Sunday, October 19, 2014
First Five Pages Workshop - Smith Rev 2
Name: Laura Gross Smith
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Before the Time After
It was the day I met my best friend for the first time.
“Are you coming?” Blaze asked, “Mars to Maia…is anyone in there?” “Sorry,” I said, “Could you wait while I clean this up? Just where are we going again?” I started to pack up my oil paints, careful not to get anything on my clothes. My mom was always complaining about stains. Like she was the one who did all of the laundry.
“How’d you ever find the time to eat lunch before you met me?” she asked. I never see you anywhere around school except for this room. “You do know I’m a vegetarian,” I said.
With a mocked shock expression on her face, she linked her arm through mine, throwing me off balance just a bit while I juggled paint and turpentine. “I’ll just have to be responsible for your conversion experience then. Before you know it you’ll be eating overly processed dead animals and wondering how you could’ve ever survived without.” That thought did make me cringe.
Life is made up of a series of befores and afters. Before I learned to paint with oils, I thought that acrylics were my only option. It is amazing how a little bit of turpentine can change your life. Before I met my best friend, I didn’t know that I could actually share secrets with another person, that someone would never share what my life was really like, with anyone else. After, I don’t think I could have made it through high school without her.
It was a cold October in my Junior year when I officially met Blaze. I was fairly new to the school and 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 unwrapping 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. Straight out of an 80’s movie.
“Um, sorry,” I said, not quite sure what she wanted from me. At my old school in Boston I could disappear, no one bothered with me at all. But mom just needed to move to Vermont, she must have really made a mess at her job, no one in my family would say, they were professional secret keepers. It felt as if this school had fifty kids total, not the 1500 I was used to. “Am I in your way?” At that moment she 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 questioning. I was, after all, smearing paint on that particular canvas. “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.
“Isn’t it 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.
“That’s why I turned to sculpture, I tried, I really tried to be a painter, but the colors always came out wrong. Then one day I kind of threw the palette across the room. Mr. Taylor handed me a soldering iron, crazy man, and a few scraps of metal and said, ‘Try this.’ I’ve been sculpting ever since. She pointed to the corner of the messy classroom, where a five foot metal sculpture rested. “Still trying to make that one stand on its own,” she said. She seemed distant for a second before wiping her hands on her pants and extending the cleaner one.
“My name’s Blaze, 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 a name like Jennifer Marie except a Country Club? I think they wanted me to become a debutante, or tennis pro, but shit, 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, I was the new kid. “You want to go for McDiarrhea for lunch?” Should I tell her I was a vegetarian? “Maybe,” I squeaked. “I mean, sure.” She was the first person in the school to really talk to me. I am still not sure what made me say yes, maybe it was because of her clothes, her nonconformity, and I wasn’t that brave. Maybe I just needed to get out of the building on that October day, to see the last few leaves hanging on. Maybe I just liked her. And I wouldn’t have to do much talking.
I usually spent my free periods 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 in my house. Pamphlets for law schools have been mysteriously arriving in the mail and my mom actually tried to enroll me in a summer business course at my old school. I just wanted to paint.
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. Freshman year at my old school, for some reason I signed up for art, dipped my brush in the first jar of cerulean blue acrylic paint, and I have never been the same since. See what I mean about befores 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.
That day, the Mayan temple stared at me and I absentmindedly swirled the eggplant color on my brush. “Oh Maia, Mars to Maia.” Why did she want me to go with her? Probably because there were only eight kids in the Junior class, give or take fifteen. Mom just had to move to the sticks. I just nodded my head, as she said, “Great, I’m parked 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 version of me after I met Blaze, the version with just a little bit of color.
I placed my canvas in the back of the room, tucked my paints into my cubby and grabbed my brown lunch sack. 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. Hope you like classic rock, can’t help it, the only thing my parents did right was to introduce me to some really freaking good music. Brother’s in a band too. Hope you aren’t a Kelly Clarkson girl, you’ll definitely hate this ride.”
She spoke so fast I wasn’t sure if I was confident about her driving abilities, but was too scared to say a word. I still wasn’t quite sure why I really came, I could have stayed and worked on the painting, while eating my grilled tofu sandwich.
“When do you have to be home after school?” she asked me as she turned the radio on, and I jumped as Metallica blared through the speakers. She reached for the dial and turned it down. I still had to shout to be heard over the song. “,” I yelled, “Why?” Metallica droned on, “Trust I seek and I find in you…” She gave me a slightly crooked, sinister grin.
We made our way down route 5; my hands clutched the seats, my knuckles were probably white. She drove like a crazy woman. Still wondering why I was there, why she wanted me to come along with her, I prayed for the ride to be over soon. ..