One Trick Pony CC
time isn’t a rope or a mirror; it’s a kaleidoscope
My mother dropped me off at your house. This is so Canadian. I’m glad we didn’t end up going to my apartment. My parents were on another ‘break’- but if we went through my mom’s closet, half of his shirts would still be there- and the place smelt like cotleti and cat litter. We played hockey in the cul-de-sac in our rollerblades, and I was pleased I didn’t fall once. We played K’Nex and your brother threatened to snap your Ferris Wheel. He gracefully submitted and your mom brought down dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Things went well.
Next week we were in the classroom, sitting in a circle on the carpet. My zip-up hoodie was too big and covered my knees. Most of us were listening to the teacher. Your cheeks looked puffy; you probably just had a sandwich and the simple carbohydrates caused you to bloat. I’ll understand this so much better in the future. Had we continued our relationship, I would have taught you about the importance of counting your macros and eating whole-grain bread. No matter. My hoodie was baggy, and I got bored, so I squeezed my legs together. I shifted from cheek to cheek, feeling the familiar ticklish euphoria. My face turned red and I tried to hold my breath, but I sputtered anyways. The teacher didn’t notice, and she was a grownup- so how could anyone else? Nobody knew what I was doing. I was barely aware, so I didn’t see a point of stopping or being discreet. I never climaxed, but I got close, and as I did, our eyes met. You stared at me, and you looked unnerved and queasy. You didn’t know what was disturbing you, but you trusted that you were having an appropriate reaction. I didn’t look away; instead, I decided to lock eyes with you and kept shifting and squirming. You don’t know, you don’t know. If I chanted this in my head, it would be conveyed like a fluorescent secret, travelling on the waves. You glanced away but decided to meet my eye soon after. You dared me to stop; I dared you to tell me what’s wrong. At one point, I got a bit sweaty and tired, so I did stop. You ran with the rest of the boys towards the jungle gym at recess. I saw you take out a mixed berry fruit roll-up, and you didn’t offer me a piece when I casually strolled by.
My first intellectual, and certainly not my last. You were a dreamboat; to describe you is to steal from Zach Braff’s dream journal. Blonde, unkempt hair that perpetually stood up; a wonky nose, glasses, and a very progressive taste in music. Blue, tired eyes, like Johnny Depp or Skeet Ulrich or Levon, the kid who went to North Toronto.
Of all the people that disliked me or ignored me or bullied me, your lack of participation and amiable conversation was a sign that you were deeply, utterly, hopelessly in love with me. It’s OK- I was too.
One weekend, we went to Baltimore for a swimming competition. Home of the great Michael Phelps! our coach bellowed into the bus intercom at five in the morning. We stayed at the Best Western and terrorized the guests, for we were liberated young athletes with a poorly enforced curfew, empty hallways, and a weekend stipend to binge on vending machines. Even I was invited to participate, a sudden rascal. Dinners, however, were business as usual, as everyone broke off into cliques and I had to sit with the coaches or with the other group of immigrant girls. The latter were excluded because they had bad English; I was merely disliked. I was awaiting this fate in line for the buffet when It Happened. Nick swooped in. The moment was short but monumental; the planets aligned, ready for me to gobble up. He was waiting in front of me. We ended up talking about the Kaiser Chiefs, due to my sudden urge to change my CD (for this meant rifling through my backpack and examining my collection, carefully, in the dim restaurant lights). Bespectacled eyes glanced down, unable to resist. The Kaiser Chiefs? Good choice, Severina. Oh, you like them too? Yeah, I’d love to see them live. Comment, comment. You didn’t laugh.
After months and months of sexual tension on par with those Baltimore buffets- how we’d sit on the bleachers, waiting for the Aquafit class to end, using those precious minutes to chat about my new Billy Talent CD, yeah they’re alright, not really my thing- I invited you to my birthday dinner. The Hard Rock Cafe downtown. Amidst the purple walls and signed Les Pauls crawling on the wall like bats, I booked a corner booth for me, my childhood friend, Veronica- she’s blocked me on everything now- and you. My mother booked a separate table at a tasteful distance away, only there to provide financial support.
Getting you to come was hard. It was only when I promised you that I would invite David, your friend from the swim team, that your schedule opened up. You asked me if you needed to bring a gift. I said well, it’s my birthday. You said you didn’t want to. I had to ask you, politely, to bring a gift. You sighed. Swaddled and quiet in faux-leather leopard print upholstery, we sat in that booth for a cruel, long hour. I watched you grimace and nod and look thoroughly embarrassed for me. After dessert- you got the Sweet Cherry Pie; nothing says rock n’ roll like a sweet lick!- it was time for gifts. I don’t remember what Veronica got me, but I remember your gift. A Jimi Hendrix poster from HMV. The price-tag was still on it. 9.99. You didn’t hug me goodbye.
I first saw you when I started high school, but we’d only strike up a relationship a year later. What a simmering crock pot. You were a senior; I was a sophomore. It had been a year since I quit swimming. You and your brother had immigrated from Romania and were set back a few years to work on your English.
Ah, Vadim. Lithe Vadim. Shaggy like a mutt; skinny like the cigarettes and the jeans you had. You skated and you smoked weed. You had this small, coy smile that you deployed at the teachers and the girls to equal effect- and to me. I was not a cool girl. You were Mick Jagger; I was Peter, Paul and Mary, in an oversized hoodie. Yet you smiled at me when we passed in the hallway. You admired my Sex Pistols badges. You flicked the ends of my green hair. You had narrow hips and you slinked like a cheetah. The rest of the boys wore sweats and V-necks; you wore Hawaiian shirts and black turtlenecks.
Yet, it happened. One day, I went with Danny to the park. God Bless Danny and his skateboard, for those ragamuffins- Vadim, his brother Andrei, their friends Pedro and Alex- invited him to skate with them, despite his innocence. The early millennium’s resurgence of street sports knew no bounds. And because I just happened to be there- cross-legged on the grass with Mira and Kate, sucking on a sour key- I was in.
A month later, I was giving him a hand job in the park, curled on the grass. We were beneath the stars, his leather jacket our blanket. It was the first time I realized the vulgar could be the romantic. He didn’t come, but he smiled appreciatively when it was over. Ah, sweet, sexy, sultry Vadim. A week later, I lost my virginity to him after prom. I know, I know- how did I, the non-conformist, the proud bearer of two vinyl records and green hair- end up going to prom? I took ecstasy (!), smoked cigarettes (I looked French), and then brought him back to my apartment. My mom was on a night shift at the hospital. He left an hour before she arrived, and when she did, I was perfectly awake at 7AM on a Saturday, reading a magazine on a crisp duvet, eerie and electrified. Did you just have sex? We had sex two more times that month- outdoors, for I was a ragamuffin now- and when we weren’t having sex, we were with the rest of the group, snorting ketamine (it’s like, the same thing as booze), smoking spliffs (child’s play), huddling around bonfires, hosting convenience store picnics, conspiring in the great Water Gun Wars, eating mushrooms and cycling to Chinatown. It remains the greatest summer in memory. One late August evening, he showed up with Roxanna, another Russian girl, to the house party Pedro had thrown. She was older than me. He had his arm around her shoulder when they arrived, and he swigged from a bottle of rum hanging delicately from his long fingers. He waved hello, made a beeline for the snack table with her still tucked under his bony shoulder like a carnival prize, and then proceeded to rub against her like a cat when The Brian Jonestown Massacre came on. She looked bored. By the time they started to make out, I was in tears. I had been watching the whole affair transpire before me, cross-legged on the sofa. I left the party. Alex gave Vadim a dirty look- which he never noticed- and Pedro hugged me, promising me he didn’t mean anything by it and that men were dogs, but what did I expect? It’s not like you were dating, girl.
What would be the worst memory of us Frank, I wonder? Which one should I pick? Maybe the time you left your e-mail open on my account and I found out you were still fucking your wife- and she knew about us, knew I might read it, so she made a point to send a dirty email, (completely out of character) describing what state the mattress should be in after they’re done with it? That sent me reeling; you had promised me it was all but over; the only bonds that remained were the shared key and the signatures on the lease. She was there first, you pointed out helpfully. Or was it the time you left for thirty-six hours, quivering like a magnet from the Adderall, joining a group of those art-school girls- your groupies- and ignoring my calls and texts? Maybe it was the time you decided to go back to your wife after I had put down first and last month’s rent for our new apartment. Maybe it was the time I caught you sexting another art-school classmate; you were baby-talking. Maybe it was the time we had such a nasty argument that I had my most corrosive panic attack to date, so, mindless with rage and frustration, I broke the handle when I slammed the door. Then I started to bite myself. To stop me, you grabbed my arms and held them behind my back, pushed me onto the bed, held me down with a knee and elbow so my face was shoved into our mattress as I screamed and writhed and bucked for air. Maybe it was the time you kicked me- not too hard. Maybe it was the time you got blackout drunk and rubbed your dick on your best friend’s little sister at Juan’s wedding. I was so mad, I straddled you in the middle of the night and smacked your face and clawed at your chest. The worst part was you just pushed me off and curled into a ball, ignoring me. I screamed into the pillow and bit myself some more, but you decided to be meek so as to maximise my guilt the next morning. We took acid the next day, and by the end of the trip, we were best friends again, reinvigorated in our unassailable, unbreakable love. Maybe it was the time you said I couldn’t move to South Korea, because six months of long-distance was fruitless and that you needed to have sex. Maybe it was the time I wanted to go out for drinks with Claire and you warned me how mad you’d be; you were just being honest, after all. Maybe it was all the times you said you only needed me as a friend. Maybe it was the time you called my trip abroad with my friends some ‘Eat, Pray, Love shit’. Maybe it was when you told me that, if I did decide to go, we wouldn’t be together when I returned- leaving him for two weeks, during his deep depression? That told you all he needed to know about the kind of person I was.
There are so many awful memories, and yet maybe the worst would be when I finally decided to end it- you barely fought me on it. And you wouldn’t accept a conversation about taking a break; you wouldn’t accept a conversation about anything, really. I felt mature and controlled for the first time in my life. I didn’t raise my voice when I explained my reasons while you just stared at The Price is Right. So, I packed my things over the course of a week in silence. We went to the bank and separated our accounts in silence. After a week of this, you said suddenly that we should get drunk and celebrate what we had. I scoffed at that notion, and you fell asleep on the couch. When I had most of my things in the lobby downstairs, you met me and finally met my eye. You gave me a piece of sandglass that we had collected years ago. Let’s start an online shop together, you said on the beach. I can make you a ring out of this, you said in the afternoon. Something to remember me by, you said while the taxi waited. I nodded. I smiled. Your last moment of warmth, of sentiment, was the worst memory you could give me. We’ve never spoken since.
After a nine-month stint in Barcelona, I moved abroad to England- first London, then Bath, and finally up north. I followed the educational breadcrumbs thrown at ESL teachers, and ended up in a small, seaside town forty minutes outside of Liverpool. Here I bide my time, a mollusk, licking and coating a grain of sand- this one, named Vietnam- until it forms into a pearl. I’ve started exercising- sloppily, moodily- and check all ingredients diligently. Maltitol, inverted sugar, glucose syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maize starch, Florida crystals.
It’s not a very exciting life, but I’ve mastered the Metro crossword, taken up reading again, and poke at the little pouch above my weary vagina every evening unhappily. I foster cats and made five out of six counselling sessions with a woman who, despite our mutual efforts, continued to insist that hypnosis was a valid form of psychotherapy. I miss my mother and my friends dearly, and contemplate how anyone can find the grey and chilly sea interesting to look at. My students live in China and Poland; I try my best to live in the present, to feast on the Now. I am no rascal, I don’t look French when I smoke (twice a week, after the second vodka-soda) and I only have one friend. And after two years of complicated long distance- is it real? Are we just being stubborn- sticking to our narrative? - we live a disarmingly peaceful life.
One time, I was visiting you in Amsterdam, and I broke down- the manic doubts had taken their toll; I was an oyster with no pearl. I broke down and cried outside of the IKEA. You waited, a bit impatient, and asked me to make a choice. It was either to commit to the strangeness, to the terrifying possibility that it might work out- or to stick to my big speech. You’d heard my drunken rants one too many times. I finished the beer and said: let’s try. Let’s try our best.
Alisa Severina is a writer, teacher, and cat fosterer currently living in West Kirby, England. Originally from Toronto, she worked as a reader for The Rights Factory and sat on the editorial board of The Goose before moving abroad to teach English in Spain and England. Her work has been published in The Goose and The Leviathan. She hopes to return home one day with bohemian hair.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.