Someday The Waves
I used to really love Saturdays.
Once upon a time just the thought and the hope of that one perfect day would make everything else feel slightly bearable. It lifted stress and pressures of pesky weekday life away. The type of long, winding Saturday you could wrap yourself up in. Under the duvet covers when the sun had risen and hide away from the rest of the world. Shielded in soft cottons and pillows away from responsibilities and dragging daily commitments.
Back when I had a job, and a way to kill time I'd hold those precious Saturdays tightly and relish every second spent doing whatever the hell I wanted. Endless choices without worry. I could sleep in all day if I so pleased. Devour takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tuck myself away.
I used to love it.
Now, well I don't love them so much since everyday is an endless cycle of sleeping and eating and worrying about how easy it is to wish the hours, days away.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
Because now I've got no job and nothing worthy to do with the rest of my days each one has just become another Saturday and I hate it more than I can stand. When all you have are thoughts for company too much time becomes your worst enemy.
Freedom hangs heavy with every waking moment.
It will drive you crazy. Perhaps even a little insane. Such a mundane existence can to do that.
The truth is I used to love many things but those feelings have long since passed. The thought of doing anything remotely interesting or enjoyable, to allow myself to really feel anything is reason enough to pull those covers right back up and sleep for an eternity.
Which is quite easy to do stuck here, in this new place I'm told I'll grow to love, maybe someday call home.
But home now is nothing but a small, single storey sorry excuse for a beach bungalow. It is but a roof with four, thin ply walls and a place to rest or ride.
Home is now a tiny little seaside town that's seen better days.
It's living with a sister who hasn't forgiven you for being born, failing to mask the irritation of the burden you bring. Just like it's always been.
A home is supposedly where the heart is but mine is a thousand miles away somewhere begging for a reunion. It craves something familiar to hold onto.
If the waves were to someday wash over every inch of this town, sweeping everything away I wouldn't mind.
I wouldn't care one bit because then I wouldn't have to stay in this god awful, never grey, dependably sunny place for one more moment and feel guilty about it.
Because I would finally be free from this fever dream and I too would be washed away.
. . .
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Two Minutes and Twenty Three Seconds
26th May, 1994
Sherwood, Portland OR
"Oh sweetie, you're not going dressed like that are you?"
My mom's words might not have stung so much if I hadn't spent all week sewing together my flannel patchwork baby doll dress. A little less disappointing if I hadn't of been up till the morning of prom night finishing it.
The sheer look of horror on my sister's face, as if all her worst fears have come to life watching me navigate the stairs, does nothing to improve my sour mood.
Mom fumbles to pull out the creases round the hem of the dress. "Are you sure you don't want to try a different dress? Something more suitable and ladylike?" She eyes up the ladders already forming in my tights, showing skin.
"I'm sure." I pretend to smile, and adjust the papier-mâché corsage round my wrist I'd made from album inlay sleeves.
My mom sighs and I remind her that at least I'm going, like she wishes. So I can pretend to be like all the others - the Debbie's and the Donnas super psyched with their dates and satin pink dresses for the biggest night of their small suburban lives.
"That's not even a real prom dress." Beth laughs.
Again I fake a smile, give them a twirl. The heavy soles of my boots dig into the cream shag carpet as I do. I imagine my dad laughing at such a sight, how he'd take my hand to spin me round until everything faded into a hazy blur. He'd encourage me to mess my hair up a little, live on the wild side.
Beth cocks her head to the side, hair falling to her bare belly. "I totally blame Dad for this. He's such a bad influence."
Mom pushes me to the door, takes a picture, then hurries us both along, still picking at the loose threads, the fraying dress hem, and the tangled kinks in my fringe.
As we leave I check my make up in the mirror, give the dark eyeliner a quick smudge for courage and head out to the lawn. Without my mom or Beth knowing, I tuck the Walkman player I've left in the car close to my chest and sneak down low in the back seat along with all the nervous energy and distain, the quiet shame at being driven to prom by my mom, in our rusty station wagon.
When we roll out the driveway, I ask for one of Dad's old cassette mixes to be played, and Beth holds her hands up to her ears as the distortion and grinding riffs kick in. She groans all the way to the school parking lot.
Back before Dad moved out- when he'd take us out for a spin in his truck, rolling down the windows so the whole neighbourhood could hear the pounding, brutal crush of drums as we drove by, Beth would squirm in embarrassment, and stick her fingers in her ears until we got home.
Before he left, and took all the good vinyl and memories with him, I'd sit in my room and play an endless loop of all the albums I'd collected, and those he'd loaned me over the years.
Dad's lasting love for music - raw and real, heavy and soaked in sweat and social distortion helped me escape from the world - if only for two minutes, twenty one seconds. To just get lost in electrifying howls and the passionate way words could be sung and speak to my soul.
And when the girls at school broke into my locker again and destroyed all the tapes left in my backpack, Dad came to my room and sat with me, and he listened to the endless loop of crushing, ferocious noise until I felt like myself again.
He'd say. "One day kiddo, someone will appreciate how truly great, and unique you are. They won't want you to change. They'll love you for who you are."
Those words come to my mind again, in the back seat bathed in the glow of all the streets lights we pass, when Beth spins round from the front, and pokes her face through the headrest and tells me to stop stamping my feet along to the drum solo.
When my mom cuts the engine and adjusts her hair in the rear view mirror, Beth wishes me luck in sarcastic fashion before heading out in silence up to the gymnasium steps.
A bright pink banner welcomes all the seniors - Class of 94. Mom squeezes my arm, and fills her lungs with the busy buzz of approaching black limousines, the flash of camera light and the parents eager to capture the mourning of the end of our high school days.
Stacey Cosloy strides by in emerald green as I try to tell my mom that I'll do my best to have fun. The trail of her dress picks up the chipped asphalt from the ground but she doesn't notice, and offers a weak smile as she passes.
Donna Burgess follows behind. She's got her hair in tight curls and she wears a baby blue satin choker that matches the bow on her dress. When she breezes past on the arm of another nameless, square jawed jock I feel the squeeze again, though it's more of a pinch.
My mom whispers, "Doesn't she just look like a darling peach. Her folks must be so proud."
"Sure, although Donna totalled her Dad's brand new car last week. Ran it right into a ditch after she drank too much at Jimmy's house party." I reply, releasing my arm from her tense grip.
She winces when I give her a quick kiss on the cheek, my hands shaking. My brave smile masking a plan to hide in the shadows until she came to pick me up.
Inside the gymnasium I make a beeline for the safety of the buffet tables, set back in the deep, dark abyss towards the back of the hall and pour a large glass of fruit punch to steady the nerves. The dance is in full swing, and the glitter ball, and dim lights churn round us all.
Up on the stage, Derek Carter plays cheesy disco, trying to mix in recent pop hits that everyone's happily grinding and loosing their minds to.
When a wave of seniors fill the dance floor, I exhale out the last hour stood watching couples dancing. Holding on tight to my Walkman, I go to turn the tape, flip to side B when more seniors pass by the table, their voices loud over the music, crystal clear in their familiar taunts.
"Man, look at Olive Jefferson. She's dressed like she's going to a funeral."
A tall boy with a buzz cut, big ears laughs along with his friends, and says. "Thought she'd be a no show seeing as she doesn't have a date."
I carefully line up the mini slices of pizza strewn across the table and ignore him, keeping my head low along with the expectations I'd had for the night.
Then the giggling starts. I can feel their presence behind me, the swish of taffeta and satin dragging across the hardwood floor.
"Well look who it is." Debbie's voice is distinct and jarring. "Can't believe she's managed to drag herself out of her crypt or wherever it is she lives."
My hand slips to press play on the Walkman but another voice stops me.
It's Donna Nash, all nasal inflections. "Look at her dress Debs, it's awful."
"What did you expect? Really, she probably found it in a dumpster." Debbie snorts back laughter, and Erin Morgan can't resist either.
"Everyone knows she shops like religiously at Goodwill. I saw her on the way back from the mall once. All her clothes are from there."
"Stop, she might cry. Remember when she cried for like a whole week over that stupid, dead rock star junkie?"
I want to say that's not even true but I don't have the energy.
"Hey, we're talking to you Olive." Donna shouts, and her breath tickles the back of my neck. I turn round slowly, and close my eyes.
"Oh god, it's a total freak show." Debbie sounds oddly worried, and when I open my eyes I catch her gaze as it moves to the whoever now stands beside me, a dark smudge in the corner of my vision.
"She attracts them like flies." Donna laughs, as they huddle closer together. Arms resting on each others shoulders. "They look like they've co-ordinated their outfits."
"Freaks do that." Debbie's eyes flit up and down, and then she fakes a yawn. "Well nice speaking to you losers. Not."
When they retreat back to the dance floor, I take a deep breath and turn back to the table just as a hand reaches forward and delicately touches the paper petals tied to my wrist.
"I like your dress, Olive Jefferson, girl most likely to be hated for who she is, instead of being loved for who she's not. Good quote." The hand retreats back and I can't stop myself from following it, until I have no choice but to look up.
Green eyes stare back, and as does his grin. In between the brief silence I catch a glimpse of the flannel shirt tied loosely round his waist, the sleeves swinging down to the rips and holes in his jeans.
My attention lingers on all the messy, dirty blonde hair, how it falls to the handsome sharp curve of his jaw. How he's wearing the same moth eaten band t-shirt I'd fallen in love with hanging up in the jumble store window down on Columbia St. The a green mohair cardigan over it matches the colour of his eyes.
When words fail, he reaches out and gently combs through the back of my hair. My spine and neck shiver, and I wait for him to finish.
"Didn't want to let it go to waste." He says, balls of sticky popcorn resting in the palm of his hand. Quickly he loads them into his mouth and grins as he chews. "I saw them do it, wanted to come over and see if you're ok."
I shrug. "Best night of my life."
He laughs and slumps against the table, crossing his feet. "You sure about that?"
"That's what I'm supposed to say right?"
"You can say whatever you want."
"Ok then. I really don't think this night can get any better, than it currently is right now." The sarcasm poison I spit out takes me by surprise, and I stutter, try to say something less bitter.
"It will Olive. I promise, life isn't about any of this crap at all." He kicks a rouge fallen balloon away."You just wait and see."
"Wait, how do you even know my name?" I say quietly, having been too in awe of all his mystery to ask the first time he said it.
He points over to the large mural by the side of the stage. Our final yearbook pictures stuck to it for the world to see.
"It really is a great yearbook quote by the way." His voice is mellow, monotone but sincere. His eyes burrow into mine.
"Thanks, but it's not even mine, or original. It's more of a tribute."
He smiles. "I know. So you listening to music on that thing?"
The headphones round my neck have sneaked away from under my hair, and I nod, wondering if he's the type who'll think I'm weird for bringing my own soundtrack.
"Can I take a listen?"
"Um, well... yeah. Sure." I let him slide the headphones up and place them over his head. Handing over the cassette player, I hit rewind and stop until I'm sure the song I've looped endlessly is ready to be heard again.
Slowly he taps his foot against the table, turns away for a moment and nods his head. When he hands it back, I chicken out and don't ask him what he thinks of it, if he likes it too.
"Gotta go and do some chaperoning unfortunately, before they make those dumb announcements." He leaves the headphones on the table, smiles and disappears into the dancing masses before I think to ask for his name.
I fight the urge to follow, and instead head to the girls bathroom. Just as I finish up, the sound of clicking heels swing through the door and I hear Debbie order Erin to quickly light up a cigarette for her. Through the gap in the cubicle door, I spy them all take long drags and litter the washbasins with chalky ash.
"I still can't believe she showed her face here tonight." Debbie says. "Did you see the way Stacey's older brother looked at her? So gross."
"He's so gross."
Erin shrugs. "I actually think he's kinda hot."
"Oh my god you would Erin."
"You said you thought he was cute when we saw him at Jimmy's party."
"Shut up Erin. I was drunk, I didn't mean it." Debbie's face is all red.
"Stacey says he's going on tour with his band at the end of summer. Says they've signed a record deal over in Seattle."
Debbie laughs, it sounds cruel. "Stacey's full of shit, and so what even if he has, he's still weird, and a loser and a total freak. Whatever. Come on, there are about to announce Prom King and Queen."
When they all filter out, and the door slams, I leave the cubicle and wash away the stubbed out butts and ash. Back out in the hall, Derek's deep voice comes through the PA system, but I can't make out a word under all the sharp feedback. When he finally he sorts out the sound, he asks us to all gather together.
Debbie's name is called just like we all knew it would, and she shrieks, gives us all a twirl. Some seniors even bow down, as she takes flight up the steps to claim the crown. Mr Jacobson calls her a role model, the perfect student loved by all. Big ears buzz cut guy is called up after and they hug, and congratulate themselves under a shower of confetti and musical fanfare.
"Your prom King and Queen, everyone. Class of Ninety Four!" Derek shouts, as the lights dim again. "I'm now taking dedications until the balloon drop so don't forget to come on up and tell that special someone just how much you care."
The square shouldered jocks beside me jeer and jostle, and one shouts for him to play something gay.
"Yeah, play some Queen you faggot!" Another laughs, as I fall back and try to weave through the crowd that's still gathered to watch the coronation.
And that's when all the commotion starts. One kid points to the stage. "What's that guy doing up there?"
I turn round, and watch as Derek reluctantly hands over his microphone and steps away from his mini DJ booth.
My heart swells when I see whose takes possession of it.
"My names Seth, and I want to make the first dedication." The guy who'd picked popcorn out from my hair says, as Debbie looks on in shock, limelight shifting away from her glittering crown. "And I want to dedicate this song to the most rocking, real girl here tonight."
"I'm not going to play that." Derek argues, coming back to take the microphone as Seth shoves a cassette tape into the deck. "Seriously dude, no one wants to hear that."
My hand moves to the Walkman clipped to the loop in my dress. It's empty.
"It's just two minutes and twenty one seconds out of your miserable, fake, boring life. All of yours, so play it."
My heart beats heavy as Seth wraps the microphone cord round his wrist and starts to mimic the opening few lines, his eyes wide and wild. Inviting them into a false sense of security as he sarcastically sings.
I know what's about to happen, can feel the distortion about to rip through the speakers, the lingering riff, leading us all there just as Seth takes a running jump off the stage. He lands on his feet, skidding through the crowd like he's parting the sea .I'm the only one who stays rooted to the spot.
"Can I have this dance?" He asks, grinning like crazy as he throws the microphone behind him, to take both my hands without warning.
And then, he starts to spin me, as the drums pound and crash all around us. Every lick, every chord, every furious guttural scream felt through the floorboards, and in my bones.
We lock fingers, spin until everything fades away - all the terrified eyes, expressions of disgust, and of pure hatred for who we are.
Seth keeps on singing, and laughing. Grinning away as he lifts me up, my hair falling to cover his eyes. As each beat collides into another, and we ride the wave of twisting screams, up and down and the gruff growls I'd looped endlessly for years on end, Seth continues to twirl with me round.
And as the song ends, when the cassette tape splutters out the last note and Derek regains control of the deck, Seth gently tips back my head and body, his arms there to catch me before I fall.
People are already booing, shouting at us as the music changes back to a soppy ballad. They throw fistfuls of confetti and fruit punch at our feet but Seth keeps me there. Floating in his arms, safe in soft green mohair, kind eyes and warm hands.
The beating in my chest deepens. "I can't believe we just did that. They must all hate us so much."
Seth grins and whispers a reply, mellow and monotone; recklessly kick starting my rock and roll heart.
"Better to be hated for who you are Olive, than loved for who you're not."
. . .