Friday, 23 December 2011

It Was

“It was a year that answered some questions, but asked so many more.” New Years resolutions had to start somewhow, and Alice wanted hers to start “bombastically.”

“Bombastic” was a word she’d recently had on a vocab list. Now it cropped up everywhere. In her history exam, in conversation with her sister, who rolled her eyes with flair, even with her mother, who accepted the compliment about her roast chicken by raising her eyebrows and saying, “Bombastic is all fine and well, but is it Good, Alice?”
Alice took another bite, smiled and nodded. Her mother knew the chicken was good. It was the rock star of the dinner table for goodness sakes.

Maybe it had been slightly inappropriate for chicken, but Bombastic was a word that she was hoping to apply to 2012, so the resolutions would have to be bombastic, the paper (pink) equally so, the pen (which lit up) topped it all off, and now for the plans. Her godmother recently said something that worried her at St. Stephen's Day lunch. “Man plans and God laughs.” Her parents nodded knowingly as did the rest of the adults, and they continued chatting like a sigh, but two chairs from the head of the table, on the left hand side, Alice’s mind was being quietly blown. She hadn’t heard that before. “Man plans and God…” Wait – he doesn’t congratulate man? He doesn’t smile beatifically from on high at the gentle hopes and wishes of his favourite creation? He – I mean –surely he doesn’t chuckle! Doesn’t he tell regular jokes? With friends? Or listen to our jokes? Surely there are better things to laugh at than…

But the moment passed over parsnips, and nobody noticed Alice’s 16 year old shell of churning emotions to be at all out of keeping with your average 16 year old at a St. Stephen's Day lunch. She’d tried to get over it as well, and felt that she and God would just have to have a good sit down and talk about all this later and sort it out then, with a bit of privacy between them.

Of course, when she usually talked to God, in the warm murky quiet of eyes closed late at night, he was very accomodating. He’d bless who she asked to be blessed, and he’d listen with a gentle smile of I-know-better-patience (she couldn’t see it of course, but she was sure of it) while she complained about whoever had been annoying her that week, and asked for the strength and bravery to go on dealing with them, and to be kind to them, kind as Jesus, kinder than ever – God always listened, and took note of it. She was sure of it. Picturing him mocking her – of course, maybe it wasn’t the kind of laugh that dismisses you, maybe it was more of a gentle, loving chuckle. Like when she told her parents that she’d die if she didn’t get to go to the American girl Karen Kugelmass’s fourth of July party on a boat instead of her great aunt's birthday, which fell on the same night. Their chuckle was frustrating, of course, but didn’t seem to be mocking her. It was a kind of extension of the smile that God gave when she complained. “I understand that you have feelings but I know better” it said. God’s giggles must have just been an audible version of that.

But here she was, and that patient smile bore down on her like the sunshine in Spain, the kind that makes you sweat. The writer’s block of resolutions. Perhaps God reads these out to the angels at Christmas parties, if he has them, perhaps he puts them in fortune cookies for his friends, and everyone reads and chuckles. Chuckles kindly, that kind and violent chuckle.

“Alice!” Her mother called down to her. New Years dinner. Following closely on its heels, she would go to Chloe Alexandre’s big house for a New Years party, where Chloe would toast all the friends, and cry, and Alice would cry, looking around at the ten or so people who she loved like family. Years later, she would run into Chloe at Oife’s mother’s funeral, and Chloe would look rich, but cheap, hurtling face forward into a life where she and Alice would have nothing in common. She’d frown at Alice too, in her second hand clothing with her smug smile. Both felt as though they’d never known the other, both thought the other was dressed inappropriately for the occasion, and they both decided that they didn’t much care if they ever saw each other again. In fact, to avoid the awkwardness of a second time measuring up each other’s hair and outfits, they sincerely hoped this would be the only meeting.

After Chloe finished the toast where she would cry, Alice's second best friend, Lisa Anderson, would hug her, and later that night would also cry in the bathroom, because her boyfriend Mike was ignoring her, and together they would sing “I will survive” at the top of their lungs until Mike, with the arsenal of the four other boys at the party, would stand outside of the bathroom door and begin knocking and joking. Lisa would brush the tears from her eyes and go out there and ignore then kiss Mike. Later, much later, Alice would be hurt, though she’d never admit it to anyone, that she hadn’t been invited to Lisa’s wedding, even though she had never met the groom.

With a final glance in the mirror, smoothing down the hair she’d spent over an hour straigthening and readjusting the eyeliner she’d applied according that girl’s instructions on youtube, Alice glanced at the page. “New Years Resolutions” was underlined neatly at the top, and “It was a year that answered some questions but asked so many more” followed soon after. What did God think? Could he see her now? Did he mind?

Picking up a pen - she scrawled it quickly - “Kiss Ryan Johnson.” The pen lit up. With a flourish. There. She’d written it down. Laugh it up, big guy. She folded the paper once and left the room. She traced her hand along the banister that she knew like a limb. She thought they were watching her. She was standing down the angels and their fortune cookies, the Christmas Parties and the sighs and the patience. She had presented all of the secret spirits who could read her thoughts and all that she wrote with something she wanted. With her secret want. As she walked into the kitchen, she’d thought she would feel bombastic, whatever that meant. Instead she felt like a beggar at God’s door, with a pen instead of a pale.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like it :)