternoon's conversation what my motherwould say if she were the third coffee connoisseur at our booth. I could imagineher rolling her eyes at Jane's confessions, and telling me how little emotionplays in the whole scheme of things. I could imagine Jane's presence giving methe courage to reply. I would ask what the use of the whole scheme of things is,if you can't appreciate it. You've got to have a low moment in life, I'd tellher, to truly reach a high one. I could say chapters more but I knew that I'd behollering my last few convictions at her as she walked away. She walked away fromeverything messy in her life.

Jane and I parted late that night, after thecoffeehouse had closed and the gas station was occupied by one lonely employee.The sky was smeared with clouds, and rain was lightly sprinkling us, creatingdark splotches on my gray dress-suit. The parking lot was empty, but the rainfilled it with the warmth that summer showers bring. I walked Jane to her muddyblue pick-up. She'd explained to me earlier how she and Heather had restored thetruck from the junkyard orphan it was and named it "Annie." A SherylCrow tape cued as soon as the engine turned over. Jane gave me a long huggood-bye, humming the chorus of "All I Wanna Do" into my ear with hersweet Texan breath. She climbed into Annie and rolled the window down.

"Where you going now?" I asked.

"Vacation.You?"

"Don't know. I've got a paycheck in my pocket, and afull tank."

"Go have some fun then. Maybe I'll see youthere."

"Maybe." The possibilities of life rang as clearas the music in the background. As Jane pulled out of the lot, I waved, and for amoment thanked God for her. Then, I kicked my heels off gently toward the curb.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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The_Phantom_ofthe_Opera This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 29, 2010 at 9:55 am
 Im so sorry! i accidently rated it 2, i was on my phone!! it was really good! i meant 5! sorry! ill vote again tomorrow!
 
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