Sunday, January 3, 2016
1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Gilliam
Name: Gabby Gilliam
Genre: NA retelling
“Jill, have you seen my lip gloss?” I shouted over my shoulder. Jill’s earbuds were a permanent attachment, and I knew she’d pretend she couldn’t hear me if I didn’t shout.
“Nope.” She smacked her lips, which were a suspicious shade of strawberry frappe. I rolled my eyes. Whatever. In a few hours, I was out of here. She could keep the damned lip gloss. I looked around the tiny dorm room I’d called home for the past ten months. Goodbye cheap mattress that made it impossible to sleep for longer than two hours at a time before a spring dug into my skin. Sayonara tiny window. Can’t say I’ll miss your inability to let any sunlight into this little cell, or your beautiful view of the crumbling brick wall across the alley. Good riddance inconsiderate roommate and your kleptomaniacal habits, especially where my sweaters and cosmetics are concerned. I didn’t even wave to Jill before I carried my last bag down the stairs to wait for the taxi that would take me home.
For the sake of accuracy, the taxi was not actually taking me home. It was taking me to the bus stop at Virginia Tech. My rustic little college wasn’t even large enough to merit its own transportation service. Once the taxi dropped me off, I would catch a bus to Charlottesville where I would transfer to a train for the rest of the way to Fredericksburg. It was a convoluted way to get home, but I didn’t care, as long as it got me out of Blacksburg.
Even with meticulous planning, there was still twenty minutes between when my bus arrived at Charlottesville Union Station and when the train would get there. It wasn’t long enough for me to do anything other than people watch. My stomach growled, but I decided to wait until I got on the train to quiet it with offerings of food. I didn’t have enough time to get anything from a restaurant anyway, not that I could afford it even there was time. I had spent the last of my money on the tickets home.
A flood of travelers coursed over the platform around me. My entire college life lay at my feet. It fit into three suitcases and a knapsack, and the sack was only filled with snacks for the train ride home. I watched as mothers and children embraced before parting, and lovers cried as their other half pulled out of the station. My only companions were my battered suitcases, purchased second hand last summer when I still believed that college was the solution to all of my problems. As it turns out, my oppressive hometown was not the root of my suffering. I was even more miserable on campus. A year of processed, packaged dinners had earned me twenty extra pounds and a bad case of acne. I thought college would help me discover my true self, that I would blossom outside of my Mom’s walls. Instead, I locked myself in my dorm room and avoided interaction with fellow students at all costs. It was a far cry from the transformation I had hoped for.
My train pulled into the station, so I lugged my bags across the platform. A kindly old porter helped me load them into the luggage compartment before I found my seat. When the whistle blew, the seats near me were still empty and I was relieved. After a year of hermitage, I was unpracticed in the art of small talk. I fished my headphones out of my knapsack and plugged them into my phone. I found a playlist that suited my mood, the dark melodies of Florence and the Machine, and let the music drown out the noise of the other train passengers.
Mother, make me
Make me a big tall tree
So I can shed my leaves and let it blow through me
Mother, make me
Make me a big grey cloud
So I can rain on you things I can't say out loud
I did my best to pretend I was alone, closing my eyes and losing myself in the music. Pretending no one else existed had kind of become my specialty. It made the indifference of my peers hurt less.
The rain pelted the windows of the train—each drop striking the glass like the clouds were unleashing pebbles instead of water. I crushed my hoodie into a ball and tucked it between my head and the window. I don’t know whether it was the inadequate pillow or the fear that the rain would shatter the glass, but I wasn’t close to falling asleep. Or comfort. I stared out across the dismal fields of Charlottesville. Normally, the view was lovely—the deep, rich green of fresh grass and trees against the Blue Ridge Mountains. Today, it was gray upon gray, and I couldn’t even make out the mountains in the distance through the mist. It’s like Nature manifested my emotions. My guilt and apprehension attacked my stomach with the same intensity as the rain. I was headed home to Fredericksburg from Radford University, and I had no intention of going back. I had not yet shared this information with my mom. Summer break lasted for two and half months. So, I had that long to find my courage, and let my parents know I was pissing my future away. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Lightning forked across the sky, and I did my best to pretend it wasn’t a bad omen.
The train pulled into the station with a squeal of brakes against the wet tracks. I could see my mother’s Mickey Mouse umbrella through my window. She used to walk me into school on rainy days under that umbrella. Now, she was picking me up from my last day of school with it. Weird how some things come full circle. Granted, she didn’t yet know that school was over for me, but we’d get to that. Eventually.
Mom was everything that I’m not. She had dark auburn hair that fell in loose, natural curls around her heart-shaped face. My hair can, at best, be called coffee-colored. I usually referred to it as an enchanting cow patty brown. I begged Mom to let me dye it when I was in high school, but she refused, claiming it would damage my hair and I’d regret it later. I had planned to dye it as soon as I left for college. Once I got settled on campus, I was too busy to care about the color of my hair anymore. Even though she was forty three, the freckles that peppered her nose made her look more like my sister than my mother. My nose is slightly too large for my face, and doesn’t have any freckles to make it cuter. While her eyes were the green of the first fresh grass of spring, mine are the same dung brown as my hair. She was petite, the shortest person on the train platform even with the ridiculously large Mickey Mouse umbrella.
I’ve always felt my name is a bit of a joke. Maybe a cruel trick of nature to punish my parents. They named me Willow, most likely expecting a daughter that fit the name. Meanwhile, they got me. I’m nowhere near thin enough to be considered willowy, carrying my freshman fifteen and then a few. I did get the height though. I’ve towered over Mom since I was about fourteen.