Death of a Little Girl

I craved a cigarette.  Knowing I could not very well be caught smoking around the house, I told my mother in the kitchen soaking herbs that I was going for a walk.  She didn't say anything; all her attention was on the falsetto Mandarin voices on the latest radio dramas.  She didn't even understand Mandarin.  The seductive whisperings of the lead male character followed me as I went outside, filling the street with his melodramatic pleas for love, voice rising and stopping just as quickly as I slammed the door shut. 

            All roads led to the Park.  The neighborhood was tiny, filled with people who chose not to affiliate with each other unless it was for the purpose of gossip or barbeques.  Seeing sweet, giggly Rebecca, whom her parents named 'light greater than dawn' in their own language, lighting up a DuMaurier would bring both.  But few adults dared venture into the Park, where the music pounded heavy vibrations into the dirt and basketball games and fistfights went hand-in-hand like a teenaged couple.  It was here that I had my first kiss, my first cigarette, and my first beer as puberty hit me smack on the head.  Yuck. 

            I didn't even like it here. I hated to be reminded of my past but this was the only place where privacy was assured.  I walked towards the swings, circled with cigarette butts, expecting them to be vacated of children as always.  Nobody but hoodlums came here, well, hoodlums and unfortunates like me who can't drive.   But tonight, someone else was there. 

            I almost didn't recognize her and she certainly didn't recognize me.  She sat there with her small, glasses-framed eyes cast down, untried hair long and waist length like a princess of Ming.  Her overly stylish Le Chateau shirt was threatening to get caught in the eyes of the chains. Her skin was porcelain still; she hadn't discovered the joys of surfing in the summer and boarding in the winter.  I knew that she was 13, lucky 13.

            She didn't even acknowledge me as I sat down in the swings next to her.  I offered her a cigarette, a gesture of friendship.  She refused, saying it was bad for her.  Things had changed a lot.   

"Where are you from?"  I asked, still trying to be friendly and ease her apparent loneliness. 

            "Depends on what kind of answer you want," she said, immediately taking offense.  She was still sensitive towards her ethnicity and longed for translucent skin and blue eyes.  Brat.  A year from now, her skin would tan like a peasant during a trip to Paris where she would learn to accept herself.

            "I meant what school are you from." 

            She looked down at her faux-fur lined shirt.  She didn't like it but she had brought it anyways.  Her friends said it suited her.  "It doesn't matter." 

            "You don't like it there very much, huh?  It's okay, I didn't like my grade school either."

            "How did you know;;;l;lut …"

            I didn't know how to answer without offending her again.  Three years from now, she would be able to tell the difference, too.  "You don't like your school."  I repeated.

            "No, I like it.  I like the parties there. I like the people there."  She paused for a few seconds and looked me up and down.  "The people in my school are rich."

            Ouch.  Yes, things did change a lot.  Most people would be able to tell that my 'vintage' shirt had lived out its first life as designer's men wear and my pants were bought from the local boutique on sale.  Lacking in perception, my clothes embarrassed her.

I wanted to ask her about her friends.  Was Emily talking behind her back again?  Are you still pining for Marc with a 'C'? Darling, how does it feel to go to romantic movies alone just to feel loved?  Instead, I smiled at her, my face changing expressions suddenly like the masked actors in the Chinese opera I saw a year ago.  She would not understand: it was two years before she would see it. 

            My smile disturbed her; she was not used to simple gestures.  Even now, she refused to meet my gaze, still afraid of her heart's intent, still afraid of mine.  I was the older, attractive woman who seduced and bedded her.  Two years ago, she had found that her best friend was homosexual after seven years of knowing him; two years from now, she would stop questioning herself.

            "I will be graduating this year."  The thought had been resonating in her mind but this was the first she spoke of it.  I supposed that this was the only thing impressive enough in her life to be mentioned to me.

            "Really?  What school are you going to?"

            There was a hint of uneasiness in her gestures.  I still hadn't seen the brown of her eyes and I was starting to miss them. 

            "Unionville, the freak school.  I found out I got accepted today."

            Freak school, huh?  When I first received the acceptance letter, I was so relieved that I didn't have to go to high school with everybody else.

            "Really?  It's a nice school."  I suddenly couldn't help but smirk.  "I go there."

            I could feel her image of me changing.  Her fingers, still chubby from lack of work and practice, traced invisible pictures on her lap.  Eyes, eyes as always. 

            "I don't want to go."

            "Why not?"  I pressed.  Why not when she didn't have any attachments?  She held no obligations to those she hated.  For some reason I couldn't remember what her friends told her about Unionville, though I was sure it wasn't positive.  Couldn't she see they would grow to be jealous of what she would become?

            "I'll miss my friends." 

            "You will make new ones."

            "I don't want to… not with those people.  I heard they were all low-class losers."

            I raised an eyebrow; I hadn't heard that phrase for a while.  My mind seemed to be unable to recall it during the last three years although that very phrase had been used against me so many times.  Once again, she was trying to defend herself by offending me.

"Where did you hear that from?"

            "My friends." 

            Her friends again?  Should I ask her how loosely she was using that word or just smile and believe her dreams with her?  In September, three years past, I had learned what true friendship and loyalty meant; she still had to wait a couple of months.

            "It's not as bad as you think.  You will meet some good people."

            She said nothing.   Thirteen years old and already she thought she can take on the world.  She did not know that empresses were nothing without legions of girl friends armed with work shirts, guitars and lipstick, but then she had not discovered feminism and androgyny either.

            The hands of my watch edged to nine o'clock and I knew it was time for her to go.  She was reluctant to leave.  She had little to return to but the sound of her mother's soap operas and the ringing of the phone when her friends wanted to go shopping.  Did she feel that her life was worthless?  Nine months from now, one of her ex-boyfriends would successfully commit suicide in front of sixty other people but not her.  She would stop thinking only for herself and return to this spot to mourn, placing three upturned burning cigarettes in the sand like sticks of incense.

            "I have to go."  She said, look directly at me for the first time.  Her eyes were a darker brown than I'd expected.

            I shrugged.  She meant little to me except a method to pass time.  I liked her as little as I liked myself.

            "I come here a lot… I like it here."

            I smiled: she was lying again.  "Yeah, me too."  We both came here to be alone.

            She got up.  "Nice to meet you."

            She didn't give me her name and I didn't give her mine.  Already, she had learned to walk away from relationships without regret.  If only she learned to dispel of her snobbery just as quickly.  I nodded goodbye to her and watched as her figure walked away and turn into a ghost of the night. 

            I still had a good three hours to kill before I needed to be back home but I started walking home anyways.  The air was becoming too cold for my comfort and the music was turning into a drone in my ear. 

As I walked up on my driveway, I realized that I had not had a single cigarette.  I had no reason to.

I've seen all the pictures; I've studied them forever.  I wanna make a movie, so let's star in it together.  Don't make a move until I say 'action'.  -Pulp