Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Here's my homework for tomorrow's writing class. Here's what we were told:
Your assignment this week is to write about a secret.
It can be an important secret or a seemingly small secret. It can be kept for a good reason or an evil reason or a silly reason or an "I am ashamed" reason.
Focus on writing the first scene of the story in a cinematic style--using dialogue and visual details (other sensory details are great, too), so that we can really SEE the scene. In this scene, one of the characters has a secret that he or she is not revealing.
You may simply bring this first scene, or you may continue with the story--following it wherever it takes you as a writer--perhaps to the moment when the secret is revealed to the reader, perhaps to the moment it is revealed to the other characters, or perhaps to some other outcome.
“Boys have so many sperm I feel sorry for them,” my mom tells us. We’re in the backseat and the “way back” of her orange 1976 Plymouth Volare station wagon. It has wood panels, too, but the panels are not actually wood. The car is pretty new and already I can tell those wood panels are really just contact paper.
My cousin Julie took the bus all the way from Portland to Prineville so she could be with me on my thirteenth birthday. My really good friends, Gail and Julie, are here too. So there are two Julies, but that’s not as confusing for me as it is for them. When Gail or I say, “Julie!” they both turn around. Mom is driving all four of us over to Kah-Nee-Tah for the weekend. It’s about an hour away. My brother Mike is staying with a friend, and we don’t live with Dad anymore, so it’s just us girls.
Mom’s talking about sex. I guess she thinks now that we’re all turning thirteen, that we need to know about these things. Mom doesn’t know that I have a book that’s going to teach all of us much more about sex than she could ever even know about. It’s called FOREVER and you have to be thirteen to even check it out from the Prineville library. I know because I tried to check it out when I was twelve, but the librarian wouldn’t let me. “How old are you?” she said. She looked like she was really old, like 50.
“I’m twelve,” I said, “I’ve read all of Judy Blume’s books, I’m sure I can handle this one.” I took my hands out of my pockets of my poncho and stood up as straight and tall as I could so I’d look very mature for my age. Too bad I had worn my hair in two braids that I looped back around to make two circles like the Swiss Miss girl. That probably didn’t help me look sophisticated, but it was a cute look, everyone said so.
“Sorry,” the old lady said, “you have to be thirteen to check out this book.” She scooted back in her rolling chair and swiveled right away from me. “Case close” her back told me. “Case close,” was not going to work for me. So, when I turned thirteen, on my actual birthday, February 14, 1976, I rode my bike to the library after school, and just marched myself right back up to that old lady and said, “Today is my thirteenth birthday, and I am here to check out FOREVER.”
This time she let me hand her my library card and I signed my name in the back of the book. Maybe it was because I’d remembered to wear my hair straight down and parted in the middle. Plus, I had some Bonnie Bell strawberry Lip Smacker on, and that couldn’t have hurt, either. She stamped the due date: February 28, 1976, and that was it. I had two weeks to linger over all the things Judy Blume was going to tell me.
I told Julie, Gail and Julie the plan. We’d sleep in the living room and Mom would sleep in the bedroom of the unit we’d rented, and as soon as she was asleep we’d get out FOREVER and read it out loud to each other. Not that Mom would care if we were talking about sex, she would probably be happy, it’s like she was obsessed or something. But still, it’s very weird to read that stuff in front of your mom, no matter how cool she is.
I think the reason Mom talks about sex all the time is that her mom never talked about it with her. Not one single time. Zero. My mom just had to figure it all out on her own and she doesn’t want that to happen to me. It doesn’t really matter how much I know about sex, because I’m not planning on having it until I’m married. Mom might not be Baptist anymore, she’s Episcopalian now, and so are Mike and me, and although I’ve never heard Father Ted actually say it’s wrong to have sex, I’m pretty sure it is. I am going to make Grandma really proud of me, and wait until the wedding night.
“Do you girls have any questions?” Mom asks from the front seat. Nobody said a peep. We weren’t going to ask Mom the questions, we had Judy Blume for that.
Later that night after Mom was asleep, my friend Julie pulled me into the bathroom. Cousin Julie and Gail were taking turns reading FOREVER in the living room. “I have a question I want you to ask your mom, but don’t tell her I asked it, just ask it like you’re curious, not like it’s a real question, okay?”
“Okay, “ I said, looking down at my Lanz nightgown.
Julie was wearing a really pretty long nightgown - pink flowers on yellow fabric. Her parents were pretty strict about what she wore to school. Julie is Mormon. I’d actually gone to a youth group with her one time, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Plus, I think Grandma would flip out if she knew I’d even tempted Satan by going to something the Mormons were doing. Even though they said they were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all good Christians knew that was a crock.
“Ask your mom if you have sex before you get your period for the first time, if when you do get your period, you can get pregnant. Ask her that.”