Thursday, April 12, 2007

at the corners of my mind

For the past month, I've been working on Rachel's "25th" birthday present. (The air quotes are on purpose. You never reveal a woman's age.)

I won't go into specifics, but her present required the use of rubber cement. Something I hadn't thought of or touched since 3rd grade art class.

The fumes - which I did not indulge in - nevertheless left me reminiscent. Thinking back is something I just do. It's comfortable and warm, like wrapping up in a soft blanket on a rainy day with a latte and watching a Katharine Hepburn/Cary Grant movie.

In elementary school, I was an imaginative child. I spent my days in faraway lands and colorful landscapes and stories. My dreams were cartoonish and wild. I believed in the unreal and looked at the real with cynicsm. I loved Fridays, with our parshot readings. Specific stories from the Torah drawn out in stick figure comics. I always added clothes to the characters, colors and faces.

I didn't have many friends...the neighborhood kids were all my brother's age and only hung out with me for so long - and I couldn't really "mesh" with the Orthodox girls who didn't understand why I wore jeans or rode a bike or...played. So summers were spent running to the craft house at the park, buying beads and string and colored chalk.

Some days I spent with my grandparents. The best days were when I was able to sneak into the abandoned building next to the house where my grandpa had set up his studio. Paintings, half finshed, sat on easles and Motzart bounced off the walls. My grandmother would let me draw all day. I was going to be an artist.

As I throw my bookbag onto the bar stool when I get home, shaking the April snow off my boots (Yes. April. Snow. I don't want to talk about it.), I remember the innocence and purity that I had then. Even amidst the psychological damage that was my parents' divorce. I search behind the folds of my memory for a drug. Like caffiene.

When I was in high school, my after school job was at a small, independantly owned ice cream shop in town. Innocence then meant flipping through issues of Cosmo and Glamour and believing in our horoscopes. We ate ice cream like it would never add pounds and fried food like deep frying was the only way to do it. When the air was hot and thick was sat with our backs against the outdoor freezer and let clouds of cigarette smoke hang above our heads. We believed in lyrics. Country songs about love and heartbreak and pop songs about everything else. My drawings became dark and twisted - but detailed. Imagined.

And though I hated high school for a lot of reasons, I loved the hallways. Those few moments when everyone was in a mad rush from point A to point B - but didn't care enough about the bell to let it stop them from stopping for their friends. The last day of classes when it didn't matter what we did, but we walked around with backpacks anyway and tried to have enough respect to sit in our seats for the duration.

Now my imagination travels through words. Through watching. At bars when the neon lights give a glow to our glasses - shots can seem romantic rather than juvenile. A toast to a good time. A long night. A way to prove we can still party like we used to. I tend to wonder what kind of conversation Madison is having when all she can do is say "no" and "bye" and "hi" and make other noises that are sweet and bubbly. History sits between Kim and I on the couch. It's our constant companion. If we really sat down to try and remember 12 years of friendship we would need a big pot of coffee.

My 3rd place might be a dingy, old, lodge where I don't have a thing in common with the patrons - but when they clear out for the night, I have some of the best talks with one of my best friends. Who's turning "25" soon and whose present I've been working on for over a month. I think of one night in particular, when we'd closed down the bar and locked up by 3 o'clock in the morning. And we drove to her house and sat in my car in the driveway and talked for so long, we ended up putting our seats back and staring out the window. Even though the sun had come up, we didn't quite realize how late...or early it had gotten. Not until the neighbor started up his lawnmower and the clock read 9 a.m.

And so these are the things I remember. And when I remember hard enough...that little girl with the colorful and animated imagination...stirs. And wishes for sunny afternoons with nothing but construction paper and markers. And maybe a little rubber cement.

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