Sunday, May 23, 2004

Thought I would post the odd anecdote I wrote when in a writing course a few years ago. Hope youse enjoy, this one is a little long but kinda fun.

Cathedral Blues
By Amy Sloan-Forderer

I couldnt sleep. I stepped out of bed in the near dark, stumbling over the clothes on the floor. I got to my dresser and turned on the lamp.
They were still there. I leaned toward the mirror, nausea coming over me as I dipped forward, and looked closer at the horrible crusty scabs that dotted my chin and one cheek.
I caught a glimpse of my uniform in the mirror behind me. Everything was perfectly arranged atop my desk. School kilt, new monogrammed blouse, and the navy cardigan (hand-me-downed of course but freshly dry-cleaned), with the school crest on the pocket and two white stripes on the sleeve. Beneath the chair were my new black shoes, oxfords with pointy toes, each one with a carefully rolled up navy sock inside it.
These parts of my uniform seemed to be waiting at attention, for a girl to step into and start her first day of high school.
But they were too perfect.

And me, (I looked back into the mirror), me.

I had impetigo on my face.

Nothing mattered. Everything mattered. I wouldnt go, I thought. This should clear up in a few days, the doctor had said so. I would wait it out.
But the uniform, and my eager fourteen year old heart, longed for action.
I had to go. It was the first day, how could I miss it? All my friends from grade eight would be there. Five of us had planned to meet at lunch to spout off all we had learned about high school that morning. I would meet all my teachers. I would put books and lip gloss and new pens in a REAL locker. I would, for the first time in my life, be legitimately allowed to wear eye shadow in public.
I had been waiting my whole life for this day.

I sighed and thought of P.M., the boy I had liked for the whole year of grade eight. I had spent months and months ignoring him in just the right way. I was sure that once we got to high school, once he saw how sophisticated I could be, with the eye shadow and everything, he would absolutely talk to me, (for longer than fifteen seconds that is). But not like this.

The scabs were huge. They threatened to cover my face right over if they kept spreading. I touched them with my index finger one by one. Oh! If I was magic for just a minute I would make them disappear! I was sure God could do it, if he had a mind to.
I put a finger over the worst one on my chin and closed my eyes. I would try the most humble prayer.
O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins and I detest my scabs and please make them go away and I will do anything. Anything you want even go twice to church and sit in the front and go to confession every Saturday and I will never forget to do my penance again just take these stupid (sorry!) scabs and give me back my normal face even with a pimple or two (but not a big one) please God please God please please please!
I could not open my eyes. I knew He hadnt done it. One scab started to itch.

Light was coming to my window. Soon the whole house would be up, water running, hair dryer blaring, someone yelling at someone to get the hell out of the bathroom. My parents were constantly saying we had to move, that four teenagers and one bathroom was just not right.
My sister moved in her top bunk. She was starting grade seven. I wished I was back in grade seven. No I didn’t!

I got into my uniform very slowly. I loved the snug feel of my new socks, the weight of my kilt on my legs. I did not look in the mirror once.

At breakfast I burst into tears. No one said anything mean, but they all looked at me for too long. I was a freak.

When my mom came down I said, 'Maybe I should stay home.'
'Why?' She was surprised!!! 'You look perfect!'
Why? Why?! Was the woman blind??
'Look at me, ma! Look at my face!' I turned to her. She flinched. Imperceptibly, except to me she might as well have jumped back a foot and made the sign of the cross.

'Well, it is on the mend,' she said. 'And there is nothing wrong with you that you should miss your first day of school. You are going to have a great day, honey.' And she hugged me and that was it. I was going to school, a scab monster in a navy and green kilt.

Walking along Main Street I passed my old school. It looked small and friendly, with its two big windows in the front like warm eyes watching me. I longed for it, and yet I proudly sailed along, forgetting my face for a minute. I was beyond all that now. No more one-teacher-for-everything-except-French for me, now I would be going to different classes all day long. No more recess, now I would have a spare. The maturity of it all made me throw my shoulders back. I knew then why they called it High School. We passed other Cathedral students on our way. The girls were instantly identifiable by their Black Watch kilts. The boys, heading to their own school across the street, wore gray pants with their choice of shirt, as long as it had a collar. I had heard my older sister and her friends carry on about this, how the boys had less of a uniform than the girls and how it wasn’t fair. I didnt agree. I felt so great in my uniform, I envied no one.

And then, with a quick glance in a store window, I came crashing back down to impetigo land.

I kept my head down the rest of the way. I met up with two friends from my old class. They already knew about the scabs so it wasnt too bad. We found our lockers, and the sheer thrill of the lock clicking shut sent us into a fit of silliness. We went to the bathroom, where two head-banger girls were smoking! We passed the eye shadow around, then rolled our kilts up at the waist to shorten them, so that we would look less like minor niners. I went in and out of awareness of my face. It was hard to not be excited with all this stuff happening. It was time for homeroom class.

My first teacher was Mr. Doan and he was a bit of a hunk. Great. I scuttled into the classroom, hoping I wouldnt catch his eye. There were only two seats left, at the front. I felt everyone honing in on my scabs. I felt sick. I took one of the seats and kept my eyes on my desk. This was the moment of truth. Would I be branded a freak for the next four years? Would the people around me ask to be moved, so as not to catch the hideous disease I obviously had? My wool cardigan, so crisp just an hour before, felt all crumply and soggy. My collar felt tight. My scabs felt like huge bugs sitting on my face. Mr. Doan took attendance. I felt every syllable of every name pound through my head. Finally, he said it.

'Amy Sloan?'

I had to look up. I couldnt help myself.
'Here.' I gulped. I met Mr. Doan's eyes.
Bless him. He smiled at me, looking for all the world like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He made absolute eye contact, not even for a second did those eyes rest on my scabs.
'Welcome, Amy,' he said.
I smiled back.

I was so glad I had not stayed away. It was a great day. Not easy, mind. During my first high school gym class two hours later the teacher actually made us jog past the boys school! I kept my face turned, so that the better side faced the huge pile of boys hanging out in front. In math class the girl behind me didnt talk to me when I introduced myself to her. She just smirked and then turned to talk to her friend behind her. I felt like a big scabby idiot.
But after school was great. My old friends and I walked each other home, carrying on about everything we had seen and done in the last seven hours. We stopped at Cloverdale and bought a whack of penny candy. We threw our knapsacks up in the air and caught them. (I broke my new geometry set.) It was a great time, and when I got home I told my mom everything.
By the third day of school the cream the doctor had prescribed was working like magic. The biggest scab actually fell off when I smiled at my new friend Heather Walsh at lunch. She pretended not to see me brush it off the front of my sweater. Ugh.

By day five I was me again. And school was great. Looking back, I think I learned something about appearances and happiness and self confidence in the face of disaster, but none of that occurred to me then. I was just glad to be Amy Sloan, grade niner, at Cathedral Girls High.


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