The beginnings of a book I was working on...
All my life, I thought of myself as being fairly smart. Not especially clever, but not stupid either. I knew the right side of up and could figure out most of the cryptic crosswords in my weekly glossy magazine. I was the kind of girl who shouted out all the answers while watching The Weakest Link every Tuesday night, but would stutter when asked a simple question, like: What is your name? But today, as I lay here on my kitchen floor with apple pie clinging to my long dark hair, surrounded by broken records, torn photographs and an aging Beetles t-shirt, I realize that I am not smart at all. I, Eliza Foogle, am a silly silly woman.
Like most 'brokenheart' stories, mine starts off with a boy. An unimportant boy, but nonetheless one that initiated the first day of the rest of my life. If I recall correctly, I was barely 16, walking up to my dads beat up old Ford, anticipating the worst.Many things at that point could have been a huge source of embarrassment for me. Like, for example, the school skirt my mother had carefully made as long as possible, in case high school boys tried to “stick their hands up it”. (Her words, not mine.) Or the horrible braces that shone menacingly in the sun, reminding me of the big nerd I was. Or it could even have been the tacky identity bracelet I was forced to wear just in case I got lost. I was 16! And my parents thought I would get lost! (That’s the kind of torture an only child like me had to grow up with.) But no, it was neither… The most embarrassing thing was my father, sitting in his old Ford, glaring at Elliot James who was striding next to me with a steady swagger, impervious to Fathers death stare. Being a “newspaper nerd”, I was in no position to simply chase away the popular drama student who had decided to bless me with his thoughts on Cocoa Pops vs. Cornflakes. But Father was not the kind of man you would want to anger. I saw him fiercely get out of the car with purpose in his eyes and anxiously tried to piece together my next move.
And then I tripped.
Contrary to popular belief, tripping and falling are great lifesavers at times. I’m not just saying that because I’ve got 2 left feet and a fetish for finding myself facedown on the floor. Tripping has saved my skin from many awkward situations. One time, I skipped a very harrowing ‘bra shopping’ encounter with stern and aging Aunt Millie, by tripping and falling down the stairs. I think the broken shin was worth it. Don’t get me wrong, its not as if I induce the fall.I think it’s my bodies’ way of reacting to tense situations. And that’s exactly what happened to me on that first day. With a gorgeously stupid young man walking next to me, and my obviously angry father heading towards us, the only way out was to fall. And fall I did, with my oversized book bag (another source of embarrassment) flying over my head, striking Elliot James firmly in the stomach with a loud thump. My face hit the sidewalk faster than the speed of light. Fortunately, the humiliation numbed my body and spared me from feeling any pain. There I lay, in all my nerdy glory, with half the school trying not to laugh and the rest not really caring if I had dropped down dead. Elliot, not bothering to help me up, hurriedly backed away grumbled an excuse that sounded like “I have to feed my cat to my dog”. I sheepishly looked up at him, saw the pained expression on his face and my book bag lying at his feet and blurted out “you’re such a great catch”. You’re such a great catch. Out of all the things I could have said. This is why I should not be allowed to talk. Ever.With a huff, Elliot then limped off with his hand over his stomach, taking along with him any chances I had of ever being popular. Any chances I had of ever being recognized as a part of the human race! “Stupid mouth! Stupid feet! Stupid stupid stupid!” I scolded myself under my breath, as I awkwardly got up and tried to avoid the stares and giggles coming from my fellow schoolmates. Father stood stationary a few feet away, with a satisfied look on his face. And I hated him for it.
And now, 12 years later, covered in pie, cursing high school and side walks and book bags and the very need to walk, I force myself to realize that Elliot James had done more good than bad that day. With much effort and remorse, I get up and start to clean the mess I created during my melt down session. I’ve got to fix my hair and dry my eyes before Mother comes over. It’s tiring having to explain every sordid detail of my diminishing love life to her every time I have a melt down. And it’s quite upsetting seeing the disappointment in her eyes when she hears about a break up. Mother is quite an optimist. She’s never disapproved of any guy I brought home and is quite clever at pointing out all their good characteristics, seemingly switching off as soon as I mention any bad ones. According to Mother, Martin the comedian who turned into a psycho nut job, was “a little over the top but fun”. Jesse the biker, whose closet cocaine addiction was later uncovered, seemed “interesting and quite a charmer” and Luigi, the child molester who was arrested in front of my house at the end of our 2 month relationship, was “warm and inviting”. Ah yes, my mother, the eternal optimist. I’m secretly convinced that Mother is more concerned about my aging ovaries and the fact that I had not had a steady relationship since “him”. She never says anything though. She simply sits at my kitchen table during her weekly visits, sips on her tea and makes small talk. But she has that look. That all knowing look, that makes you feel like all your secrets and all the things you’ve been trying to hide are actually well known and all that’s needed is for you to own up to it.
My mind drifts back to Father and Elliot James (who never spoke to me again after the book bag incident). Damn Elliot James! The drive back home that day was a quiet one. I hadn’t even looked at Father when he greeted me and I wasn’t planning on speaking to him ever again.
“What happened?” Mom exclaimed as I burst in through the kitchen door, dragging my school bag behind me. “Ask your husband!” I shouted and ran to my bedroom, banging the door shut behind me. Enough was enough! I was tired of being fussed over. I immediately kicked off my shoes, turned up the volume of my cassette player and took position amongst the stuffed teddy bears that were scattered in the corner of my room. I reached over and cranked up the volume a bit more when I heard Father knock on my bedroom door. “Elize” He said quietly, “Its your father”.
Oh wow, who did he think I thought he was?
Sigh. “Yes Father?”
“Open this door”
I groaned as I pushed myself up, stepping over my school shoes to get to the door. Father walked into my room, hands on his hips and silenced the drumbeat that was erupting from my boom box. Lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, I pretended to not care that he was wearing his ‘this is serious’ face. “Elize, you know how I feel about boys,” Father began. “Father! I’m not 10 years old anymore! You never let me do anything!” I whined. “Now Elize. As long as you live under my roof, you will follow my rules…” My father began the monologue he always gave me when he thought I was rebelling. The truth was, I was hardly rebelling. I was fighting for my freedom! I crossed my arms in front of my chest and stared sulkily out of the window, not really listening to what he had to say. “Sulking is not going to get you anywhere. Its obvious you haven’t learnt your lesson from the last stint you tried to pull” Father exclaimed, to which I immediately had to retaliate. “I did not pull any ‘stint’! I bunked class! And only because I had fallen asleep the night before and didn’t have my History assignment ready. Mr. Mole is a nightmare Father! A nightmare!” I bellowed dramatically, with my hands stretched out to emphasize just how big of a nightmare Mr. Mole really was. “Oh Liz, stop being such a drama queen.” “Its true Father. Bunking class one time is not such a big deal! And besides, I’m a teenager. And teenagers make mistakes.” No, that was incorrect. Teenagers make mistakes, but I, Eliza Foogle, had to be perfect for my father. “First its one class, next its school, and before you know it you’re pregnant, unemployed and in jail!” Father reasoned. Not very well, might I add. Talk about drama queens. “Father, I’m not going to jail. You’re seriously working yourself up for nothing” I said as I rolled my eyes in obvious annoyance at his narrow mindedness.“ Jail is the least of my worries right now Liz. You’re grounded, until you’re adult enough to realize exactly why I’m upset!” He said with a sigh of defeat as he quietly exited my bedroom and left me was fuming.