My bones look like white mush that have condensed and been made hard over time. Their luminescence is brilliant against the purple red of my flesh and they lead the way as I climb up my body. The journey inside of me begins at my feet. I start by meticulously exploring all of my toes walking under the nails, standing on top of my corns, even climbing the little hairs on my big toe. I am in no rush to leave my feet since they have been the part of my body that I've liked the most. They have always been neutral ground in the battle with myself and I wish I could stay there but I know that I have to move on, have to get to the top so that I can inhabit myself again. I slowly make my way up my calf, bouncing slightly on the blue muscles and playing for a moment in my meat. I follow the curve of my calf and I climb to my knee. Suddenly the skin becomes taut and I see how it is pulled tight over the bone that indents and then protrudes before introducing the thigh. I've always resented my knees, cracking as I grew taller, begging me to stretch them out in the most inconvenient places. I leave the knee quickly, -- not much to see anyway, just bone -- and walk into my thigh. I immediately ooze through the flesh that is so deep it dims the radiant light of the bone. My thigh flesh is thickly layered with white coats of a dense mucous like substance that I presume is fat. I stare at it for a moment, amazed at how thick it is. I imagine how it would be to climb in it and surrender myself to this glutinous mass, to become a part of my own fat disappearing inside of it forever. But I continue on and make it into my stomach where everything is much more liquid-like. I have reached the source, I think to myself as I waddle inside my stomach trying to reach my ribs so that I have something to stand on. If I had the time I would fully investigate this mass that has been my chief enemy in the war, get to know it order to conquer it but I need to keep going before I miss this chance. I walk past the kidneys to my ribcage and gingerly move from rib to rib trying to avoid falling into the spaces between them. Finally, I see my heart and stare at it if for a while as it pumps red, protracting and expanding, beating the other parts into order. I have little time though and I make my way up my throat where I settle into my jaw. My teeth look like white doors and I watch them continually open and shut as I attempt to carry on a conversation with you. I walk up my head until I can go no further. The nerve cells sparkle and make a soft buzzing sound and I would like to explore one, to see what goes on inside those neurons but instead I sit on top of my brain and watch you and me.
The worn bus rolled down the street, tense and anxious to leave the hot stickiness that was summer in New York City. The bus made it's way down Columbus Avenue, stopping when necessary but intent on reaching the highway before the morning rush hour traffic overtook the streets. Hannah sat near the front of the bus and stared out of the window. She thought about listening to her Walkman but decided that would be too anti-social. Instead , she began to mentally inventory the body sizes of the rest of the campers. She noted whether their thighs spread as wide as hers did on the plastic seats and how much above the back of the seats they're heads came. She concluded that once again, she was the biggest one. Hannah then quickly chastised herself. This is not the way to go about meeting people, she thought. She took a deep breath and decided that she would try to strike up a conversation with the girl sitting across from her. Like Hannah's the seat beside her was empty.
"Hi. I'm Hannah. What's your name?" Hannah smiled and extended her hand out to the pretty , petite girl. The girl suddenly clutched her stomach and threw- up on her seat.
" Oh, I'm sorry , I wa- wait, I'll get you some paper towels." Hannah got up from her seat and made her way down the aisle searching for something to clean up the mess. Right before she reached the bathroom, she recognized an older girl who had been introduced as a counselor earlier that morning.
" Excuse me uh," Hannah said. She had forgotten her name.
" Yes, hon ?" The girl stopped talking to the boy next to her and looked up at Hannah.
" Well, you should know, the girl next to me threw up in her seat."
" Oh, no, really?" Hannah nodded and smiled a bit. She actually thought it was pretty funny that her first introduction had induced the other person to throw up. This was not a good sign.
" Okay, well I'll get some tow-"
" I'm getting some from the bathroom," Hannah interrupted, " but do we have anything for the smell?" She began giggling. " I mean since I have to sit next to her and all." The counselor began laughing as well.
" Yeah, let see, I think there's some lysol in the bathroom. You go to the bathroom and I'll check on the kid." Hannah began to move towards the bathroom. When the counselor stopped her.
" Hey, thanks for telling me. What's your name?"
"Well, I'm Liz, Hannah. Nice to meet you." Hannah shook her hand and went to the bathroom to get the towels and Lysol. She then returned to her seat. As she walked down the aisle, she looked at the backs of the kids and began to feel lonely as they laughed with each other and talked about who they hoped would be back from the previous summer. Great, she thought to herself, and I'm stuck with throw-up girl. She got to the girl's seat and helped her wipe up the vomit. The girl had opened the window and Hannah sprayed the Lysol on the seat and prayed that would beat the hideous smell. The girl mumbled an embarrassed " thanks" and looked the other way. Hannah sat back in her seat and put on her Walkman. "Summer it turns me upside down, summer, summer, summer, it's like a merry go round." She mouthed the words to the Cars song as she stared out the window. Soon the city streets gave way to trees and Hannah began to get excited to be in the country for two months. Her usually forays out of the city were to her wealthy school friend's country houses but they were usually in the Hamptons or Greenwich which seemed more like exclusive small towns than the country. She was looking forward to sleeping in a tent and going hiking, neither of which she had ever done before. But in spite of herself, Hannah began thinking about what her best friend was doing at Camp Walnut Hill. Probably horse-back riding Hannah thought. A cord of anger rang through Hannah as she thought of her parents telling her that they could not afford to send her to camp Walnut Hill and that if she wanted to go to camp she could go the affordable Camp Riverside which offered classes in African dance, not horseback riding. Hannah knew she shouldn't resent her parents for not sending her to Camp Walnut Hill but she couldn't help it. She surveyed the faces around her. Throw-up girl was now passed out against her window. I better make some friends she thought.
The bus pulled into the camp at precisely 1:23 pm. Hannah looked at her watch and recorded the time.
It was a habit of hers to mentally note the exact time things happened. She looked out the window and saw the other buses that had made it there earlier. The counselors leaving their buses and were congregating under a patch of trees that gave them shade from the afternoon brightness. Hannah watched as Liz got off the bus and joined them. They gave the feeling of being an exclusive club as they scanned the kids still sitting on the buses and laughed and talked with a familiar ease. Hannah looked at Liz through the window and decided she was pretty. She had light almost yellow skin and a round face that held dark eyes which were a little too far apart. Liz caught Hannah's eye and smiled at her. She then said something to the guy next to her and laughed.
4:03 PM. I see you standing there under my red umbrella talking intensely. Softly. Conversating. You are talking to me but I'm not there of course, not really anyway. I went into my body as soon as the words started tumbling from your lips hitting me in the face, the throat, the shoulder. I smile tightly nodding some response as I think how strange it is to be watching you through what looks like a dirty pane glass window as I climb up my body. Your words are clear and ring in my ear like someone has turned up the volume too loud. Charm is everything isn't it? You've always had it and used it like a potent weapon. You attacked me with it and left no space for retreat. Was that what got me, the way you tenaciously hung on and refused to let go until you were ready? Or was it the way you came to me gently and made me feel everything then evaporated back into real life. Now you are here in front of me and we perform for each other once again but this time I won't loose myself because I'm in me. You said hey and I jumped inside.
Hannah laid on a rock near the lake and began to count the stars. She had never seen so many in her life. She told herself that if she concentrated on them she could ignore the tears that were welling up in her throat. I'm not going to cry, she said firmly out loud. She looked down at the lake and saw the moon's reflection. She thought back to the game and a soft moan escaped her like she had been punched in the stomach. After dinner a group of kids had started playing 'wink' where they stood around in a circle and one person winked at another person who they wanted to kiss and then those two people went into the middle kissed, and switched positions. There weren't any counselors around and the game had gone on for quite awhile. Hannah had stood immobile through the entire game and slowly felt herself becoming fatter and taller before everyone's eyes. When she could no longer bear the humiliation, she left even though she was unsure that she would be able to fit through the door. It doesn't matter anyway, Hannah told herself, I'm getting out of here. I'll call my mom and tell her that this was a mistake. I have nothing in common with any one here. I'll tell her that I'm going to come home and that three of us will have a great summer together. I'll take care of the house when she and dad are at work. I'll cook nice dinners for them and maybe even get a job and make some money. They'll be happy to have me home. Hannah took a flat stone that was next her and tried to make it skid on the water. Either that or I'll run away to Camp Walnut Hill. She had visions of horseback riding through lush woods with her friend Lauren when a voice interrupted her thoughts.
" Hey Hannah, what's going on?" It was Liz, who had turned out to be her group leader. She stood above her in shorts and a tank top. The moonlight outlined her hair which Hannah could see was loose from the bun she usually kept it in. Her straight, dark hair just touched her shoulders. The female campers vocally adored Liz's and could often be found playing in it, giving her intricate conrows, braids or just stroking it. For the girls, Liz's hair was epitome of 'good' and she was so often asked if she had a relaxer that she joked about making a sign that read, ' This is My Natural Hair. No Chemicals.' Even though Liz acted exasperated when asked about her hair, Hannah had wondered if she really liked the attention that her it brought her. Hannah deliberately never said anything about Liz's hair. She wanted Liz to know that she was above that 'good hair, bad hair' shit.
"What's up Hannah?" Liz asked again.
" Oh, hi .... Nothing. I'm just here." There was silence for a moment and then Liz sat down next to her.
"I didn't see you at the movie so I started to get worried.
" Yeah, I was just out here thinking. Wanted to be alone."
" I understand that. Is there anything you want to talk about?" Hannah saw Liz looking at her intently. Her dark eyes felt like they were peering into Hannah's mind and she couldn't help but talk to her.
" Well, it's just that.....I don't know. I'm not really making any friends here and....."
" You feel lonely." Liz stated. She had a strong voice, deep and clear.
" Right." Hannah turned to Liz who was staring ahead into the lake. "It's kind of lame, I know.
" No it's not . It's hard to make friends, man. I mean we all feel like freaks in some way." Hannah smiled and nodded her head.
" Yeah I guess that's what I feel like, a big freak. Why am I always the freak? I feel like a Judy Blume novel." Liz laughed. " I think at thirteen, we are all in a Judy Blume novel."
Hannah thought about this and shrugged. " I guess so." She said.
"You know you talk differently from most of these other kids. Kind of proper."
"You mean like a white girl?" Hannah asked dryly. Liz looked at her for a moment and shook her head.
" Is that what they tell you? Girl, please. No, you have a beautiful way of speaking. And it's sad that some of these kids think that using proper English means talking white. Don't listen to those fools." Liz sighed and laid down on the rock.
" Well, it's because of the school I go to. It's private. But you can't fucking win, you know. At school one time, some asshole said I talked like 'the ghetto I came from' I think I was saying something was 'mad fly.' He looked completely confused."
"Yeah, I bet he had never heard that shit on Park Avenue." Liz laughed. Hannah started laughing with her.
"I think he actually does live on Park Avenue. I bet you the bastard has never been past 96th Street."
"Shit, I'll show him a tour that he won't believe. He will have never seen so many black people in his life." Hannah began to laugh harder, imagining Douglas Teal up in her neighborhood in his Izod shirt and penny loafers trying to find a doorman to hail him a cab.
"See you're lucky. You're able to function in the black and white world. Not many people can do that." Hannah had never thought about her double existence as a good thing before. She merely thought of it as a survival technique. A state of consciousness that she assumed in order to get her from her home in Harlem to her school on the Upper East Side and back again.
"From Home Girl to Valley girl. That could be the name of you're autobiography." Hannah smiled and turned to Liz.
"How old are you anyway?" Hannah asked her.
"Seventeen. I'm going to be a senior in high school" She was silent for a moment. "You know, I think there are many different worlds in this life. We've just got to figure out which ones we want to be in. And at which times." Hannah wanted to know which worlds Liz lived in but decided not to ask. She felt Liz's fingers take her hand and begin to stroke it softly. This startled her at first but she soon relaxed into the feeling of having someone touch her.
" You can talk to me anytime you want. That's what I'm getting paid for."
"O.K.." Hannah replied. "Thanks." She laid on the rock next to Liz and together they got lost in the sky.
I dreamt of Christopher Cross last night watching the sun go down in New York City streets drenched in rain drops that shattered into pieces of white and green glass. The ground was littered with bottle caps and cigarette butts and I stood in the middle of the wide street, impervious to the cars that sped past me. I stood there, tall as a totem, and screamed the names of all the people I ever knew. Now, here, the wet falls off the buildings that surround the park which I am walking through. 3:54 PM and I am feeling fine watching bubbling memories come to the surface of my mind and fall to the ground in front of me like the water. In the open space of this park, in the fullness of the rain, I can be anyone I want, do a chameleon change, create myself. Dark gray pavement winds and leads me to the to the west side where I have met with the moon for eighteen years sneaking cigarettes by the Hudson river. Step on the crack, break your mothers' back, step on the line, break you mother's spine. My friend DeeDee rolling her eyes at me -- don't you talk about my mother she would say and proceed to skip along the sidewalk, me tagging behind her hoping that she was not really mad at me. I stop suddenly when I look up and see you. Over by the bench near the entrance of the park I see you searching in your bag. Shit. I never thought it would happen like this. I had planned it countlessly in my head down to the shoes I would be wearing. It hurts that it won't happen like my mind play. I want to run up to you and scream, push you down to make sure that you are really there, that you won't just dissolve into pieces when I approach. I have replayed your words so many times that I have begun to believe that they were from a book. April rain is hard to see inside of to know what is real. I want to run up to you and cry, tell you how I always knew I'd see you again smiling peacefully like nothing ever happened, ignorant of the fact that you were the person who blew me up and here I am still trying to arrange the pieces.
"Ro-ck with me tonight, for old times sake., Talk to me baay-bee." The girls sat around the table and sang the Freddie Jackson song that had been endlessly playing on the radio that summer. Hannah sang the loudest and looked directly at Monica, " your hair, the perfume you wear brings back memories of you and meee." She laughed as Tanya, who was sitting across from her, produced the loud moan that followed the line. The five other girls took Tanya's lead and they all moaned as sexy and as big as they could, then collapsed into giggles.
It was the mid-way through the summer and camp had gotten better for Hannah. Tanya had decided to befriend her and this had upgraded Hannah's status considerably. Tanya was fourteen years old, one of the oldest campers and commanded real power. She had a sharp mind and took shit from no one. Hannah had initially been impressed with Tanya when she witnessed her reduce a boy to tears after he called the dark-skinned girl a hefty bag-looking bitch. She was attracted to Tanya's big and brassy personality. It was how Hannah imagined herself but she lacked Tanya's confidence. Hannah believed that Tanya liked her because she could keep up with her quick wit. They liked to have long conversations about the idiots they were surrounded by at camp and find clever and inventive ways of insulting them.
"I think we should do that song for the talent show." Liz suggested, " You girls are bad!" She was sitting at the head of the picnic table and turned to Hannah who was sitting beside her. She put her hand on Hannah's leg. "You have a good voice."
" No I don't," Hannah laughed nervously, and looked at the other girls to see if they noticed.
"Oh yes you do, Hannah," Tanya said teasingly. Tanya looked from Hannah to Liz and narrowed her eyes, " In fact, maybe Liz wants you to do the song all by yourself." Hannah felt her stomach drop. Did Tanya know where Liz's hand was? Was she going to say something?
"No, Tanya," Liz replied slowly, "I think you should all do the song. It obviously can't be done without your very professional orgasm at the end of it. Where did a girl like you learn to make such noises?" The girls burst out laughing at the mention of the word orgasm and Tanya broke out into a smile.
"Yeah Liz you're good. Really good...... but I guess I'll never know how good." She winked at Liz and paused for a moment. "C'mon girls, it's time for lunch." Tanya got up from the table and beckoned the others. The rest of the group followed Tanya down the hill toward the cafeteria. Hannah sat there, baffled at what had just happened. She turned to Liz
"Tanya's a mess in a dress."
" That girl wouldn't be caught dead in a dress." Liz said and swung her leg around so that she straddled the bench and faced Hannah. Hannah did the same and they looked directly at each other. A part of Hannah wanted to go with the other kids but she was rooted to the bench.
"You know she's jealous, " Liz said. Hannah suddenly felt a hotness spread from between her legs to her entire body. It was as if her whole self was blushing.
" What's she got to be jealous about?" Hannah tried to ask but it came out as a whisper.
"Mmmm." Liz moved closer to her until their knees were touching. "Have you ever had a boyfriend?"
"Yes," Hannah lied and realized that she could hear her heart beating. " Uh, do you have a boyfriend?"
"Sure," Liz said and leaned over and kissed her. Hannah turned inside out as Liz pushed her tongue down her throat . Hannah kissed her back and then pushed her away.
"Oh god. Umm, Shit. I should go. " Hannah mumbled. She got up from the bench, avoiding Liz's eyes and started down the hill. She felt her insides exposed to Liz as she walked away.
I move closer to you in the water. There is no one else in the park. There is no one else in the world. It is 4:00 PM. It is warm. Rain pelts my lids, my nose, as I stick out my tongue for liquid and stare at you. You are struggling with your umbrella. It is stuck. You are wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. As I near you, I see the outline of your body -- your breasts, your stomach, your collar bones. I wonder if you hate the rain. I wonder if I hate you.
Hannah slowly walked into the lake, moving forward until the water reached her hips. It was almost dinner time and Hannah had managed to escape without anyone noticing. She looked up at the sun setting behind the trees and turning the sky a brilliant indigo. Hannah then submerged herself headfirst into the warm water and swam under it until she was forced to come up for air. She then took as big a breath as possible and went down into the lake again. When she felt the sandy bottom ooze between her toes, she scurried to the surface of the water. She didn't want to feel the earth. She wanted to be weightless, to ignore gravity, suspend herself. Hannah pushed her arms forward and kicked her legs in order to distance herself from the shore. She beat the water hard hoping that if she exhausted herself she wouldn't feel the pain that had taken residence inside of her. Liz had been cold to her since the day at the table and had not acknowledged that anything had happened. Her behavior had completely confused Hannah who them to talk like they used to. She Liz's attention which simultaneously embarrassed her and made her feel special. Hannah swam further under water as the image of Liz laughing with the other girls in her group and then suddenly stopping abruptly when Hannah came up to them, came to her head. She could hear Liz tell her that maybe they'd see each other back at home, maybe not, during the mass exchange of addresses and numbers at the last camp social. Hannah came up for air and floated on her back. She spread her body out on the water and willed herself to become part of the lake. When that failed, she swam back to the shore, dried herself off and went back to the cabin.
I thought I've seen you in so many places. I've imagined you in the movie theater a few rows in front of me. I've dreamed you sitting at the at the table next to me at a restaurant. I've envisioned bumping into you at a bar, a beach a subway car. You are fragmented in my mind in such detail that it's hard to tell what is solid about you. I do know, more than I did that summer, what is real about me. I know that my anger towards you is real. I thought that you knew me but when you were not entertained anymore, you left. You touched me before I had ever been touched and explained nothing.
Hannah what do you want me to say? The boundaries of friendship between women are fuzzy. I live in that fuzziness. I thought you understood that. I didn't leave you. I had nothing to leave. People are in you're life at times and then are out of it. I'm sure you understand that now.
That's not the point and you know it.
Then what is the point?
I don't know. I didn't make up the fucking rules.......Did you ever think about me after that
Why didn't you write me back.?
I thought I explained to you that I live in the present. Plus, I'm not into writing.
Do you still have a boyfriend?
Yes. Have you done anything since me?
We didn't really do anything.
I know......But the idea was there.
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