Sorta Wanna Be a Yalie

By Janna                 

 "I sorta wanna be a Yalie."

I looked up from my book to stare at my friend.  We'd been sitting in silence on the couch doing homework for the past fifteen minutes.  Kayla was now looking at the other people in the coffeehouse, who happened to be mostly Yale students.

"Why?" I asked.

"They look so sophisticated and cool," she said, not bothering to keep her voice down.

I looked at the people around us.  They were all thin and blandly dressed, and most had glasses.  They were white or Asian, just one black woman.  They read books or typed on their laptop quietly, never talking to each other, except for a word here or there. 

"They look smart, but boring," I said to her quietly.

"I bet they have great intellectual conversations," Kayla said.  And this was coming from the girl who called me each night to discuss the latest high school gossip, like how Ralph—the kid with the big nose— got sent to the office for burping the alphabet during class.

I shrugged, looking back at The Scarlet Letter, which I had to read for English class.  Kayla twirled her straw in her plastic cup that had held her iced latte.  There was just the ice now, and the cubes rattled back and forth defiantly.

"Kay."  I sounded like a teacher with the power to stop a child's behavior in one word.

"What?" she asked innocently.

"Nevermind," I sighed.  "Look, are you done with your homework?"

"I'll just do it when I get home," she replied, still watching the sophisticated Yalies with admiration.  She was wearing a blue sleeveless spandex top and glittery jeans.  She had sparkly ice blue eye shadow and pink lipstick on.  Her hair was dyed dark brown and was gelled to keep her curls under control.

"I'll just finish this chapter, then we'll go," I said, starting to read again.  

I was reading about the townspeople trashing Hester because of the scarlet letter on her chest when I heard a man's voice say, "Do you mind if I sit here? There aren't any chairs left."

I looked up.  There was the young man, presumably a Yalie, looking at Kayla.  He wore corduroy pants the color of deer's fur and a green sweater.  He had hair that was brown and shaggy and a skinny face that seemed to all come to a point at his nose.  He was carrying two books and a hot coffee.

"No, not all," Kayla said, already pushing me over to make room for him on the couch.

          "Thanks," Yalie said.

          He settled down next to Kayla and put his books on the coffee table in front us.  The books were both on art, one called Self-Mutilation For the Sake of Art and the other, Monet's Water Lilies.  I decided now was the time to leave.

          "You ready to go?" I asked Kayla.

          "No, I think I'll do some homework."  She was eyeing Yalie as she spoke to me.  "I have some art homework I should be doing."  Yalie looked up.  "I have to write an essay on Monet's water lilies," she lied.

          "Really?" Yalie asked, now excited, in a sort of repressed way.  "I have a book on that.  See?"  He held up the book.  "Monet's Water Lilies."

          "Oh my god!  What a coincidence!"  Kayla bubbled.  Oh, please.

          "Do you go to Yale?" Yalie asked.

          "No, not yet.  But I applied.  I'm still in high school.  I'm a senior.  I'm taking AP Art."  Kayla batted her eyelashes, thick with mascara.

I couldn't believe this.  A flirt-liar is someone who lies about her/himself (particularly their age) when they're trying to get someone interested in them.  Kayla had turned into a flirt-liar right in front of my eyes.  Not only had she not applied to Yale and didn't know a thing about art, but she was also only a junior.

With her tight flashy clothing and excessive make-up, you'd think a Yalie would consider himself too important to even ask her for the time.  In an intellect's eyes, she would be an artificial sixteen-year-old airhead.  Ok, in all fairness, she was smarter than she appeared sometimes, at least smarter than your average airhead.  And she was my best friend.  But the thought of her suddenly becoming so friendly with this Yale student who carried around a book on self-mutilation was just too weird.

          Yalie, who introduced himself as Gideon Ackerley, proceeded to ask Kayla more questions, like what type of art she liked and who were some of her favorite artists.  Kayla skillfully lied and giggled her way through the conversation.

"Well, Picasso's the greatest painter of all time of course.  And Michelangelo's pretty great.  He did those cool sculptures of naked people and stuff."

Gideon had a bemused smile on his face.  I couldn't tell if he believed her at all.  He rummaged through his backpack and pulled out a slightly crumpled flyer that said "ART SHOW" and handed it to Kayla.

"There's an art show thing this weekend that I'm going to have some of my work in.  It'd be cool if you came.  Since you're so into art," he said, his little green eyes looking at Kayla, then peering over and seeing me as if for the first time.

"That'd be awesome!" Kayla exclaimed.  "I'll definitely be there."

"Great," he said, and picked up his Monet's water lilies and self-mutilation books and left.     

For the rest of the week, all Kayla talked about was how she was so excited.

"It's so cool.  I've never had an artist friend before," she bubbled as we walked through the long, bright school halls.  My new tennis shoes squeaked against the shiny linoleum floors, getting me unwanted attention from fellow students.  Then again, they might have just been staring at Kayla trotting along in her short denim skirt and white tank top, her heeled boots clicking.  "He must be really good if he has his own art show."

"He just said he was in the show, Kayla.  It's not actually all his."  I was getting tired of her incessant chattering.  I didn't care about her dumb Yalie crush, who was at least two or three important years older than she.

"Still," she insisted, yanking her backpack up higher on her shoulder.  "He's gotta be pretty good.  I felt bad I didn't actually know much about art, but I think he was impressed at my knowledge."

"Picasso and Michelangelo are probably the only artists you know," I said, pushing my short plain dirty blonde hair behind my ear and trying to walk more lightly so as to cease the squeaking a bit.  Between the both of us, we sounded like CLICK CLICK SQUEAK SQUEAK CLICK SQUEAK.

"Don't be jealous, Eva," Kayla said, and I could tell she really was sincere.  She flipped her dark curls over her shoulder before walking into her chemistry class, leaving me squeaking by myself.

Saturday afternoon, Kayla's car slowly rolled into my driveway.  It was a silver Cadillac, the type old men drive.  Kayla's great-uncle had died and left it to her in his will.

When I opened the door and slid into the passenger seat, Kayla said, "This is so fun!"  She was wearing slightly loose faded jeans, an oversized Bohemian brown frilly top, orange flip-flops, and about ten bangles on each wrist. She was wearing a darker lipstick than usual and more eyeliner, too.  What really completed the artsy Yalie look she was going for was that she had specks of different colored paint randomly all over her clothes, arms, and feet.

"What did you do, take some paint and flick it on yourself with a paintbrush?" I asked.

"Noo," she said, as if I was being silly. "I've been trying out some artwork."


"Yeah. I figure I need to know what it's like to really be an artist in order to understand other people's work."

When we finally got to the exhibit after Kayla insisted on listening to a band called Neutral Milk Hotel—who had songs titled The King of Carrot Flowers Parts 1, 2, and 3, Communist Daughter, and Two-Headed Boy—I was feeling even less ready to see the Yalie again.  I also felt terribly pathetic and out of place in my flairs and blue Abercrombie shirt. 

The building was small, simple, and rundown, like all the other buildings in this area of downtown New Haven.  The door didn't have a knob or anything like that; it was just a large board.  The two small windows were painted black, and when Kayla and I walked inside, I could see that all the walls inside were painted black as well.  The first painting I saw was of a naked, shriveled man with a bloody cut on his chest. Kayla really owed me.

There were about ten or fifteen people circulating the room, staring at each art piece intently.  They were decked out in all sorts of unique clothing—punk, Bohemian, sweats, Goth—and many had piercings and were smoking. 

"He-ey," an older woman with a nose ring said to me.  She was sitting in a chair by what I assumed was her artwork.

"Hi," I squeaked out meekly.

Gideon was talking with a guy wearing a similar outfit to him, which were dark brown corduroys and a slightly tight shirt (that is, compared to the boys at my school who wore clothing three sizes too big for them) that said "Big Joe's Fish Shack."

He looked surprised to see us, and waved us over.  Kayla beamed and shuffled over to the other side of the room, me following her simply because I was afraid to leave her side.  How did I let her get me into this? Ever since Kayla and I had become friends freshman year, she'd been pulling me into doing stuff I didn't want to do. 

I remembered so perfectly the day we'd met.  We were at Camp Cedarcrest for an overnight freshman orientation.  Kayla was one of the three other girls in my cabin.  She asked me to walk with her to the bathrooms that were all the way across the field.  After she'd gone to the bathroom, she decided she wanted to go for a walk in the woods.  It was around midnight and pitch black.  I definitely did not feel like going for a walk, but Kayla insisted it would be fun, and of course I went with her. 

We ended up getting lost and not finding our way back until four in the morning.  And it rained the whole time we were lost.  You'd think after that I'd be smart enough to not hang out with Kayla, but despite the bad things, we actually sort of had fun in the woods that night.  We talked and realized we had some things in common, like how we both loved Matt Damon, banana muffins, and cats.

"I'm glad you could come," Gideon said. 

"Is this your art?" Kayla asked. 


The wall Gideon was standing by had paintings and pencil sketches of people.  They all looked a little dismal, with large tortured eyes and bones protruding from their emaciated bodies.  There were also some photos of places in New Haven, including the coffeehouse we'd met him in. 

"Hi, Eva," I heard someone say behind me.  I turned around slowly, and saw a boy about my age, smiling a little.  He had skin like light powdered chocolate and his eyes were hazel.  His hair was gelled up a little and he wore regular teen clothes—dark jeans and a forest green T-shirt.  I stared blankly.  He looked sort of familiar.  Did I know him?

"Oh, sorry. I guess you don't remember me," he said.  "I'm Andres.  I was in your Algebra 2 class last year."

"Oh. Yeah. Hi."  Andres didn't really seem like the type to come to this art show.  Behind us, Kayla and Gideon were chatting away.  I focused on one of Gideon's sketches.  It was of the local homeless flower lady.  In the picture she was standing at the curb, holding five wrapped flowers, her eyes distant.

"So are you an artist or something?" Andres asked.

"Oh. Uh, I'm here with my friend."  A man with about ten tattoos on each arm bumped into me.  He grunted and moved on.  "We sorta know someone with art here."

"I didn't really know what was going to be here," Andres said, looking around.  He had really nice eyes, but he seemed sort of lost at the moment.  It was like he was just drifting by, before doing something more important.  He lowered his voice, "It's not really my type of art, though."

"Yeah," I said, as if I knew everything about him.  I noticed one of his shoes was untied.

"Isn't that awesome, Eva?" Kayla asked me loudly, jolting me back to her world of Yalies, wannabe artists, and excessive make-up.