Friday, November 5, 2010


Lauren Campbell hasn’t thrown up since September 11th.
At first I think she’s making some kind of proud declaration against bulimia, because it’s only the 14th. I’m halfway through thinking this when I hear her talking about the Twin Towers, and I realize she isn’t filling us in on her battle with an eating disorder, but instead equating the constitutional fortitude of her stomach lining with the safety and security of the USA.

I guess her vomit is supposed to be all of our vomit, and we’re supposed to respect her ability to not choke up the gross food they serve us here as her contribution to the War on Terror.

Mr. Friedman keeps letting her talk, doing that thing with his tongue across his teeth under his lips that I know he thinks we don’t notice, even though he does it everyday we have Civics right after lunch. So even though Lauren Campbell is still talking about President Bush and I know I really should be listening to it, if only to quote back what she says to her to show her how little she understands global politics, all I can think about is: what is in Mr. Friedman’s teeth that drives him so compulsively to run his tongue across them? What does he have for lunch--something with sesame seeds perhaps? And before I realize it I’m thinking when was the last time Mr. Friedman threw up and now I’m thinking when was the last time Mr. Friedman had sex?

And suddenly I’m doing that thing where I’m wondering whether everybody in the room has had sex yet. And while I’m thinking about it, I can’t help trying to picture each person in the room having sex, and wondering why it is I can never picture anyone having sex despite having seen that part in Inventing the Abbots where Jennifer Connolly has sex with the brother that isn’t Joaquin Phoenix. I know what sex looks like, even through my mother tried to fast forward through that part, because by the time she found the remote it was over and she had inadvertently fast forwarded through the next scene, and refused to rewind it back so we could see what we missed.

The point being, no matter how I try, I can’t picture Lauren Campbell having sex, even though I’m pretty sure she has, because she’s been going out with Tom Russo for a year and a half. But whenever I try, all I can see is her wearing the oversized “United We Stand” t-shirt she wore that day in Middle School they dragged us outside to sing “God Bless the USA.” Or “America the Beautiful.” Yeah, it was “American the Beautiful.”

Lauren Campbell is still talking about supporting our president during war, surprisingly--well, surprising she’s still talking, not that she’s talking about supporting President Bush, but Mr. Friedman’s still cleaning his teeth and nodding every once and a while, which means he’s probably not really listening.

But the Friday after September 11th--the Friday after the last time Lauren Campbell threw up apparently--the school had “Patriotic Day” and sent a letter home to our parents asking them to dress us up in Red, White, and Blue clothes and they had us all stand in the courtyard and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing “America the Beautiful” and stuff. My mom of course forgot, so I was wearing my favorite green and polka dot skirt, and I remember Mrs. Waters making me call home to get a change of clothes because someone from the paper was coming to take a picture, but because my mom’s a nurse and my dad wasn’t living in the state at the time, I pretended to call home, but really just say and listened to the dial tone on the office phone for a minute before saying that no one was home, so Mrs. Waters told me I’d have to stand in the back.

And Lauren Campbell was wearing this ridiculously large t-shirt that said “United We Stand” that came down to her knees and I remember thinking they should put her in the back because her shirt was so big it looked like she didn’t have any pants on. But I guess it’s more important to look Patriotic than to look like you know how to dress yourself.

And it’s then I realize that it’s like her misconceptions are so big that it makes her ideas look like they’re not wearing any pants, and I kind of half-laugh, and she stops talking for a second and she kind of leers at me and says “What? Do you disagree or something, Mona?” And of course I do, because she’s kind of an idiot, but I wasn’t listening to what she was just saying, and I almost say the thing about her ideas looking pants-less, but I realize nobody would know what I was talking about. So I just kind of sit there for a second, until Warren Jacobs pipes up and says, “A lot of us disagree, Lauren.” He looks at me and continues, “A lot of us think that Bush is the worst president we ever had.”

And then I realize that I’m in love with Warren Jacobs.

Which is weird, because I’ve never really even liked him before, especially because one time he copied off my Earth Science test and actually got a higher grade than me. But that was before I heard him say things like “Bush is like Hitler” and “This administration doesn’t care about you or your safety. They only care about oil.” Which is true.

Mr. Friedman has stopped licking his teeth and tells Warren to take it easy, which is just like Mr. Friedman, because he hates when people criticize President Bush, although now that I think about it, he does have an old Kerry bumper sticker on his car. It’s a Mazda Miata, I don’t know the year, but I do know that’s it’s blue, and that’s only because I saw him leaving school one day while I was waiting for my mom to come pick me up.

But Warren keeps going, and then when Lauren tries to argue back, he tells her to stop being such a naïve idiot and to stop being a parrot for what the government wants her to think. Then Lauren starts crying and screams that her cousin is over in Iraq and then Warren just kind of stops and is slack-jawed.
And I want him to jump up and say that because you have a cousin in Iraq means you should be even more critical of the government because the president has sent him into harm’s way for no good reason, based on a lie, and that it’s the job of a citizenry to allows be vigilant and question its leaders, because that’s what democracies are all about.

And then I imagine Warren and I joining the Debate Team and becoming state champions, even though our school doesn’t even have a debate team, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a debate team existing outside of a movie, but we win the state championship and Mr. Friedman will take the team out to dinner at Chili’s to celebrate our victory and Warren I will be sitting outside on the benches while everybody will be ordering dessert, and he’ll tell me I did a great job defending the President of Venezuela and he’ll kiss me and then we’ll go to the Prom and win King and Queen. We’ll dance to “We’ve Got Tonight,” a song which I hate normally, but which I wouldn’t mind in the context of a prom.
But then Warren just says, “I’m sorry. Obviously, I support our troops over in Iraq.” I wait for his retort, his but one can oppose the President’s policies while still supporting our troops…but he doesn’t. He realizes now that the class has turned against him, and Mr. Friedman gives him another second to continue, but Warren just kind of looks down at his desk, and then Mr. Friedman looks around the room and says, “Anyone else?”

I think about telling the class about being forced to stand in the back during Patriotic Day for wearing green polka dots, which is actually more Patriotic, if you ask me, because it means the terrorists didn’t make me change what I was going to wear. And how when we were supposed to be singing “America the Beautiful,” I looked over at Mr. Phillips’ class at my friend Angela, and Angela was doing that thing where she’s staring off into space, but you know she’s thinking about something about something about a million times more interesting and ingenious than you’ve every thought about, and then Mr. Phillips kind of grabbed her arm and snapped at her because she wasn’t singing, and how she looked when he did it, like he ripped her out of a peaceful, happy place and she was so scared to be back in a world where terrorists fly planes into buildings and authority figures yell at you for not singing songs than you want to sing.

But I notice that the period is almost over and I don’t want to start talking about something and have the bell ring because if someone is talking when the bell rings, Mr. Friedman makes everyone stay seated until they’ve finished talking, and then everyone just looks at you, waiting for you to finish, so you feel self-conscious and just kind of hurry and wrap everything up so people won’t be late to their next class.
“No?” Mr. Friedman asks. And then he waits a second and says “Okay” and then assigns the nightly reading.

After class, I go to my locker, and I can see Warren chase after Lauren and tell her he’s very sorry about her cousin and how he never would’ve said anything if he’d known and that he respects and honors her cousin’s service.

What a tool. I think he just said those things to impress Mr. Friedman or maybe Tori because she said some anti-Bush things last week and I know he has a crush on her because he is always at the Girls’ Track meets (I’m the manager) and he is always telling her she had a good meet, even though she almost never does. I mean, she’s nice enough, and Lord knows her boobs are like quadruple D’s, but you’ think Warren would have better taste than that.

I put my Civics book in my locker and as I watch him skulk away from Lauren Campbell who looks like might throw up she’s so upset, except that I know she’s holding back the vomit because otherwise the terrorists will win, and I can’t believe I actually thought I liked him. I’ve never really liked him, because in sixth grade he wouldn’t dance with me at the Holiday dance, saying he didn’t want to dance with anybody, although he did dance with Sarah Cook like two songs later. I guess it’s easy to fall in love with your idea of a person. Maybe it’s better that way, because all people will do in real life is disappoint you.

And that’s what I learned in Civics class today.

Illustration by Kristin Texeira

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Cat

Illustration by Kristin Texeira

Dream of running. Dark and bright and colors and legs springing. Pumpkin chase, happy running. No wind, still air, Pumpkin dreaming. No chase. No wake. Sun is warm by window. Pumpkin sleeps in warm. Wake sharp, quick, no chase. Now wake.

Once window open, Pumpkin feel air move, chase moths and little things that dance against screen. Bat at with claws out, tear screen, make She mad. Warm air gone, window closed, no moths little things against screen. Nothing to claw.

So Pumpkin sit in warm. Glass makes shine light warm, air cold outside. Pumpkin’s fur is thick now. Cold is here.

Pumpkin stretch legs. She comes and touches Pumpkin. Pumpkin bone so close to skin. Pumpkin old. Pumpkin tired. She hands feel nice, soft, warm. Pumpkin purr.

Pumpkin dream again. Sleep easy now. Dark easy now. Night eyes see better, dream eyes see better. There things to chase in dream. Pumpkin run in dream. Wake Pumpkin run no more. Old. Tired. Bone close to skin. No run no more.

Wake by scent, strong. Pumpkin have no wake dream to tell what scent is. Inside is not. Scent is outside. Pumpkin smell whole inside along the hard part, hard bottom and hard sides. Scent outside. Scent bad.
Inside meets outside, Pumpkin there. She needs to come, open inside to outside. She not come. She sit, watch She dreams outside of She head. She dreams make noise Pumpkin hear. Lights, too. Pumpkin cries at the inside outside. Pumpkin cries so She comes. She comes not. She noises kisses. She noises Pumpkin come to She sit. Pumpkin out. Understand She? Pumpkin out. Pumpkin cry. Out. Out. Out. Out. Scent out. Pumpkin out.

She here. Look Pumpkin, noise Pumpkin. No out Pumpkin, She noise. Must out. Must out. No pumpkin, She noise. Pumpkin love She. Pumpkin make know. Pumpkin love She with head. Rub feels nice. Rub show love. Pumpkin love. But Pumpkin out. Pumpkin love, but Pumpkin go. Scent strong. Pumpkin go.
She smalls down to Pumpkin. She rub face and head and Pumpkin tail start where Pumpkin claws cannot go. Nice. Touch nice She. Pumpkin out, though. Pumpkin out. Love now, no love after. Pumpkin out, Pumpkin gone.

Pumpkin cry. She make inside outside. Air moves now. Cold. She noise Pumpkin. She noise Why no out Pumpkin, all that crying? Pumpkin fear, Pumpkin scent fear. Pumpkin miss She, will. No more Pumpkin. Pumpkin out, no again in. Pumpkin say goodbye. Love She. Goodbye, She.

Inside now outside. She makes inside closed. Pumpkin see She in window. Cold air moving, scent strong bad fear, Pumpkin inside? No. No more inside again. Pumpkin out now.

Ground, grass, cold, hard. In the warm, grass soft, ground soft. Now cold, hard. Air moves cold fast against fur. Pumpkin scent own. Mix with bad scent. Must clean Pumpkin. Must make no scent. Tongue clean Pumpkin. Wash away Pumpkin scent. Make Pumpkin invisible. Must hunt bad scent.

No up life. No uplife songs or taunting Pumpkin. Uplife fly away with warm. Only groundlife now, in cold. Scent is strong. Groundlife must be near. Pumpkin smell air move. Follow air move, follow scent. Must be big. Pumpkin no hunger, but Pumpkin hunt big smell. Pumpkin hunt big smell, bring big smell home, show She Pumpkin love. No. No Pumpkin home. No Pumpkin show love. Pumpkin out now.

Dead brown crunch ground. Smell like old sky. Pumpkin paws crunch dead brown, noise, bad noise. Bad noise for hunt. Pumpkin slow. Pumpkin paws slow. Make little noise. Bad smell bigger. Pumpkin not close. Pumpkin needs further. Further into outside. Outside bigger than before. Pumpkin know outside, not know this outside. Pumpkin bones tired, closer to skin. Pumpkin sleep, dream of chase? No. No sleep. Chase in wake. Chase in now. Hunt in now. Big smell. Big smell hunt.

Air move hurt. Cold hurt. Air noise, crying. Move Pumpkin, push Pumpkin, hard like inside. Pumpkin push back. Cold, hard. Pumpkin need move on. Pumpkin hunt big smell. Pumpkin find more outside. New outside, far from inside. Pumpkin hunts.

Pumpkin wake dreams about kin. Tiny, small Pumpkin, before Pumpkin. Brothersisters suckle mother’s milk. Warm, sweet. Pumpkin and brothersisters squeeze to reach teat. No know then life. Know then only milk, warm. No love. Mother knew love. Cleaned Pumpkin, protected Pumpkin from big things.
Why Pumpkin wake dream this? Old things in Pumpkin wake dream now. Wake dream She, holding Pumpkin giving Pumpkin name. Fur so soft, Pumpkin so little. She Pumpkin carry. She new mother. Milk pool, now. No teat. She hairless paws, rub head, say Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin until know. Know Pumpkin. Am Pumpkin.

Bad scent strong. Outside now everything. No inside anymore. Pumpkin stop wake dream. Look up. Bad scent here. Big Cat here.

Hello Small Cat, Big Cat mew. Big Cat fear make Pumpkin, scare. Pumpkin hiss, arch back, try make fear Big Cat. No skin. Bone, claw, teeth. Big Cat no fear.

No hiss, Small Cat. No fight. Time, Small Cat, time.No Small Cat. Pumpkin, no Small Cat. Big Cat shakes head. Pumpkin is She name. Before you suckle teat, you no Pumpkin. All are Small Cat to Big Cat.Pumpkin fear. Big Cat say No fear, no fear. Pumpkin inside now Pumpkin outside. Understand?Pumpkin hiss more. Bad big scent. Big Cat bad. Small cat, you go outside now. Sleep no dream. Sleep now on.Pumpkin tired. Pumpkin lie on brown cold. Pumpkin cold. Pumpkin wake dream little groundlife and uplife. Fear make, play with little life, ground and up, play and make fear. Pumpkin sorry, Little Life, for fear. Pumpkin not know how fear Big Cat is. Pumpkin fear now, so Pumpkin sorry.

Be not sorry, Small Cat. How made Small Cat. Not fault. How made.No more love, Big Cat? No more warm and windows and food in dish, given by She paws? No more chasing light around inside, and warming against She? No more love?

Big Cat loves you, Small Cat. Not like She loves. Different, but love.Why, Big Cat? Pumpkin hunt, Pumpkin love, Pumpkin fear. Pumpkin alone. Why Pumpkin alone?
Small Cat, you are not alone. Never alone. No scared. How made. Made to live and run and chase, now made to lie. No scared.

Lay down, Small Cat. Lay down. Think about inside. Now there are little things inside Small Cat. Little things are hungry. Small Cat will make them happy, make them full. Cold ground will be warm again. Small Cat you will make warm ground grow again. It all love, from Mother’s teat to She paws to the little things inside you to the ground you make warm. All love. Lay down.
Sleep. Pumpkin sleep. Dark, no colors, no light. Just sleep. All love. Understand. Pumpkin understand now.

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