Branches #2: Overnight

I don’t know how to begin writing fiction, so . . . I’m not. I’m leaving the beginnings up to better, more experienced authors, and branching off — from whatever I wind up underlining, dog-earring, generally wanting more of.

Currently reading: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July.

* * *

I hated my job, but I liked that I could do it. I had once believed in a precious inner self, but now I didn’t. I had thought that I was fragile, but I wasn’t. It was like suddenly being good at sports.

They say that it doesn’t happen this way, but I know some girls that it happened to, and it’s true: you can just wake up one morning and have breasts. Not huge, porn-y boobs, but a nice, tasteful rack, big enough to catch everyone’s eye. Breasts that get in the way when you reach for things, breasts that make old t-shirts look fantastic, breasts that get thought about hours after they leave the room: it happened to my friend Stacey. She said it was so unexpected that she didn’t even notice them until she tried to zip into a dress that morning, and even then, she just thought she was a little bloated or something. Like big boobs weren’t a plausible explanation. They weren’t even in her mind. But later that day, all these guys whistled at her in the hallways between classes, and she looked down and was like, wait, whoa, what? Bam. These things happen, people.

And, not incidentally, this was exactly how something else happened to me.

I woke up one morning and the change had occurred.

Immediately beautiful, swanning, blossoming into a woman —

Nope.

Although it must be said, that Stacey’s overnight transformation helped me recognize mine for what it was. I was more attuned to the massive potential hidden in a night’s sleep. Secretly, I’d been hoping for breasts myself. Every night I had willed them into sudden being, willed myself to be like her, for my nail polish to stop chipping, or for my teeth to straighten out. And other things.

Instead, that particular Sunday morning, I just really, really wanted to throw a curve ball.

And I could tell that I would be good at it, immediately, because of how badly I wanted it. Or not me, exactly: it was all contained in my left arm, like a rubber band, stretched back. We’d just learned about potential energy in Mr. Bing’s class, and that’s exactly how it felt: only the rubber band kept pulling further and further, taut taut taut, so that it almost hurt to stay still. It was all I could do to keep my arm from whipping around in the sheets, throwing imaginary curve balls everywhere. My arm wanted this more than anything. As for me — Elizabeth, girl and person, mental entity — I’ve never been interested in sports of any kind.

And that didn’t change, even years later, to this day. The complicated rules frustrate me. So much of it is waiting, slow, slow relocation. Occasionally I wonder if I’d be better off working in retail, or as a waitress, or as a teenage housewife: something vaguely dirty, sexual and suddenly adult — like Stacey. But then I step up to the rubber and it’s that same feeling. Power surges through the entire left side of my body, pooling and puddling in my calf and biceps.

Push into the ground, and — step, follow-through.

It’s like, if I didn’t throw a ball right now, I’m going to explode.

How fascinating! So you just woke up one morning, and you could throw the perfect curve ball, the perfect game.

That’s right.

With no prior practice, not even any interest in baseball?

Yes.

And, she stole a brief glance down at her notes, you struck out every player on the opposing team?

Yes.

Well that’s just an amazing story, truly the American Dream. You are a talented little girl, Elizabeth, and thank you for taking the time to speak with us! For CBN News, I’m Roxanne Sprok in Denver, Colorado.

I’m sorry, I did not get the chance to correct you: I’m not a little girl, Ms. Sprok.

Okay, technically, that’s not true. I am little. I am five foot one, lost easily in crowds, unnoticed in classrooms. I am fourteen years old and I look like I could be ten: mostly a deal-breaker with peers who are all trying to look like Sex In the City stars. The videos in health class offer crackling reassurances that these awkward years will pass: that this is all a gradual procession to confidence and adulthood, that we should accept ourselves and one another in this time of change.

But I have never, ever felt right in this body. Not now, not when I was six, stretching back as far as I can remember, has been the question “When will I get bigger?”

And these slow, annual . . . potential inches are meaningless to me, do you understand?

It would take a miracle to achieve what I’m looking for. Something sudden, drastic, unexplained. The kind of thing that happens overnight.

It just so happened that we had a baseball in the garage of the house I lived in growing up, so I threw on some shorts, skittered through the kitchen, and grabbed it, then ran into our backyard. Our yard was massive in those days — all kinds of rolling green and chirping frogs. Somewhere, a neighbor was mowing their lawn.

I wound my arm back, pushed off my left foot and took a step with my right, and I chucked it. The throw, while not a curve ball, was exactly what I wanted at the time: soaring, spinning, one hundred stories above it all — and I was flying with it, looking down. Buildings were Legos and people were ants. Clouds were massive unicorns and whisping castles. Back down on earth, a little girl was spreading open her arms, in a kind of dumbstruck surprise, victory, almost surrender.

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2 Comments

  1. I love that collection of stories by Miranda July! My little sister lent it to me, because she’s cooler than me. By a lot!

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