After high school had let out on Friday afternoon, one of my friends got down on her knees and started barking at my parents' German Shepherd. She'd become unhinged from doing a lot of coke and decided to pay me and the dog a surprise visit. She growled, bared her teeth, and went to the bathroom, where she dumped a potted plant in the tub before leaving to score more drugs. I didn't understand what was happening -- I'd never touched much of anything at that point. I petted the dog and repotted the plant, the Cure in the background singing "Why Can't I Be You." I didn't want to be anyone else at that moment and especially not when I returned to school the next Monday and saw her bruised arms. When I asked what happened to her, she said, I hit myself when I'm coming down. It makes me feel better. Our AP English class had Paradise Lost on the docket for the day. Because I was talking to my friend, my teacher called on me right away to explain what Milton had meant by making a heaven of a hell and a hell of a heaven. She didn't think I had heard the question and wanted to make a point. I answered it completely, even throwing in a few additional references to Portnoy's Complaint, the book I was reading on the side. I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the class; I adored my teacher and didn't want to make her thankless task of getting teenagers interested in Milton anymore difficult than it already was.
When class ended, my teacher asked me to stay after. I thought she was going to ask what happened to my friend, one of her favorite students, a beautiful girl who looked like she'd been through a few rounds of her own personal Fight Club. But she didn't. She said, Michelle, you're too smart for your own good. It will lead you to great unhappiness in some ways. Her comment thrilled me. It wasn't as if she'd told me I didn't belong in the class or was hideous in some way. She hadn't told me I was failing or that she was disappointed in me. I went around all day, happy as could be, feeling special. Then I realized that I'd dressed in the dark and had one black loafer on, one blue one. They'd looked alike in the dim morning, and I hadn't noticed what a dork I was all day, running around with two different types of shoes, one black, one blue, the colors of my friend's bruises, the colors of shame, and nobody said anything directly, not once, not to either of us.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"No longer feeling bad is not the same as feeling good." Betty Rollin, Last Wish
Drinking movie suggestion: Panic in Needle Park
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday! Thanks for all the sweet comments! I hope everyone has recovered from the holidays.