Learning to Fly
Karen Anne was slow in acquiring Michael for herself because he was unsure about what to really do with her. She didn't like horses, guns, or got his humor like I did. Like I've said, I didn't see KA as my former girlfriend but more as my personal 'Jolene'.
She didn't change--much--after prom. There was a bit of frost between us, more from her than me and it was evident whenever she saw Michael talking with me about, well, whatever guys talk about; the stupid stuff, you know?
I was not ready for the day when she kissed him outside the school, right in front of me, because, that's what couples do. She didn't look at me--didn't have to--I felt the stigma radiating from her. They stood next to each other for a moment and then KA walked down the block to an awaiting car.
Michael stood by himself and stared down the block.
"It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
"Not following you."
"Shall we compare her to a summer's day?"
"I'm not sure what to compare her to," he replied, much to my astonishment.
"She likes roses--the white and pink ones."
We walked to the parking lot and to Michael's truck in silence.
Michael slammed his door after I closed the passenger door.
"Don't know about this one either, Kris," he stated as he looked at me with eyes that almost looked like sad anime eyes; a lost puppy yelping in the moonlight.
"What do you mean?"
"Gotta ask you a question."
"Okay," I replied, ready for the question that he was most likely going to ask.
"I need to let her go. How do I do it?"
Not the question I had in mind so I was lost for a second. I mean, two thoughts were going through my mind: I thought they were a good looking couple, seemed to agree on things--almost a Johnny Cash and June Carter homage. It was sad to hear.
While the other one was: YES! Yes, yes yes yes! Woo-Whoop!
"I shouldn't have danced with her."
"No. No, it's okay, I mean...I mean we're still kind of friends even if we're not seeing each other. I don't think she hates me--much." A terrible lie, I admit and I hoped he wouldn't run with it.
"She hasn't brought you up."
"That's probably a good thing," I replied as I bit my lip. "What did you say to Melissa?"
"Kind of wondered when you were going to ask that. Now I can get if off my chest."
He started the engine.
"Wasn't my business. Thought you'd talk about it when you were ready."
"I told her that I couldn't be with someone like her...and I'm not feeling anything with Karen Anne."
"Okay, well...there are other fish in the sea."
"We could take a trip to the Alabama coast...lots of seafood and--other fish.
"Think I'll be a real cowboy one day. Out on the range, on my own, watching the herd. No prom dresses, fake people--"
"Or dance music?"
"A guitar is all one needs."
We drove past Germantown Parkway and into the "countryside" of Cordova.
"So I guess you won't be setting any long term plans with Karen Anne?"
"Don't think so. I mean, she's not the right one for me. There's a lot there, we both know that."
"Right, yeah, a lot there."
"A bit too much," he sighed. Perhaps Karen Anne had discussed the wedding scene with him too.
"Okay, so what are you looking for in 'ze perfect girl?" A simple question and when asked in the voice of "Pepe Le Pew" it deflects the why.
"I don't think she exists, Kris."
"Come on, let it go. I'll throw a few out: Angelina Jolie?"
"Yeah, like that's gonna happen. She don't have to be famous," Michael's speech would break down into the vocabulary of a bluegrass hillbilly drunk on real Tennessee Mountain Dew when he was either euphoric or depressively dreary. "She's just got to love me like I love her."
"You're a better man than I," I replied as I really wanted to tell him everything about me. Maybe he'd understand. We talked about a lot of stuff...we even tried "chew" once (never mistake the spit can with the one with soda in it). We were such an odd couple that we belonged together but I wasn't about to blurt it out. I needed to tie him up or pin him down and then tell him.
* * *
I woke up in bed in the dorm...hoping that perhaps it was still Friday morning and the events of Saturday had been only a nightmare. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and saw a dress, wrapped in a torn, red plastic in the closet.
No there was still a chance--I could have bought that some time ago and had forgotten.
I looked on my arm and saw a red mark--Damn, it did happen which meant it was Sunday.
Michael was absent from the bed. He usually went to hang out with Daniel on Sunday afternoons but I thought that maybe he would have been too tired after the drive home--which I didn't remember a thing of.
I got up, threw on a robe and tried to not remember the events of the night before. There were so many things I could have done differently. I could have "been Kris" and not have to deal anything...except for having to face Karen Anne as she would most likely would have ignored me still. So the snub would have happened and I would have to feign any issues with her trying to dance with Mike...unless I exposed my naked myself, the real me I mean, to everyone in that club. Maybe Michael would have done it for me--express his love and affection for me regardless of how I looked, like he always told me.
However, why did we have to go to that club? Why did I think it would be okay to sit at that table with KA? I wanted to feel like I was invulnerable and for a moment I was...for a moment I didn't give a damn what people would think. I wanted the brass sass to come out so I could stand up at that table and spit my words out in anger: "Hey, Karen. My name is and has been Kristina. Deal. With. It!"
I should have said, "no"--that I didn't want to go and we wouldn't have. Michael would have told Karen Anne that we had to get back if I had said no and then I wouldn't have had to go through the panic attack. I wouldn't have had to fight but I'd been fighting all of my life.
A shower and two pop-tarts later, I stepped out of the dorm hall in jeans and t-shirt...not fully ready to repeat yesterday's MSU display. Campus life on the weekends was a lot like living in the suburbs of a small town-no one is out mowing lawns but there is a little bit of activity with some walkers, a few playing catch and others just sitting outside in the last few sunny days of the fall. It wasn't scorching hot nor humid. It was never as hot in Knoxville as it was in Memphis, where just stepping outside would cause you to sweat in locations you didn't even know you had pores...and those pores brought forth the most pungent odor that people beg you to leave and take your stench with you.
"Look who's decided to join the living," a voice stated from behind me.
"Yes, Rick, I decided it was time to rise from my grave and haunt the countryside."
"Quite so," he replied as he looked at me. "When is the production?"
"In two weeks." I attempted to avoid any eye content.
"And how's it going?"
"Fine, thank you." I kept any sarcastic comment or vile word to myself at this time.
"What's with the ring?"
"It's an engagement ring." I waved my hand at him.
"You're engaged? To who?"
"She lives in Memphis."
"I assume she has a matching one?"
"When did you meet her?
"High school-" It was like I was being interviewed. I could play his game...I was ready for my court room scene. But, alas, I would have to tell story after story because Richard couldn't handle. The. Truth. "Junior year."
"Congratulations are in order then."
"Has she ever been here on campus?"
Ahh Richard was a slick one...if I answered one way then he could try and bust me for bringing a girl into the dorm hall...but in answering in the negative he could build a case that Michael was my lover and we would go on all night sessions. Which was actually the truth, but--
"I still think you're going to hell one day."
"I hear it's a wide highway."
"I wouldn't know," he replied as he opened the door to the dorm and walked in,
I so wanted to flip him off.
No, first I'd slam into the wall, slap him across the face and then flip him off, Memphis style.
I usually spent Sunday's afternoons trying to memorize the play script and thinking about how the stage would be laid out; but the scenery was completed by the end of last week leaving one less thing to worry about. Now I just had to worry about actors getting their marks right, keeping the flow off their lines right and to try to avoid any feeling of wanting to kill them all with my clipboard.
I sat down on the park bench midway to the theatre and laid my head back.
Too much to take in from the day before.
I was a girl to the world for under twelve hours. I shouldn't have had to act like one--I was one, albeit one that was chemically and emotionally damaged by thirteen doctors and my father.
If they all knew that I stopped taking all the pulls I had been prescribed. I once took over nine different prescriptions: a few to halt estrogen; a bit to raise testosterone; more to balance out the emotional pain and birth control pills. I stopped taking all of them four days after arriving on campus; expect for the last set, which I ran out of a few weeks ago from that day.
I didn't want to deal with the emotional roller coaster but the ferris wheel wasn't any better: manic for one day and depressive a few hours later. I assured Michael that I was still taking everything that I had to keep "on balance"--but I grew tired of any and all of them, for as much as they may helped they also were for "Kris", not for me...and I had not been him for a few months before high school ended. Of course, to simply quit taking everything was a stupid thing to do but I was a college freshman, trying to spread my wings and take a road less travelled. Can you think of any better way than to be off one's meds?
I took my time walking around campus and tried to block out the negative thoughts that were at the doorstep of my sanity--no such luck. I was tired of the reversed Dorothy Michaels approach to life but afraid of the repercussions to come. Sometimes you just have to jump off the high dive, even if it means to perform an awesomely painful bellyflop.
Micheal was back at the dorm.
"I'm sorry about yesterday."
"Why?" I asked as I closed the door.
"I didn't ask you if you wanted to go there, I just assumed you'd be okay, but--"
I walked over and wrapped my arms around him. "We survived."
"It could've been bad," he replied and then kissed my forehead. "I screwed up."
"Hey, no, I mean it wasn't our best audition...and I would have loved a do-over, but--it has made me think about you said. Rehearsals and all that." I broke away, walked over to my dresser and opened the middle drawer.
"What do you mean?"
"Time to take off this mask." I picked up a set of folded clothes and threw them on the bed, leaving the drawer empty.
"Can you take off the shirt too?"
"I plan taking it all off and then some," I replied with a smile as I grabbed his hand. "Let's go."
* * *
"How does this look?"
The West Town Mall was not the best place to go if one wanted to buy things and remain incognito to the rest of the UT campus. Every store had at least one employee who was a student at the college so someone would know where you picked up your new wardrobe, even if you shopped at Sears.
I dragged Michael from store to store, picking up this, that, and the whatnot. A dress or two, an actual blouse and skirt. I didn't want to rush but I also knew what I was looking for: anything that world annoy Richard, give a migraine to Heather and cause my father to have a mild stroke. I had only store left to go to.
"I'll sit out here with all of this 'cause I'm not going in there," Michael stated as he rearranged several bags into larger ones. He stood several feet out of a Victoria's Secret and tried in vain to ignore what was inside.
"Fair trade. I'm thinking green."
"Green isn't your favorite color."
"True, it's yours."
"Don't. Don't do that."
"Why not? You're the one who gets to see them."
"You need to go with what you want."
"I want what you want."
"You could always go without."
"I could, and I like how you're thinking, but I'm not," I replied as I walked into the store. "How about pink?"
"Just go in there. I'll-I'll wait out here."
"Should I bring them to you for approval?"
"N-n-no," he stammered as he tried to avoid turning beet red.
We had a few eyes watching us by then. The sales clerks gave me a wide berth and it was safe to assume no one was going to ask me any questions other than "how would you like to pay?" I took several gambles on styles because I had no idea what I was looking for and I still did not have any upper body that mattered at the time.
"When are you wearing these?"
"Tomorrow...going to start slow though."
"Simple dress, maybe something off the shoulder."
"Planning on giving Dick a heart attack?"
"Humph. He's a zombie with a nice hair cut, a button down Oxford and no heart. I can back off on the no shoulder thing."
"No, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing it the Novoselic way."
"Damn straight," I replied.
Michel pointed at the pink bra.
"Are you going to model these?"
"Can you promise you won't stare at me."
"Can't promise that."
"Then you won't get to the see pink one. It's almost see-through."
"Then why get it?"
"It called me to me, Michael. It said: 'get your card out, buy me and blow his mind!'"
"How many did you listen to?"
"Enough that dad will be calling me about it at the end of the month."
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