The Ice Girl, Redux

It’s February. Which is another way of saying that it is brutally, unreasonably cold. In fact, it’s so cold that I’m perpetually obsessed with how cold it is.

In Drawing, Dill lets me wear his fingerless gloves. They’re too big and make me feel like an imaginary creature with very small hands. Which I like, because every imaginary thing is more fun than actual reality. Especially in winter.

He leans his elbows on our table and says, so casually it sounds fake, “Hey, me and Greg and Vee are going to a movie tonight. You want to come?”

And when I look back at him too long, it’s because I’m considering all the things I like best—the blue of his eyes, the width of his shoulders, how he never talks down to me, never treats me like I’m stupid. He drew my picture like I was a doll-version of myself, but so what? He’s interesting and fun. Handsome. Dependable. (Actual, when everyone else is just hypothetical.)

“Sure,” I say, wiggling the gloves so they flop like puppets.

“Cool. I’ll pick you up.”

We’re in the middle of the Self-Portrait unit and everyone has mirrors, but mine is broken into jagged shards. Every day, I arrange the pieces in order on the tabletop, matching them up to a map of pencil marks. It’s easier to think of my face as a series of individual features. Mouth, cheek, forehead. One dark, furtive eye. I don’t know why I decided to do it this way except that otherwise, everything starts to seem too complicated.

I don’t even ask what movie we’re seeing.

“Are you crazy?” said Catherine after lunch. “The last thing you need is to start dating him again. And anyway—” She cut her eyes significantly at Jane.

“What do I care?” Jane said.

“I’m not dating him,” I said. “It’s just a movie.”

“Yeah, and then another one and then—oh, great.” Catherine rolled her eyes grandly. “Now here’s your other helpless victim.”

Brody had broken off from his friends and was heading straight for us. He looked like several adjectives, but helpless wasn’t one of them.

“You want this?” he asked, coming in very close and grabbing his crotch.

I stood looking up at him. Sometimes, at the strangest moments, I can tell that my expression is inscrutable.

He lifted his shirt and pulled a Coke out of the gap behind his belt buckle. “It’s still cold. So, you want it?”

“Maybe,” I said, tilting my head. “It hasn’t got cooties on it or anything, does it?”

He cracked the can open, took a drink and handed it to me. “Now it does.”

I smiled at him, sly, coy, demure, pick-a-word. It was easy. He kissed me lightly on the forehead and walked away.

Jane gave me a dubious look, but didn’t comment.

Catherine said it was disgusting. She said it was repulsive. She said he wants to have sex with me. But I don’t even know what combination of those things is true.

“You’re not going to drink that, are you?” she said as we watched him go. “It’s contaminated.”

I just shrugged. It seemed a shame to waste it. He was right, it was still cold.

Passing over the wisdom of drinking from the same can as someone who makes out with a lot of girls, we need to address a more serious concern. (Even more serious, I mean.)

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There’s this boy in my drawing class.

I mean, there are lots of boys in my drawing class. But I’m talking about one particular boy. He’s younger than me, a sophomore with long floppy George-McFly bangs and a black trench coat. I know him from our bus-route, mostly because he’s incredibly loud in the mornings, when everyone else is being quiet.

He’s dramatic, frantic, kinetic, profane—all knees and elbows and shoulder blades. He drops F-bombs like they are a type of exotic punctuation mark. He talks in class constantly, blurting out wild, impossible proclamations and then clapping his hands over his mouth like that will force the words back in where they belong.

Every day in drawing, our teacher stands over his desk, sighing, looking down at his various projects. She says things like:

“Wit, this is unacceptable. I thought we agreed that if I let you take it home, you’d have it done by today. What happened?”

“My stepbrother poured milk all over it.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t leave your projects out where accidents can happen.”

“Did I say he knocked something over? I said, he poured milk on it. Why does no one ever believe me? God!”

Right now, I’m going to just skip the narrative mess and tell you the last part first, because sometimes it’s the endpoint that matters most. So I’ll come right out and say it: in the months that follow, Wit will become the best friend I’ve ever had. He will be the person I didn’t know I needed—funnier than Jane, more outspoken than Catherine, more honest than almost anyone. He will be the first person I actually enjoy talking to on the phone. He will be that friend you have no idea how you ever got along without.

On the afternoon I actually meet him, Catherine and I are sitting in the cafeteria, reading her copy of Julius Caesar to each other. It’s my off-hour, and she’s skipped her social studies class to hang out with me, so I’m helping her with her English homework.

On the other side of the cafeteria,Wit is flapping around in his trench coat. He’s alone, climbing up onto one of the chairs and jumping off again.

Catherine grins. “Hey, let’s go talk to him. You want to?”

“But we don’t know him.”

“So? It’s not like he’s scary. I mean yeah, he’s weird, but it’s cute.”


“No, not like that. I just mean, you know, cute. Come on.”

I’ll be honest—I kind of expect that Catherine will do most of the talking. But Wit seems to have a weirdly silencing effect on her. He immediately makes it his business to entertain us, pacing in a circle, periodically raking a hand through his hair. He’s erratic, floppy like a puppet, jerking to life suddenly, waving his arms and tripping over his own feet. He tells us a very bizarre story involving Marilyn Manson, a gas station attendant, and an electric train.

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In the morning, I get ready for school.

I brush my hair and do my Spanish homework and put on my makeup, but the whole time, I’m thinking about what happened to Gatsby. I want to understand the situation (the circumstances), but I can’t seem to get it figured out, so I stop trying.

This is actually easier than you’d think. I have a lot of practice at ignoring anything about school that I find upsetting. All year, I’ve been entertaining myself by pretending things, like the door to the math wing is really a portal to Hell, or time has stopped and if I can draw three perfectly round circles, it will start again.

Mostly though, I pretend to be someone else. Not like wittier or more confident or cooler, but someone else like Morticia Addams or Joan of Arc or Marilyn Monroe. I pretend to be Tinkerbell. I pretend to be Alice in Wonderland, because if this is Wonderland, then it doesn’t even matter that nothing makes sense.

I go to school as Queen Elizabeth I, because maybe her natural complexion is buried under an inch of foundation, but at least she knows how to run a country.

Later, things will sort-of/kind-of be okay. Gatsby will show up to US History—the scrapes on his face scabbing over, his bad arm strapped against his chest. He’ll smile around the room and joke about this being the only time he’s ever been arrested that resulted in him not being punished, either by the court system or his dad.

He’ll grin and say, “I guess that’s the big secret. I just have to stand there and get my ass beat.”

The morning is for worrying though, and wondering. It’s for impeccable deportment and Queen Elizabeth.

In art, I sit across from TS and Brody. The semester is almost over, and we’re working on our final sculpture assignment, chipping tiny pieces off blocks of plaster and sanding down the edges. Everything is dusty and the fact that my chisel is held together by duct tape is ruining my sense of monarchical dignity. I don’t like how the plaster dries out my hands.

I don’t like that something mysterious has taken place and I don’t have answers, but TS proves to be is an invaluable source of information. She was smoking in the back parking lot when it happened and saw the whole thing.

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The Good Girl

Junior year is something flashy and fascinating and altogether new. Worlds better than I could have expected.

By now, it’s solidly autumn, and even though I don’t like November, and school is confusing and Dill has effectively deserted me for Jane, I’m having a surprisingly good time.

My schedule is a mix of easy subjects and hard ones, and I have at least one art class every quarter. Each morning, I shuffle sleepily into the art wing to sit across from TS and draw charcoal still-lifes or make sculptures out of clay.

TS is wry and clever and easy-going. She’s the girl I wish I could be. She never gets mad or takes anything too seriously, and she’s kind and funny and sarcastic. She has this hilarious, hardboiled way of talking, like nothing matters and at the same time, like everything matters. She makes even the simplest things seem grim and monumental. She lives life like a noir detective.

At the beginning of sophomore year, we were sort-of/kind-of friends, but I haven’t had a class with her since then and I’ve missed her. Last fall, she was soft-spoken and shy—almost as shy as me—but now she talks easily, reaching across the table to smear glitter on my eyelids or providing a running commentary on X-acto knife safety, and her hair is a bright, outrageous color called “Enchanted Forest.” She hangs out at her older brother’s house parties and smokes behind the school during passing periods.

We laugh a lot and talk about art and music and sociology. She shares her headphones with me and quotes Clerks and Mallrats and My So-Called Life.

She’ll peer into my face sometimes, with a false, doe-eyed earnestness and say, “Why are you like this?”

I always look back at her, shaking my head. “Like what?”

She leans in across the table, so serious. Close to tragic. “Like how you are.”*

I know she’s only saying it to be ironic, but sometimes I think about it anyway. Why am I like this?

But maybe the more pertinent question is, what am I like?

When I picture myself in my head, I’m still the awkward, antisocial girl of last year. The one with hunched shoulders and shaggy bangs, pathologically incapable of having a conversation with anyone she doesn’t already know.

I keep forgetting that’s not me anymore. Intellectually, I understand that I’ve changed, but I don’t know exactly what I’ve changed into.

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