This is Jill, Mr. Brody said, smiling. He lowered his arm to his side. She’s come from Toronto. Please make her feel welcome. And he looked at me. I don’t know why he looked at me. Sarah and Jessica were whispering in the back row, their heads together, their syllables snapping like tacks tossed on the floor. I almost pointed at myself. Me?, I almost mouthed, if only to find confirmation, to see Mr. Brody vigourly nod his head and silently answer back. You, he’d pucker. Instead I crossed my arms and looked at the scarred surface of my desk, the cover of my red math binder stained with names of bands I liked and lines from poems that came up in English and obscure facts about far away places that our Geography teacher liked to give us. Did you know, he’d say, eyes wide behind his glasses, his hair shining silver as he leaned his skinny body towards us, that cork comes from Spain. There’d be a dull silence. He really wanted us to care. My secret was that I did. A few moments later, after we’d gotten on with the lesson, I’d quickly jot it down: cork from spain. I lifted my eyes from those words to look at Jill, her green eyes pocketed in dark eyeliner, her hair obviously dyed, a heavy black colour that made it look like it’d been rubbed with coal. She snapped her gum. She scanned the room like a hawk, looking from a distance, her eyes bumping over the blonde boulders of Sarah’s and Jessica’s snickering heads. I watched her. Then I tore a tiny piece off a piece of half-used loose-leaf in my binder. She’s arrived, I wrote in pencil, before shoving it into the back pocket of my jeans.
I saw some girls entering a high school yesterday. They were all wearing black and one seemed dressed like a Puritan – long skirt, high leather boots. The Nuns, I thought, as I sped on by. The words kept coming back to me all day. The Nuns, I reminded myself, buying mini-toothpaste and tiny deodorant for my upcoming travels. The Nuns.
But I didn’t write it down. And this brings to me a problem that I have with my brain. It doesn’t keep things. It’s like a refrigerator left open so everything quickly withers away to nothing and then disappears into strange stains and smells.
I know I should write things down. After all, writing things down is what I do. Anne Lamott recommends carrying around index cards to jot down those memories that come flooding back to us or those images that randomly pop in our brains. Useful for further material, she says. Valuable stuff.
Like, the Nuns.
My novel – more appropriately called, at the moment, a-random-collection-of-writings, some typed up and some simply scrawled into three spiral-bound notebooks – is about highschool, about figuring out who one is, attempting, like Houdini, to unfasten the chains while you’re shut inside a trunk and feel like you’re drowning. I’m trying to work some humour in there too.
So, how perfect the Nuns would be!
But I haven’t quite figured out how. Nor have I tried. Writing prose has fit in fourth this week to planning an intro meeting for the Centre of Cultures, getting ready for my back-to-back trips to Oregon and Argentina and pitching editors about said trips.
However, it’s in the full exercise of writing practice that these quick thoughts really flourish. Jotting them down is just storage. Working them with the pen, messing them up, taking them out of their container and tossing them around, well, that’s when the real magic happens.
I should really get on that someday.