Sunday, October 5, 2014
First Five Pages October Workshop - Smith
Name: Laura Gross Smith
Genre: Young Adult
Title: Before The Time After
Life is made up of a series of before and afters. Before I learned to ride a bike I was confined to a small radius around my house. After I learned, with help from a very patient dad, I had the ability to explore beyond my neighborhood. I gained freedom. So maybe this is just a story about before and afters, maybe it’s more. Maybe if I can just get it all down on paper I can understand just what happened that autumn. Maybe I can figure out who I became.
I live in a small town in Vermont and attend Rossiter High School. As I write this I am a senior, but this all started back in sophomore year. This was before I had a steady boyfriend, before I learned Geometry and before I became someone else. Now I know everyone changes in high school. It takes a lot of getting used to. For the first time I was at a larger school, with city kids as well. Typical kids you see in the movies. You got your stoners, your geeks, jocks of course and yes, the dreaded cheerleaders. I was stuck somewhere in the middle. I spent my time hanging out in the art room playing with oil paints. I tended to stay clear of most of the other kids, I don’t know why; I just wanted to be left alone with my canvas, feeling the cool paints beneath my fingers. I get sucked into a picture and lose myself, which is a great skill when you are in high school. The pressure was on to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. Me, I know, but that doesn’t mean that the parents are pleased with my choice. The words starving artist has always been a mantra recited frequently by my dad, who I see rather infrequently, but more about that later.
So at lunch I always grab my brown bag and hike it to Mr. Taylor’s art classroom. He’s a typical art teacher, messy hair, black jeans and button down shirt, slightly frayed at the edges. Maybe he’s not typical, but what do I know, he’s my first. Freshman year for some reason I signed up for art, dipped my brush in the first jar of cerulean blue tempera paint, and I have never been the same since. See what I mean about before and afters. Before I was lost, without any idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated and after I am an artist. The moment the brush touched the paint, altered my life forever.
It was a cold October Tuesday in my junior year when I happened to wander into the art room early to finish up a large canvas I was working on. It was an abstract of a Mayan Temple I had just seen in a picture for my World History class with Dr. Jarvis. I was grabbing my paints when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, startled to see a tall blond girl dressed all in black, except for pink high top Converse sneakers. She had bright fluorescent green highlights and an overabundance of eyeliner. Her cherry red mouth smacked pink bubble gum.
“Um, sorry,” I said, not quite sure what she wanted from me. I never had a cool kid pay attention to me before, although I really never did anything to initiate any type of communication myself. “Am I in your way?” She at that moment smiled this goofy grin at me.
“Is that yours?” She asked this while pointing to the bright gold and purple blotches that smeared the canvas.
“Uh, yes,” I stammered, not sure where she was going with this. “Mr. Taylor wanted me to try painting a larger canvas.”
“It’s really freakin’ cool,” she said, “”how’d you get that shade?”
She pointed to a particularly tough shade of eggplant that took me an hour to get just right. I, of course ended up running out of it, and pulling out my already thin hair trying to duplicate it the second time, in a larger quantity.
“It took me a while, but it’s a great color. Reminds me of the sky just before the sun starts to come up. It took forever to get it right.” I turned a bit, blushing, not quite sure what she wanted from me. I wasn’t used to other kids coming up to me, and she was not a junior.
“My name’s Blaze,” she said, “although my parents didn’t actually name me that when I was born. They called me Jennifer Marie. Talk about boring. Where can you get with a name like Jennifer Marie except a Country Club? I think they wanted me to become a debutante, or tennis pro, but shit on them; here I am making sculpture from rusty metal car parts. They almost died when I told them I wanted to go to Boston College of Fine Arts, said I would end up in a trailer, with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth and a screaming kid on my hip. I told my dad to fu, I mean screw himself. Sorry, trying to watch my language. I have a college interview coming up in three weeks.” She spoke so fast I had to really pay attention to her words. I was still amazed that she was talking to me. “You want to go for McDiarrhea when we get out of this hellhole?”
I just nodded my head, as she said, “Great, I’ll meet you out back, I’ll drive.” And that was that, she turned on her heel, so to speak and all I saw was a green striped ponytail heading out the door. I became the me after I met Blaze.
The rest of that day went by in a blur, science, algebra, and finally the final bell rang. I made my way to the rear of the school, near the parking lot and scanned the crowd for a shot of green. I spotted her after a few minutes and made my way over to a 1973 Ford Mustang in mustard yellow. The bumper hung down a bit in the front, and she caught my stare.
“Deer tried to run me over,” she said, “get in.” I wasn’t sure if I was confident about her driving abilities, but was too scared to say a word. She had talked to me and I wasn’t going to do a thing to screw that up. “When do you have to be home?” she asked me as she turned the radio on, and I jumped as Metallica blared through the speakers. "So close, no matter how farcouldn’t be much more from the heart forever trusting who we are and nothing else matters." She reached for the dial and turned it down. I still had to shout to be heard over the song. “Five o’clock,” I yelled. Metallica droned on, "Trust I seek and I find in you every day for us something else new open mind for a different view and nothing else matters."
We made our way down route 5; my hands clutched the seats, my knuckles were probably white. She drove like a crazy woman. Wondering why I was there, why she chose me to come along with her, I prayed for the ride to be over soon. ..