Thursday, 1 November 2012

Tails and Fins and Angel Wings

Let’s say that my life is a work of fiction. If this is true then it has a structure: a backbone to which hundreds of years of evolution have attached tails and fins and angel wings. Now I, Chelsea Moore, am a construct designed to fulfil some purpose. Every time I miss the train or get called scag in the corridor or even breathe, it means something, like God is twitching my limbs with his pen.

            Now maybe I can make sense of it all.

            My story ends simply. I am lying on the tiles in the toilets bleeding thought bubbles from the back of the head. My eyes are closed. My mouth hangs open like the lips of a milk carton. I am not dead but I should be. And since this is fiction, let’s say that I am.

            There is Gloria Cupbottom shaking me, lifting my head then not knowing what to do with it, retreating as the blood edges closer to her school dress. She has an epiphany. She starts to cry.

It doesn’t matter what she does next.

I spend so much time in those toilets but I don’t remember a thing about them except that the bowl smells like the canteen’s Tuesday chicken rolls and I can see my fat cheeks in the water’s reflection before I throw up.

That’s where I am when she finds me. I don’t even know she is there. Something just grabs me under the arms and pulls me up and everything goes white and squiggly, like someone is changing the channel behind my eyes. I am flying. My legs go limp and something—the roof—hits me in the back of the head and I die.

I don’t know if it is chance that she finds me there, but this is fiction so let’s pretend she followed me. She has followed me since she the story’s beginning—when we sat me down in the canteen at the start of lunch. She opens her bag and pulls out two sandwiches. Ham and cheese and lettuce and tomato and mayonnaise on sourdough.

“I noticed you never bring lunch,” she says. “So I thought maybe we could eat together.”

I’d like to pretend that I’m poor, that I got into this school on a scholarship and my dad doesn’t have two slices of bread to stick together with peanut butter. But that wouldn’t explain why I say no.

I say no because she is a loser. She’s a loser because she has no friends. She has no friends because she doesn’t try to make friends. She doesn’t try to make friends because she’s fat.

“I’m really worried about you,” she says. “You’re so thin.”

“You know nothing about me,” I tell her.

“Oh come on Chelsea,” she says. “Everyone can see it.”

I stand up and everything turns squiggly. I try to walk away like nothing is wrong.

So that’s it. Now I have a character trapped in the walls of a story. Now I can pull apart the letters that hold her together and pass judgement on her like the idle gossip of the lunch-time corridor.

No. Here’s a more interesting story.

There is a girl who thinks that stories can exist without someone to read them. She thinks life can be summarised and changed and that it amounts to something more than a stream of thoughts that are thought of and forgotten. She can write and think and pass the day until the next day begins and she will stand on naked on the bathroom scales at 7:15 worrying about the weight of her thoughts until the needle stops and she sighs zero grams of relief. She can grow skinnier and escape into books but she will never leave her own head.

In the end she puts down her pen.

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