Sunday, March 5, 2006

Once Upon a Time

You sit on the sand and try to write a story. "Once upon a time..." is a fairy tale beginning. Once upon a time, there was a king. There's always a king. And he has three daughters. The youngest is always the most beautiful and all the boys want her. Once upon a time. There's too much wind, and too many voices. Voices and voices and voices...speaking, whispering, shouting, screeching hysterically, laughing. Always laughing. They never keep quiet. You write a name in the sand. Of course it's your name. And then you wipe it with your foot. You gaze at the sea. Will you drown? You don't suppose so. You stand up and walk towards the water. It laps towards your feet. You test the temperature. Just right. You step in and go in deeper and deeper. Now the waves crash up to your waist. Oh, bother. Your skirt will be wet. Wet and salty and clingy. It's all right. It will dry out. No reason to despair.
Look, look! What was that? It jumped. Look, there it is again. Fish! Fish in the sea! Of course, fish in the sea. Where else would they come from? Look, another one! And another! Do you see them? No?! But look, it's there! How can you--Look! Why are you staring at me like that? I'm not mad. There are fish in the sea! Why don't you believe me?
You stalk away angrily. You come to the wet sand. You find a stick and trace your name. A-L-I...Oh, now, how annoying. The letters are gone. No use writing anyway. The tide will take it away. Where? Where will the sea take your name? Far, far away in lands of green and seas of blue?
The sun is setting and your hair is red. Oh, how beautiful it is. The light is shining on your hair so beautifully. Oh, how splendid. You walk to where you left your notebook. Once upon a time, there was a girl with red hair...You wonder if it's true. Of course! There are millions of girls with red hair. What kind? You mean orange hair? You've never seen a girl with red hair before. Oh, well, it is a fairy tale. Nothing in it has to be true.

You walk to school on a hot, humid morning. It's the first day of school and the anxiety that's been with you for the past seven years comes again in your stomach: butterflies. You hate it. You absolutely hate the first day. Of course, there are your friends who are there to say, "Hey! What's up? How was your summer?" And you to respond, "Oh, it was OK." When it really hadn't been, because the only thing you had done was listen to the radio and read and write. You wrote and you wrote until you thought your hand would break. You wrote so that the imaginary magazine would be satisfied with your stories and give you enough money for a week. You wrote. You wrote about death, depression, love, sadness, happiness, children, teenagers, adults. You wrote and wrote and suddenly you had achieved twelve stories in two months, each one a small novel. And you read. You read the same books over and over again but you didn't mind. The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, The Little Prince, and your own stories. And after the summer had passed, you had begun to wear eye shadow, only it wasn't eye shadow, they were real circles. But nobody noticed because you covered them up. You covered them up with a smile and a laugh and saying, "Oh, yes, my summer was all right", and going on with your life. But at the end of that horrible day, you would go home and cry and you would remember the faces of the girls looking at you in disgust. Oh, how horrible it was! And then you would talk to yourself, telling yourself it would be all right, and thinking that no one heard you, but the walls were paper and the neighbours were listening with their ears glued to the wall. And they would hear you, but there would be no response, and they would know. Yes, they would know. And the news would be all over the city that, Oh did you know, did you know, that Alice talks to herself? And everyone would say, Oh no, I didn't know that, and laugh quietly and they would tell their daughters and then you would be made fun of. But then you would smile that smile, the smile that showed your teeth, but your eyes were dark and full of hatred. And they would leave you alone.
You would go home again and write and write and the ideas would be pouring from the sky--ideas not rain. But you would write and write but the page would not end and you would cry in despair, but the words would flow from your pend and would not stop.
You would go to bed and wish that you would not wake, that you would sleep forever, but then morning would come and the birds would begin to sing. Oh, how you wished you had a gun to shoot them. The day would start and you would go to school again and you would steady yourself by the wall, because you felt a bit faint and then...

...you would wake up because it was all a dream, but yet it wasn't because you remembered that you had gone to school yesterday. Or was it last year? Yesterday was such a long time ago. And you would look at the clock, expecting to see it was 7:30 A.M., but instead, it would be 5:00 A.M., and you would shake the clock and think you were dreaming. But you weren't and after five minutes of reassurance, you would get out your notebook and begin to write. You would write because you had nothing else to do, and because you needed money. You desperately needed money, but the editor would say, "I'm very sorry, but we're looking for something modern." Modern. The modern stories were about tea parties and ladies that would gossip and talk about fashion and gentlemen who would be gambling and losing. Your stories were about craziness and fish and fairy tales and paper walls. Your stories weren't modern.
And you wished you could scream but it was 5:00 A.M. and you just couldn't. You were losing your sanity and you needed to cling to a piece of reality, a little piece of something that would tell you that you weren't falling into depression. So you ripped the walls and you screamed and you smashed the mirrors and the windows and you bled and you bled and you screamed and cried and laughed. You laughed. And the people came in swarms and fell back at the blood and the ripped wall and open mouth and the eyes. The eyes. Those cold, blue eyes. And you told them, "Once upon a time she laughed." And they thought you were insane. But you weren't because once upon at time she did laugh. She laughed at the world. 

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