Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Character Sketch: B.

is painfully beautiful.
Hair like crimson waves down her back and eyes so blue everyone always thinks, "Purple." She often felt she was going to cry and didn't know why. So she said to the man on the barstool next to her, "Take me home and leave me there." B. tripped up his steps and he weaved his fingers through her mess of curls and she felt the need to stare out his window.

She lives in New York, NY--the city that never shuts up. At two o'clock in the afternoon, the street sweeper reminds her of a cyclone. With underwear in her back pocket, a bum on the F train says, "Youth is beauty, beauty is beauty, beauty is pain."
B. has the same dream every night. A phoenix unable to rise above the flames and her father eating salmon in a river bed. Then she wakes up with a cat on her face and B. says, "I'm happy you're home." The cat blinks. Her neighbor downstairs plays the piano. Sometimes B. imagines a little boy learning his scales, other times an old lady losing her sight. She dances to the tune and every time a key clanks abruptly B. smiles with one knee bent and one hand toward the sky. She used to wear tutus as a little girl, pink like swollen gums or cotton candy. She wanted to dance forever--one day on Broadway--but she fell off her bike at twelve and broke her foot. Her mother cried more than she. Her mother packed up all her blue ribbons and ballet shoes and B. never wanted to look for them.
Now, B. works at a gallery in SOHO and conceptual art makes her pull her hair out, one strand at a time. There is a pile of curls on her desk and she wonders how she has any left on her head. One day, a man spread sand in the corner and put little plastic castles down in neat rows. He hung seagulls from the ceiling with colored yarn. And he glued shells to the walls, then neon-glow spray-painted them, frantically until his nose ran with orange and blue snot. She stood from her chair as he poured colored carbonated water in a cardboard box marked with red "fragile" letters. B. remembered the word, "Whoa" but it came out, "Who-ah" and he laughed a cricked laugh--teeth jutting out like broken glass.
She felt like she'd been shot, if only she knew how that felt. B. could imagine that it felt the same way she imagined what poison would taste like. B. could imagine that it felt the same way she imagined dialing a phone without knowing the number. So she pulled another strand out, then another, and another. The artist shuffled over, his shoes scratching sand on the lime tiles. He picked up her hair and said, "My jellyfish." And she said, "Yes." And he said, "My mind has been numb with sea foam for years." And she said, "I'll trade you highways of thoughts and regrets." And he said, "Here take my crab exoskeletons."
B. laughed her way to the bathroom then cried in the stall until the space between her heart and rib cage felt like fire. She crushed the crabs under her bare feet and left them under separated squares of toilet paper. B. went home to dance with her cat.


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