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A Trial Separation

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I should’ve known to virtually erase you from my memory. It wouldn’t have been too hard. In the distant future you could’ve called my name, and I would introduce myself to you, as a whole new person. “Hello, my name is ______." So this is what I’ve decided to do. I’ve decided to create a whole new identity for myself, so I can let you go.

I’ll be named Marie, and I’ll be the same age, sixteen. But I won’t live where I do now, I’ll live in France, and I’ll have many different types of friends. One will be named Jacques, like the old French explorer, and he will be the one to introduce me to wine, and all of life’s other great wonders. “Merlot,” he’ll whisper seductively in my ear, and then after a few minutes of silence and sipping he’ll go off on a tangent, telling me how everything has changed since he met me.

Isabelle will be my best girlfriend, but she won’t be like Jacques. When I’m with her I’ll wear tailored skirts and flowing blouses, pointy-toed flats, even though my feet will hurt. After we attend school we will drink tea in the gardens behind her house. For a short period of time we will lay out on the mowed lawn, chatting about our lives and current issues. She will tell me about a boy who broke her heart, and, reminiscing, I will mention quietly that my heart once was broken too.

It won’t all be perfect, my new life. Nothing can be perfect. I will still feel bad about my body, and feel awkward when I’m thrown into the uncomfortable situations where I have to meet new people. My parents will tell me to do better in school, and though I am trying my best, my best will never be good enough. At night, I will get down on my knees next to my bed, the wooden floor poking splinters through my pajama pants, and I will pray for perfection. An ideal life is not possible, but still, I will pray. Afterwards, when I climb into my bed, and listen to the sounds of the ever so foreign country around me, I will think of you. It will be horrible to remember, my heart will hurt again, as it did when you tore it in half. But it will be a necessary ritual before I fall asleep. In my attempt to hide from it, I will become addicted to the past.

If France won’t work, I’ll move on to India, and start my new life over again. I will have survived two years in France, so I will complete my travels alone, without my parents. When I get there I will go into the airport bathroom and change into my new attire. Cargo pants and tank tops will be what I live in from now on, I decide. When I find my apartment, a boy will be leaning on the outside wall, smoking a cigarette. I will ask him for one, and after lighting up, will introduce myself as Celine. “I just moved here from France”, I will say, but he will just look at me, and I will wonder if he speaks English or not. But quickly after he’ll grab my hand, and pull my key out of it, looking at the number, and then drag me up the many flights of stairs to my new home.

His name is Mitesh, and he tells me that his name means one with few desires. “Why are you telling me this?” And he says, “Just a warning.”

It will not be any concern of mine whether he desires me or not, I just need someone to walk around with, so I can get to know my new surroundings. I will enroll in a small drawing class, something to do to pass the time. The first day I go there, Mitesh accompanies me. He’s holding my hand as we walk down the street, and my hand is clammy under his. I do not know what he wants from me. The art class is on the upstairs level of a small restaurant, relatively close to my apartment. I think the teacher’s husband is the cook downstairs. Mitesh kisses me on the check goodbye, and then let’s go of my hand, which I wipe on my pant leg soon after he disappears around the corner. The building I’m going into is dark, and musty. There are a lot of shadows, not the kind of light you’d expect for an art classroom. A girl is standing in one of the darkened corners of the room. Remembering my shy qualities I go over and introduce myself. She is American as well, and her name is Cleona. She will eventually move in with me, and our small, two bedroom apartment will become a refuge for us, Cleona, Mitesh, and me.

Later that night, the night of my first class, I will sit at my desk which is facing once of the white wash walls in my apartment. It’s facing a wall because I don’t want anything to distract me while I’m drawing. I want the process to be organic. My pencil will be waiting on a blank piece of paper as I sit and think about the first class assignment, which will be to draw a picture about love. That night, after not doing any work, and drinking too much wine, I will kneel down beside my bed, shoo away the spiders which are nesting in the crevices between the floorboards, and I will press my hands together and pray. And what will I pray for? What else, but for you, and only you, and perfection. But I won’t want to let a few sinful thoughts ruin my experience just yet, so I’ll climb under my covers to sleep. My body will lean to one direction that night, as if to protect myself. So if my imagination spontaneously manifests you beside me in the middle of the night, I won’t be touched by you; I won’t be hurt.

In India I will not have as many friends as I did in France. I will take to spending most of my time with Mitesh, who will learn to desire after all, and Cleona. I will see so much of myself in her. Once, I will ask her if she is trying to escape something, as I did so long ago. She will just look at me with wide doe eyes for a long time. She will know I understand.

At some point Jacques will come and visit me, but will become more infatuated with Cleona, who never in her life has even held hands with a boy. Cleona, Jacques, Mitesh, and I will take a stroll through one of the parks at nighttime, and like when I was sixteen, we will drink Merlot straight out of the bottle while chatting mindlessly. Jacques and I will sit on a park bench for a few minutes while Mitesh and Cleona venture onwards, and I will ask him what he meant, when he said so much had changed since he met me. He will tell me in that soft, French drawl of his that I, being so mysterious made him want to actually get to know someone for the first time. Love somebody for the first time. “Obviously it was a long time ago”, he says. “Cleona is quite the interesting one, isn’t she?” he jokes. I tell him that me being mysterious doesn’t change everything, maybe some things, but not everything. “Yes it does,” he whispers, leaning closer to me, his lips next to my ear. “Everything is an illusion. You make things up, and you control what others see and feel. You don’t think I didn’t know your real name wasn’t Marie? You’re going by Celine now aren’t you? Your pretend games controlled my life so I spent all of my time trying to convince you that you were somebody different. You’re doing it to them too. Cleona and Mitesh, they’re smarter than they look. Nobody can convince you of anything unless you convince yourself. You’re not Celine or Marie, you’re just yourself.”

Taken by surprise from his response, I will awkwardly pull away, only to be stared at by him, with a smile on his face. “Goodnight, my mystery girl,” he gives his one last goodbye, and stands up to join the others, leaving me by myself.

I’ll make it home alright. I will get on my knees to pray. “I want my life back,” I will whisper, but I won’t even think of you. You are not the problem. This fake life I have been leading is the problem. I will realize that.

In the morning I will remember I have an art class, my last one. I remember that I have not done any work, for my life, which has revolved around my two friends for the last couple months has taken me away from my other priorities. I will make my way to the restaurant, walking slowly, working on cigarette after cigarette, trying to come up with a justifiable excuse. I will get up to the top floor and take my seat next to Cleona, and when the teacher comes around I will say to her, “I’m sorry, I seem to have misplaced the final draft.” She tells me that I must have something to show for any of the work I have done, and before I will be able to stop her she will flip open my sketchbook.

And there you are. You’re face, sketched, shaded perfectly, in my sketchbook. Above your face, in my perfect script, is the word love. My teacher looks at me happily, and says I should be proud of my work. I have done a very good job. But I don’t know when I did this work. I don’t know why. I was trying so desperately to get away from you, and your love.

I have been given no choice but to snap back into reality. My subconscious within my subconscious has turned against me, and I was too scared to stay in my pretend India, and figure things out for any longer. I hope Cleona and Mitesh will forgive me. No, you didn’t commit some sort of misdemeanor or have sex with another girl, but you told me that you love me. In-between all the trivial details of my life, school, gossip, things like first base, love seems like too much to handle. I’d rather have things be trivial, because that way there’s less of a chance of me getting hurt.

Everywhere I go, love stares me in the face. It is in my parents, and the way they look at each other. The hugs between cheerleaders and football players, TV characters, and even imaginary people, like Cleona and Jacques. Love is staring me in the face but I cannot accept it because still, it is not perfection. I know this because there is divorce, and abusive husbands, and unhappy soccer moms who drink all day. I don’t want to have to succumb to that some at point down the road. So I’m asking you just to expect less of me. I will be there for you and I won’t escape off into a distance daydream anymore to try to avoid what is happening in real life. Just expect less of me, because if I have obligations I will never discover what my perception of perfection is. Maybe it’s selfish to think that way, but I’m determined to know.





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girlyourfriend said...
Mar. 13, 2009 at 10:45 pm
this is so truthful.
amazing work.
i'm very happy and sad the same time...cause your words mean something to me and a zillion others. who want to know themselves but don't know how to get to it.
x
 
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