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Authors: Constance C. Greene

Monday I Love You

BOOK: Monday I Love You
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Monday I Love You

Constance C. Greene

For Judith with Love

1

I am the most popular girl in the entire tenth grade. I am long and lean and sinuous. My hair is golden and fits my head like it was made for it. My eyes are bright Paul Newman blue and my eyelashes are fantastic. I am one of those people everyone wants to look like. People say I will go far, although in what direction no one dares hazard a guess. My mother and father are rich and powerful and smell good. Our house smells of flowers and Mr. Clean. We swim in our pool on hot nights and drink lazily from long, tall frosted glasses. We eat steak quite a lot. There isn't anything in this world I want that I don't or can't have. My sweaters are stacked neatly, according to color: stacks of red, gray, blue, yellow. You get the picture. My shoes are lined up with shoe trees inside them. Each shoe is polished to a gloss so high it'd put out your eye. My closet seethes with gorgeous garments.

My father wears fourteen-karat-gold cuff links in his French cuffs. And Gucci loafers. My father is tall and handsome, an honest investment banker with a salary in six figures. My father went to Harvard and sails his own sailboat to Bermuda anytime he wants. He also flies his own airplane and has never had an accident. My father always wanted a daughter.

My mother smiles and the world is hers. Her laugh is low and loving, and when she comes to see if I'm asleep, her hands are smooth and gentle. My mother pours tea from her heirloom silver teapot and we have plates of cucumber sandwiches all over. My mother has three fur coats and a diamond necklace, which she plans to leave me in her will. If she dies first, that is.

Lucky, you say. I can hear you saying Lucky. I wish I was her.

My life is that of a princess. Or a rock star.

Where do I go from here?

Good question.

The life above is lies. All lies. I lie a lot. Or call it making up stories. I learned how to do it from William. He was excellent at that. I sometimes think of William and wonder what happened to him—if he's still making up bigger and better stories at the drop of a hat.

If it makes me feel better, what's the harm? It's okay if it makes you feel better, right? I have a tremendous capacity for deluding myself. This sustains me in my dark hours, which are many and very dark. It's okay. The only person who might be hurt by my lies is me. Myself. I.

You have to have something to strive for in this life. You have to have goals. Something that's an impossibility. Hard work will bring you friends and riches and respectability.

Lies. All lies.

I wear a 38D bra. I'm saving up to have an operation to reduce the size of my breasts. They make fun of me on account of my huge boobs. I know it. I hear them laughing. Boys brush by me in the hall. That's so they can claim they felt my breasts. Humongous, the word goes out. And all hers, they snigger. I know that. It doesn't bother me. All those flat-chested little girls envy me.

I read in a medical magazine that if you can get a doctor to say the health of his patient depends on her having her boobs made smaller, the insurance company will pay half the cost of the operation, which is plenty. I think it's safe to say my health, my mental health, definitely depends on my having this operation.

“Look at it this way, Grace,” my friend Estelle says. “Lots of those turkeys would give their eyeteeth to have your bust.” I wish Estelle wouldn't call it a bust. I've asked her not to, but she calls it a bust anyway.

“Throw back your shoulders, Grace,” my mother says. “Stand tall. Carry yourself proudly. You have my mother's bust. Be proud of it.”

If there's a God in heaven, why did he let me wind up with my grandmother's bust?

Estelle is plump, plumper even than I am. She has little brown eyes and a Tina Turner hairdo that her mother, who is a hairdresser, blows dry for Estelle every morning. Before she goes to school. Estelle has the chicest hair of any girl in school.

I sometimes wonder. What is it that makes Estelle and me friends? Is it because she's fatter than me? If Estelle were thin, would she be my friend? If I were thin, would I pick Estelle to be my best friend?

Grace is an old-fashioned, phewey name. I hate it. My mother's name is also Grace. So is my busty grandmother's. Big Grace, middle-sized Grace and teeny tiny Grace. Right.

It's a known fact that Americans are obsessed by thinness, by facial and bodily beauty. By success. If I have my breasts cut down, and overnight shed twenty-five pounds by cutting back on fats and fries, and smile a lot, maybe they won't notice my lack of facial beauty. You have to keep telling yourself you don't care. You know that inside you're a very nice person. A good person, who is kind and caring and giving. The kind who, when somebody's short a penny at the checkout counter, hands over a penny of their own money and says, Here, you don't have to pay it back. I've done that more times than I can count. Plenty of times. Once I handed over a dime to a little runty kid with a quart of milk and a runny nose. “Here,” I said, when the checkout girl scowled and said, “You're short a dime, sonny. Cough up the right change or put it back.”

“Here,” I said again, and head down, hand out, the kid took my dime, flipped it at the girl and scuttled off. No thanks, no nothing to me, his benefactor. Even so, I felt good, knowing I'd helped. If it'd been Christmas Eve and snowing, I'd have felt even better. But it was August with the flies decorating the strips of flypaper like cloves stuck in a country ham. And even if that kid ran like a jackrabbit, the chances were the milk soured on him before he hit his front stoop.

Once my father called from Texas looking for funds. He was onto something big, he'd said. Two hundred ought to tide him over until the gusher gushed.

My mother just snorted at him away off there in Texas and said, “Trust you. The oil boom's over.” When she wants, my mother can be a big downer. She has a mean mouth on her when it suits her.

“If anyone asks, Grace,” she told me, “your father's an entrepreneur.”

“How do you spell it?” I asked, and that was the end of that.

Most of all, I would like someone to talk to. Really talk, I mean, not just move lips so words come out. Exchange thoughts and ideas. Estelle and I talk a lot, say things like “He can put his shoes under my bed anytime.” Or discuss what Sandra in
Leftover Life to Burn
should do. Sandra is known to have snuffed fertility pills like there's no tomorrow. So now she's pregnant with quintuplets. Sandra couldn't wait to have a baby, but now that there are going to be five of them, she's not so sure.

Estelle and I don't ever talk about anything really deep, stuff that matters. Mostly we talk about boys, about which neither of us knows squat. There's a boy in our class named Walter. They call him Croc, short for crocodile. He
does
sort of look like one. Estelle makes fun of him, of his looks, his clothes. He's the kind of person people make fun of. He's sort of spaced out, sort of out of things; he's quiet, and if he's in a group or something, he doesn't say a word. He hardly talks at all. Sometimes it's as if he doesn't exist; nobody eats lunch with him or walks down the hall with him. Even people who make fun of Croc don't get too much satisfaction from it, I guess, because he doesn't rise to the bait. Mostly he just slopes in and out of class, trying to make himself invisible. Once I caught him looking at me. I smiled, and he got up and walked out of the cafeteria. That got me flustered. I guess I don't know how to deal with being looked at. I told myself I should make friends with Croc. Everyone should have
one
friend, it seems to me.

I'd like someone to bare my soul to. Someone to love, someone who would cherish me. I've never been cherished. Someone who could say anything to me and to whom I could say anything back, and whatever I said would be understood and respected.

That's a lot to ask for.

2

My mother sells cosmetics door-to-door. She carries them in a stretched-out-looking suitcase studded with patches of mold. Our house is damp. Sometimes I lie in bed, and if I slit my eyes just right, the mold looks like flowers inching their way toward the ceiling. Delicate, fragrant flowers any person would be proud to have in their room.

“Here now.” My mother is fond of demonstrating her selling technique. Reaching out with one shiny red fingernail, she places a deft stroke of blusher where it'll do the most good. Once a customer invited my mother to her wedding, her third. “If it wasn't for you,” the customer said, “I'd have never landed the guy.” After my mother went out and bought a new dress, the guy bolted. Took off in the middle of the night in a souped-up Grand Prix with a bum muffler. So much for a spot of blusher where it'll do the most good. My mother carefully folded her new dress, price tag dangling conspicuously.

“One thing life's taught me, Grace,” she said sourly. “Never remove the price tag until after the main event.”

Right now the cosmetics business is in a slump, so she's helping out in Estelle's mother's salon, doing manicures and facials. The salon happens to be in Estelle's mother's kitchen, which explains why the ladies often exit with their bouffants smelling of pork chops. Estelle's mother's tried everything, every deodorant spray going, but nothing works. I suggested maybe it'd be good if they moved the salon to their basement playroom, but Estelle said her father would blow his cork. He's got his gun collection down there and a bar with flashing lights and a spigot that shoots out beer he made himself. He's not about to turn his game room into a hairdressing place, Estelle says, in one of her edgy moods.

My mother also waxes people. Gets rid of unwanted hair—on lips, armpits, thighs, stomachs even. She says you wouldn't believe the places people have unwanted hair. Once she put hot wax on a woman's mustache, and when she pulled off the cooled wax, a strip of skin came with it. The customer threatened to sue. My mother calmed her by promising her a free wax job. My father, relaxing in his recliner, said, “How about a free lube job too?” and my mother, eyes glittering, poured his newly opened can of beer down the kitchen sink, oblivious to his cries of “Hey, I was only kidding!”

BOOK: Monday I Love You
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