Looking to Win

Here is episode 5. And no, I haven’t figured out a title yet. Someone suggested “Drowning in Fire” and another was “My Past Lives”. They are intriguing but I’m just not sure…

The summer after my junior year I landed a job at a boutique in the downtown. It was expensive and generally catered to older women with discerning tastes and expendable incomes. None of my classmates ever came through the door. The other clerks were college students who were, according to my mother, eccentric. That was her way of stating that they were odd. Odd as in they dressed in a Bohemian shabby –chic style and sported unconventional hair colors. Most importantly to me, they didn’t give a shit about what anyone thought. They accepted me. They taught me about Kool-Aid hair coloring technique. I secretly got my navel pierced. I finally fit in. I opted for total immersion. I adopted their fashion and changed my hair color and style. My vocabulary was altered to include the phrases and adjectives they were fond of using. And I mimicked their attitude toward life in general and their critics specifically. Flipping people off didn’t come naturally at first. It took a lot of practice. I’d spent most of my time with my hands jammed in my pockets or clutching my stomach to quell the pain so it was a shock and a surprise when my classmates and chief tormenters discovered I had hands. A real shock when they discovered I had middle fingers and knew how to use them. Obviously trying to ignore them hadn’t worked for the past 11 years. The decision to confront them was premeditated. I’d had a long time to dream up scenarios where they would say something and I’d have a snappy comeback. My arsenal of retorts was extensive. I had a catalog of “if and then” responses. Truth be told, I was nearly paralyzed by fear once I entertained the idea to say what I’d only thought before. Then it happened. It was the first day of school and I was wearing a multicolored patchwork dress with a paisley silk scarf. I had just dyed my hair blue and green and I’d decided that I wanted to wear my green high top sneakers because they were comfortable. It was the cheerleader table that broke out in laughter and started singing that old Cher song about gypsies, tramps and thieves. A switch was flipped in my heart. I turned and purposely twirled my full skirt and flipped them a double bird while mouthing “F – you”. It was a beautiful thing because I smiled and continued walking. The whole thing took only a second and I barely paused. But the effect on the cafeteria was immediate. There was a momentary hush, a lull in conversation and I felt the internal shift. I knew right then and there I was going to win.

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