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Every year my town holds a huge block party in the beginning of fall that shuts down one of the major streets in the neighborhood, a sort of apology for the end of summer and an introduction to the fall session. The only downside to this “American tradition” is that it gets a bit repetitive after the first year. Nevertheless, people go out of their way to attend this festivity and use it as an excuse to kill some time before getting back to their lives. But, I guess being the impatient teenager that I am, I couldn’t bear to suffer through another year of avoiding forced conversations with people I’d rather not associate with outside of school. You know those people who you just talk to because of circumstance? Like, if you both had the same pious teacher or were on the same team you both mutually developed a bond that had a habit of only surviving when the occasion called for it? Well, that described the majority of my relationships with the people I conversed with between the hours of seven fifty four and two thirty one.
As you may have guessed, I’m not exactly the socialist of butterflies.
In any account, my reluctance to engage in this public event increased each year I attended. It was to a point where there was nothing less I would rather do. After all, I had approximately three novels waiting back home ready for me to devour them- a much better alternative in my opinion. But, I guess, in some way, witnessing my sister’s graduation the past year, I began to develop a burning desire for something greater than my less than amusing high school experience. In all honesty, the sole memory that stuck out in my mind was the panic attacks I suffered from taking all advance classes. It didn’t seem like enough anymore, you know? High school is supposed to be the best years of your life and the only thing that I remember is studying? Some years those were. From where I was standing, it was pretty obvious that I was getting cheated out of the whole teenager thing.
And this is where my plan came in. It was rather simple really- the only thing that was really needed was a few people to make it happen. My sister, I’m sure, would have no qualms of helping me out with this little escapade. After all, she was always looking for an excuse to do makeup, something that I could honestly say from experience. The only problem? Like I mentioned before, it’s not exactly like I have a strewn of people waiting in line to help me see this thing through.
And that’s how I ended up here, standing outside my sister’s room uneasily, trying to build up courage to actually knock. I could bet my paycheck that as soon as my sister had wind of my plan it would be like a pack of wild dogs on meat.
Let me back up a little bit- my sister, unlike me, was the sociable one. She was the girl that still talked to her friends after high school and already had a group to settle in with even before she entered college. Now, being the more extroverted of us two, I needed her… skills to get me the crowd I needed. I’m mean, people who flash mob need more than one person to make themselves look cool. After all, what’s so cool about a random kid breaking into dance? That’s right, nada. But, a group of people? Yep, you get some notice.
I take a deep breath and push open the door, walking in with my back straightened as if I was going off to battle and, in a way, I guess I was. Just a much more civilized one with less guts and glory.
“Hey Sam,” I call, catching her cleaning her cosmetics counter. And boy, did it need cleaning. “Want to help me with something?”
She doesn’t even bother to turn around. “No,” she says flatly. “Now, get out of my room before you break something.”
I roll my eyes. Okay, that was a seriously stupid approach. You would think I would learn after so many years to never start of a sentence with do you want to help me with something? “It involves promoting your cosmetology business,” I throw out, placing my hands in my hips in exasperation.
That did it. Before you could say foundation, she whips around, smoothing down her hair like Matt Bomer just walked into the room.
“Start talking,” she warns, her eyes glimmering in suspicions.
I chew on the bottom of my lip and think about how much I should divulge. “Well,” I begin hesitantly. “You know how you like doing crazy, out of the box type of makeup? What if I said that you could do it in public and draw some attention?”
She squints at me. “I’m listening,” she responds coolly.
I nod jerkily. “That block party is coming up in a few weeks (I would know, the banners are all over town) and, since I hate monotony, I wanted to stand out this year. I wanted to do something crazy,” I take a deep breath, getting ready for the plunge. “I want to dress up in crazy, neon, exuberant, eccentric type of things. Spray painted tutus with bright jeans underneath. Eye-popping shirts with things like geniuses wanted or as simple as a little kid looking up at a tree. Cool things you know? And, since you’re great at makeup and hair, you could detail the whole thing. Spray paint our heads gold and draw a mask on our faces. Something.” I stop here, panting slightly out of breathlessness after my little speech.
She studies me carefully, her brows furrowing the way they do when she’s contemplating something. We stay like this for a few minutes, with me on one side shifting uncomfortably with her studying me.
“Fine,” she says finally.
Sam looks at me in annoyance. “Yes, fine I said. But, do you even have enough people to pull this off?” she asks incredulously, obviously already beginning to doubt this plan.
I smile widely at her. “Oh dear sister, I was hoping you could deal with that,” I hint not so subtly.
She clenches her jaw and turns away. “Idiot,” I hear her mumble under her breath. “I’ll see what I can do okay?” she continues in a normal voice. “Just get out of my room.”
I beam at her back and skip away. Looks like this year won’t be as bad as I thought.
I tug on my afro like hair and jiggle my foot nervously.
This is it, the night that we had been working so hard towards. After weeks of planning and fighting it was all coming down to this moment now.
Someone nudges my shoulder and I glance over.
“You okay?” Sam asks, crossing her arms over her chest, staring at the people ahead.
With her teased hair streaked with blue and her funky new world makeup she looked barely recognizable. She was wearing a bright orange shirt with a green blazer on top, her colorful plaid skirt showing off her zebra print tights.
I gulp and nod. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I respond, looking around at the little crowd of people that was helping us with this little project.
Many of them look bored but I detect an undercurrent of nervousness underneath their colored faces. Wow, Sam did a really good job at embellishing without making them look like clowns.
My phone dings! giving us the queue to exit the protection of the shadows and make our grand entrance. With one final look around I march out of the inconspicuous side alley and make my way over to the pulsing lights, the rest of the group not far behind.
Our reception is everything I expected and more. People literally stop and stare as we glide through the masses, halting all conversations in our wake. And I guess it really was something to freeze about. It wasn’t every day, after all, that you see a group of silent strangers dressed up in something right out of a science fiction novel except with more color. Think futuristic meets techno on crack.
We keep this up for about a half an hour, walking around the area and drawing more attention to ourselves with each passing minute. At last we stop in the middle of the party, smack in front of the stage and wait until they lower the music. Then, as silent as we came, we hold up signs giving out my sister’s contact information for anyone who was “touched by the display of art.” My sister’s words, not mine.
We hold these poses for ten minutes until all phones are put away, taking down the information given. I have no doubt in my mind that our phone will be blowing up for the next few days at least.
I nod to the rest of the group and we disperse, walking away in different directions, exiting with a bang.
In the car I burst into a fit of giggles, unable to control my laughter anymore. “Did you see their faces?” I gasp, tears practically running down my face. “That was great!”
Sam smiles smugly in the driver’s seat. “It looks like business will be booming for a while,” she observes, just as proud as to how the night turned out as I was.
We chat about the night for a few minutes until we lapse in silence.
“I guess you got your moment,” she blurts out suddenly.
I glance over at her in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
She looks over at me and, seeing me watch her, turns back to the road a bit flustered. “I mean, I guess you won’t have trouble finding anyone to hang with anymore,” she quickly clarifies, noticing my warning look.
I blink. Well, that was unexpected. “Look, I don’t know what you think this was about but it wasn’t for me to get friends. I did this for myself, a kind of renewal if you will. I just wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need to be afraid to be different. So yeah, I don’t have many friends, but who cares? I’d rather be myself and confident than undermined in every sense of the word.”
Silence descends us once more while, I assume, she tries to absorb this.
“You’re one weird girl you know that?” she smiles.
A corner of my lips tug upwards. “I know.”