Read My Not-So-Still Life Online

Authors: Liz Gallagher

My Not-So-Still Life (6 page)

BOOK: My Not-So-Still Life
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For me, there are two problems with that kind of art: One, you can get in a lot of trouble. Jason Sprinkle was arrested.

Two, you need a big statement to make.

I realize that I have no statement. I might look like I do, and I might be able to squeak out art projects that impress the high school world, but really. What is my statement? It can’t just be that being different—being a freak, even—is okay. Too easy.

I can’t stop thinking about those blackbirds. All I really want is a symbol that will make people feel something, the way those birds did to me.

So I search again.
Seattle. Graffiti. Spray paint. Tagging

Wow. I find lots of images. So much color. So big. How come I’ve never noticed this part of my city?

I feel myself speeding up, like I’ve found a way to go beyond high school and my same old life. A way to make other people stop and feel something. I sit very still because it’s like my insides and my brain are moving too fast for my body to keep up. This is something new.

My boot still life comes back to mind, and I realize that the blackbirds are still too. But they are so much more than lines on paper. Those birds are absolutely free. They don’t need to move to be moving.

Who cares about the spring art show when there’s this?

Mr. Smith comes up behind me and says, “Stick around after class.”
I’ll get to be late for gym, and I’d rather hang out with him than with most people.

For about two seconds, I’m worried that he looked over my shoulder when I was on the computer and is about to lecture me about respecting property. He doesn’t need to worry about that. I’m not planning to tag buildings. Just, I feel like I really want to use spray paint somehow.

But that’s not what he wants to talk about.

He hands me this application. “Here—a job teaching art at the summer program at the elementary school. You’d be a great influence on these kids. And it’s a paying gig. They’re interviewing over spring break, and doing a few training sessions before school gets out.”

“Well, thanks for thinking of me,” I say, “but I already have a job. At Palette? The art shop?”

“Great place,” he says. “That sounds like a good spot for you. But take the application anyway, just in case. Make an old teacher guy feel like he tried his best.”

I take the paper and shove it into the bottom of my messenger bag as soon as I’m in the hallway.

The recon on Wilson is easy. Nick takes care of it during gym class on Wednesday. Apparently, locker-room talk is powerful stuff, and Nick gets lucky enough to hear Wilson defend the honor of some football player’s girlfriend when said football player (not Mike Corrigan, but they’re all the same) is bragging about his escapade.

Nick tells me at lunch that Wilson actually stepped in
and said, “Don’t be a jackass.” The guy, of course, mocked Wilson for being too much of a pussy to get any.

Then Wilson said, “If I had a girlfriend, I’d treat her with respect. Why is that so hard?” Nick says, “Wilson’s too good to be true.”

He’s perfect for Holly. And her mom might actually approve of him.

I follow him to his locker after lunch.

After school on Wednesday, I get down to the second stage of Operation Wilson.

This is a special project, so it requires special materials.

I have an old wooden jewelry box; it’s filled with my mom’s unworn necklaces, earrings, pins, and rings. She has no use for them at the docks. Or on the couch.

The box has been in my room since I was born.

I dig out my beading and jewelry supply box.

I sit on my bed and find what I’m looking for. The little locket.

It’s rose gold with swirly etchings.

No picture inside the locket. That’s for Holly to do later.

The locket on its own is absolutely gorgeous but not quite sparkly enough.

I take it off its simple chain and set about making a new one. If I were doing this for myself, I’d choose deep pinks and oranges and blacks—colors of fire and shock. But for
Holly, I search through the beads and find the bag of tiny faceted crystals with the faintest purple tinge. Her end of the spectrum—pretty, but not showy. Perfect for one of her performances. I was going to make her a birthday necklace out of these beads last year but never got around to it. Perhaps fate wanted me to wait for Operation Wilson.

I cut a length of fishing wire and weave an intricate pattern. One bead after another, I make wishes for Holly.
For luck. For happiness. For beautiful music
. I imbue the necklace with good luck.

Later that night, Holly calls. “Are you still coming to the concert on Friday?”

“Absolutely. Looking forward to it. I know how much you’ve been practicing.”

“Yeah. I have to. It’s the best orchestra I play with. And I have a solo.”

“I know, I know! You’ll be brilliant.”

“Back to work,” she says.

I’m back to my own work, chewing the end of my purple pen.

Thursday morning, after Nick heads off to his homeroom, I turn toward Wilson’s locker. Number 862. I’ll be late for homeroom, but it’s essential that no one see me.

I linger by the water fountain until everyone’s gone. The late bell rings as I dig in my messenger bag for the letter.

I wrote it out by hand, very retro, wishing I had an inkpot and a quill. That’s what Holly would want, if she were really writing letters to Wilson.

I made the envelope out of photos of outdoor scenes—all green grass and blue sky. First I collaged. Then I folded. The letter is written on plain white paper of a good stock, stuff I had for sketching. Nice. Very Holly.

I slide the note through the slots in locker number 862, my hands shaking just the tiniest bit, my heartbeat speeding up. It’s like looking at art.

There’s no way the Guerrilla Girls have this much fun fighting for women’s rights.

I went for simplicity.

I’ve noticed you. I hope you’ve noticed me too. We’ll soon find out

Look for me

I’ll be wearing a gold locket, and smiling at you

Mom, Grampie, and I order pizza on Thursday night.

Grampie asks, “What are you up to this weekend?”

“Going to Holly’s concert on Friday, and then you know I’m starting my job on Saturday.”

Grampie says, “I’ve got a poker game on Friday.” His old buddies from the docks.

“No special plans for me,” Mom says.

“Come to Holly’s concert tomorrow. It’s her big Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra concert at Benaroya Hall. She has a solo! I’m sure she can get tickets for both of us.”

Mom picks up her pizza slice. “That does sound special.”

“Mother-daughter night,” I say. “Let’s do it.” She smiles.

I nod. “We’ll need to leave by six-thirty.”

“I’ll be ready. Can’t wait.”

Neither can I. Operation Wilson will be in full swing.


I’m wearing a black T-shirt dress
to the concert, simple makeup, pink fishnets, and my Doc boots. Nothing too wild, as I’ll be with my mom and it’s at the symphony hall. I don’t want to freak out whatever spirits of classical musicians might be hanging around.

I decide to paint my nails silver.

Once my nails are dry, I toss a skinny-tipped Sharpie in my messenger bag so that I can decorate them later.

Mom and I take the bus because it’s easier than parking downtown. We show up early so we can catch Holly
before she goes to warm up. She needs to give us the tickets.

Mom’s wearing her one and only skirt, which she bought for a wedding in 2006. It’s black, and it pretty much just hangs on her, down to the middles of her knees. She’s paired it with a white button-down shirt from the same era.

We’re meeting Holly by the stage door of Benaroya Hall. As we walk from the bus stop, I pull the necklace from my messenger bag, unwrapped. “A gift for Holly.”

“That’s lovely,” she says. I hand it to her for a closer look. “Is this my locket?”

“I didn’t think you’d mind. It’s not like you’re using it. You never—” I almost say
You never wear anything pretty
. “You never dress up.”

She closes her eyes for this long second, and says, “Next time, ask.”

Mom hands the necklace back just as Holly and her parents walk up, Holly wheeling her cello. Holly’s in perfect-fitting, elegant black trousers, a black tank, and a knit shrug. Hair twisted into a fishtail braid at the side. She looks just right for the stage. Mr. Warner is wearing a suit, and Mrs. Warner is in a tailored navy dress; next to her, my mom looks young and unsophisticated.

The Warners shake Mom’s hand, say nice to see you again, while Holly props her cello against the door; then she and I hug. Everyone is watching as I hold up the necklace.

“I love it!” she says. “Thank you! The perfect good-luck charm.”

You have no idea how lucky, I think as she fastens it on.

The concert is glorious. I don’t actually know what’s what when it comes to orchestral performances or classical music, but I can tell this is awesome. The music swells and quiets and travels around the concert hall. It strikes me that music is this thing you can’t see at all but you can sense in your bones. It’s absolutely there, even if it’s just made of sound.

And somehow, when music gets in your bones, it makes you wonder about things. I tear up at one point, imagining what it would be like if Jewel were with me right now, sitting with me and my mom. I have to bite my lip to keep from crying because I’m wishing so hard. I can feel his absence to the left of me, where a stranger sits, maybe even more than I’d feel him if he were there.

At another crescendo, I think about Grampie and how he’s been looking so much older. I feel his absence too, even though I’ll see him later.

I snap out of it when Holly does her solo. The spotlight shines on her hair, her eyes are closed, her face is completely calm. Holly was born for this moment. Now I do cry.

I wipe my tears. She’s such a star. Everyone in this giant hall is riveted.

Lucky Wilson. Soon he’ll know she likes him. And then he’ll know he can ask her out. It won’t matter who wrote the letter once he realizes that Holly is meant for him.

Holly’s mom and dad look so proud. As we all stand, clapping, I see Mrs. Warner wipe a tear from her cheek. Some music remains in my bones, and I can’t help but wonder: What have I ever done to make my mom so proud?

Mom’s clapping wildly, even letting out a wolf whistle.

There’s a reception in the lobby under the Dale Chihuly chandelier; the one that looks like a wineglass.

The lobby is swarming, but I’m focused on one thing: Has Wilson seen the locket? Mom stands by my side as I crane my neck.

Holly shows up, and as I hug her, I look around.

I spot him standing by a table of miniature food and red punch, scarfing down tiny quiches. So, no. He hasn’t spotted the locket. No one who was just made aware of a crush would be calmly eating quiches.

Mom and Holly’s parents start to chat.

“I’m so thirsty.” I grab Holly’s arm to lead her to the punch.

It takes a little maneuvering, but I position Holly next to Wilson. He turns—my vision goes slow-motion with
anticipation—and sees the locket where it hangs so gracefully around her neck.

Holly is oblivious to the locket’s meaning, but I can tell she’s trying to act natural in his vicinity. “I didn’t think you liked fruit punch,” she says to me.

I don’t answer, because he’s staring at her, his lips in an almost-smile. “It’s you,” he says.

“Uh,” Holly responds. She’s pretty much frozen.

Maybe I should’ve let her in on the plan. This would be less awkward. But she never would’ve gone through with it. She would’ve hidden in the background forever. It’s better that she doesn’t know why he’s finally noticing her.

Wilson looks at me. “Hey, don’t you go to Gates?”

“Yeah,” I say.
Focus here, people. Focus

He turns to Holly. “Can we talk outside for a second?”

He’s playing it so cool. He must be busting.

I nod at her:
. They make their way through the crowd, and he guides her by the elbow. Good thing, because I doubt she could muster the motor skills to walk outside by herself at this moment.

I take some punch to my mom, who’s now standing alone with a plate of little spring rolls.

Mom says, “Wasn’t the concert wonderful?”

I’m really glad I invited her. We should do more stuff together, like we did when I was younger. “It was fantastic.” I pop one of Mom’s spring rolls in my mouth, watching Holly and Wilson through the tall window.

I take out the Sharpie and draw a little star on each of my pinkie nails. A tribute to Holly.

They come back through the door. They split, and he goes over to a balding man holding a violin case, who must be his dad. They head back out the huge door together.

Holly races over. She’s glowing. Just like I knew she would be.

“Oh my gosh,” she says.

“What?” Mom asks.

“Wilson asked me out!” She looks like she might take flight. I am so happy, I could fly myself.

“He’s that cute guy she was just talking to,” I tell Mom. “He goes to school with me. Nice guy.”

Mom nods. “That’s great.”

“I’m so excited,” Holly says.

I nod. She hasn’t said anything about the locket. Did he mention it? “Awesome! So, what did he say?”

“He was glad to finally talk to me! He said he’s noticed me and he thinks I’m really talented!”

“Smart guy.” Mom reaches out and touches Holly’s elbow.

“And he said he’d love to take me out for Thai food, or for burgers if I don’t like spicy stuff! Or Indian if I’m vegetarian! So sweet!” She grins. “How did I get so lucky?”

Hmm. Maybe he was embarrassed to mention the locket?

I have to tell her. If they go out and she doesn’t know about the whole secret-admirer thing, it could get really
awkward. She’ll play it too low-key, for one thing. She needs to know that he knows she’s into him and he’s glad about it.

With people swirling around us, Mom biting down on a spring roll, I just let it out. “Actually, I sent Wilson a little anonymous note for you. Just a couple of lines, like a personal Cupid.”

BOOK: My Not-So-Still Life
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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