do i look like i’m smiling?

By Catherine Paquette

July.2.____
mother thinks i am a maniac. today i told her i was a terrorist and she said i shouldn’t talk like that. i said, “i’m going to terrorize the masses into change.” she said i needed to get a job or at least join a club or volunteer or do something. i replied that i did not get along with many people and clubs did not suit me. i know i need a job, but she doesn’t seem to realize lecturing me daily doesn’t help. she wants me to go to college one day and learn a trade, but my trade is revolution and they don’t teach you that shit in college. according to her i’m living an unreality and i need to grow up, but i’m mature for my 16 years and it’s really the big boys in suits that need to grow up. she always counters my suit argument with something like, “mind your manners mary-ellen, your father, suit and all, has worked hard to put a roof over your head and food on your plate.” i agree that he has, but i agree with myself as well. she said she didn’t understand where i came from and i told her quite simply that it was from her. she shook her head and said, “help me make dinner.” so we peeled potatoes in silence. she thinks i’m weird, but she’s just as weird. unfortunately, she’ll never understand.

j.3.____
i made this journal yesterday from scrap paper. i have bags of scraps. i keep everything-even paper bags you get at coffee shops when you order a donut to go-so that i can reuse it. my conscience is heavy. maybe it’s ocd, but i prefer to call it recycling. i write poems, drink coffee, go to the library and read. high school just ended for the term a couple of weeks ago and it feels good to get outta that cesspool for two months. i wanted to do very terrible things to the kids there. the bitterness runs deep. i get the feeling mom and dad might kick me out soon. they keep warning me to get my life in order and keep telling me that i’d better get a job. it would be nice to live on my own, move to a big city, but i gotta finish high school first. maybe i’ll search for a job next week. anyways i’m hungry. time for a grilled cheese sandwich.

j.3.____ (later)
as i was frying up my sandwich dad came into the kitchen with this weird look on his face. i was like oh shit, what’s he going to say? then he came out with, “mary-ellen are you a lesbian? i mean it’s alright if you are, but your mother and i were just wondering, you know, if you…” i laughed hysterically for maybe four seconds, then said, “well i’m not sure, but i’ll keep you posted dad.” he looked like he wanted to talk, but all i could think of to say was, “maybe i am.” he coughed, then said goodnight, that he was tired and i said okay, sleep well. by that time one side of my sandwich was black, but i ate it anyways.

j.5.____
jackson called and woke me up, asking if i wanted to go for coffee at zelda’s around noon. why he called before noon is beyond me, since he knows when i get up. i was pissed. i told him today was not a good day for me, then said i’d call him tomorrow. then i lied and said my mother needed the phone, then hung up. he needs to lay off. mom was out doing errands, probably paying the bills, visiting grandpa or something. i had the house to myself, so i blasted the radio in the living room. i had it on 97.3 fm, that hard-rock station, so it made me even madder. i hate that stupid station, but i couldn’t be bothered changing the dial, since the radio’s pretty much all crap these days. if i had the money, i’d buy a cd or something. too bad i’m broke. anyways, i was so annoyed, with the usual…society, lack of social life, my financial situation and the fact that i don’t know what i’m doing with my life, so i opted for shaving my head. i grabbed my dad’s razor and some scissors and went to town. i shaved my head just right, leaving some bangs, buzzing off the rest. it’s something i’ve always wanted to do. it looks good. mom came home a little while later and started screaming and crying when she saw me. i couldn’t believe it. i mean what the fuck? it’s not like i am a bad kid or anything-i just gave myself a haircut. well, she was telling me how i looked like hell, and that i’d never get a job looking like that. she wouldn’t even look at me. she went off, saying i didn’t smarten up, i was out. so at that point, i left, thinking i don’t have to take this crap. i was so mad i almost forgot my journal, but at the last minute i grabbed it, then took off on my bike. so here i am in this park, an hour and a half of biking later, sweating like a pig-it’s better here than getting yelled at. i don’t want to go home. i keep running my hand over my scalp. feels all prickly. maybe i’ll go to the library and read about communes. i was thinking i’d like to start a commune in about 10 years-and get out of this shithole.

j.5.____(later-in the library)
some creep, pretending to read his newspaper, has been staring at me for the last 10 minutes. he’s got a balding bowl of grey hair, oversized spectacles and he’s staring like i’m a freak or something. that’s it. i’m saying something.

/// i’m back. ahhh. that felt real good. so i walked up to the old guy, sat down beside him, and said. “excuse me?” i said it real loud and angry and ten people, including him, looked at me. all snotty, he said, “pardon me [pause] sir?” i said, “actually, it’s ma’am, but that’s beyond the point. i was just wondering if there was a problem, or if you wanted to ask me something, since you’ve been staring at me for the last 10 minutes or so. i’m having trouble enjoying my book on satan worship (i was lying about the satan part-i wanted to scare him with my biting sarcasm) since you keep staring at me. so i’ve come to ask, what do you want?” he just stared at me all flustered, so i said it louder, “what do you want?” he seemed to have lost his voice. the librarian was now looking in our direction, so i said, “well, if there’s nothing i can help you with, then i’ll go back to reading my book, hopefully this time in peace.” i smiled sarcastically, then strolled away. needless to say, he left a minute later. it’s like because i have a funky haircut, i’m going to go out and stab someone to death. i hate this city. i should go home now, and deal with mom.

j.07____
life is chaos. can’t write now. i’m screwed and at jackson’s apartment indefinitely. mom and dad hate me.

j.08.____
ALONE
destruction slides through me
like a jungled snake
distraught i slither aimlessly
a homeless renegade

(let me try again)

i sit in this room
vacant
scraped
beaten
bruised
anger burns me blind
persecuted for my difference-
in this caged corner of the world
am i

(fuck it-i’m too stressed out to write. these poems suck.)

j.9.____
my life has been chaos for the past few days. i’ve been too depressed and stressed to write. i’ve just been sleeping, riding my bike, crying and staring blankly into space. jackson’s been trying to get me back to a more stable state of mind. he’s really starting to annoy me, but at least it’s taking my mind off of things. he keeps drinking beer (as usual) and last night he tried to touch my breasts after showing me his porn collection. i was like, “jackson, no way man. you know i think i might be gay and plus, i don’t like you that way. you just want me because you’re drunk.” he didn’t say anything, then tried to get my shirt off at which point i was like, “i’m outta here if you don’t stop.” so he stopped. the thing is, he never acts like that when he’s sober. mom and dad don’t like him at all since they think i’m too young to be hanging around a 29-year-old man. thing is, he’s my only friend and he’s not like most 29 year olds. he hasn’t had a job in years. the thing i like about jackson is that he’s different-like me. he also sees the system for what it is and he’s pretty smart. we can talk about books, and art, and the bullshit of the world for hours-though sometimes he can be a real pain. but today he’s sobered up and calmed down from last night.

/// okay-so the story: on thursday, after my library confrontation, i go home, and shit hit the fan. as soon as i walked in the door, i knew there was going to be trouble. they were both sitting-stiffly i might add-on the couch and i could smell the tension. dad gasped as soon as he saw my hair, and mom clenched her jaw, trying to stay strong. gimme a break. “sit down,” said mom. “i’m beat, i think i’ll go to bed.” (i was trying to get out of it.) it didn’t work, so i took a seat. mom then started placing “things” of mine on the table. worried about my current state of mind, she’d decided to search my room for clues of my “lifestyle.” she found: half a bottle of rum, a dime bag of weed, those polaroids i’d taken a couple months ago and the hardcore erotic stories i’d written to go along with them. i was furious and mortified. (i wonder how much she read.) how dare she snoop in my room? i thought we had an agreement of respect for each other’s privacy. i was so angry i could’ve killed. we were all screaming, and crying and i can’t even remember what was said. i packed a bag and ran out. so here i am, for a while, i think, at jackson’s.

j.11____(a love letter i will not deliver…)
dani i want you. want to touch you. want to talk more about zines and poetry. want to feel your breasts and kiss you softly. let’s speak of music and rebellion. you make me want to drink coffee all day, (except i’m pretty much broke-so i’ll nurse each cup with care). i want to walk with you in the park, and laugh with you. i love the way you smile. i could love you.

/// i met this girl this afternoon at zelda’s coffeehouse. jackson and i go there sometimes. i went alone, since i needed to get away from him-he’s making me crazy. a new girl named dani was there today and we just started talking. she’s so sexy with real intense brown eyes. she must be at least six-foot. i’m only 5’6, but who cares? we talked (or rather she talked mostly and i just drooled) for at least 2 hours about her poetry and her experiences. she kept quoting allen ginsberg, then eventually gave me a zine she puts out. her stuff is so good! dani is beautiful. i think she might like me. next time i see her, i’ll ask for her phone number and maybe for a kiss (but maybe just the number).

/// i called mom today (who was relieved to hear from me). anyways, i just called to tell her i am fine. she said i could come home, but i told her i am not ready. she said maybe she, dad and i could talk. i said i’d consider it. when i hung up, i really wanted some broccoli casserole that she makes so well. i then went to jackson’s fridge and all that was in it was a couple diet cokes and some white bread. i don’t know how much longer i’m going to last here. (jackson masturbates in the mornings. i can hear him from the couch. yuck.)

j.12.____
i went to the coffeehouse today, but didn’t have any money for coffee, so i just popped in to see if dani was there. she was. i sat down beside her, but she was talking to some guy, about some real deep shit. sounded similar to the stuff she told me-ginsberg kept coming up. i tried to say a couple of things about jack kerouac i never liked “on the road” anyways, but they totally ignored me. she smiled once or twice in my direction, but that was it. i was thinking, what’s the deal? i was so embarrassed and felt out of place, so i said i had to run and bolted out of there. who knows if they even noticed. sometimes i think i’m invisible.

j.12.____(later-around midnight)
tonight jackson and i had this amazing conversation. he told me he couldn’t take the system anymore and i told him i was right with him. we’d had a couple of beers and were all loose. he told me that his past haunts him and that his childhood was fucked up. i told him how lonely i’ve felt all these years-being different and all. he said society damns everything different and that i was precious just the way i was and not to change for anyone. it made me real warm inside. no one ever’s said that to me. then we got talking about all this hardcore stuff, like if we don’t speak out and act against the system, we’ll be its marionette. he kept drinking, but i stopped after two beers. didn’t feel like getting smashed. he went bed and passed out, so here i sit, on the couch, writing as usual. tonight i want to rebel. i’m so sick of being pushed down.

j.13.____
i’m in shit. cops picked me up early this morning, brought me home. oh, mom’s coming. i’ll write more later.

/// NOTE TO SELF::::::NEVER GET BUSTED AGAIN FOR VANDALISM!!!

let’s just say i did a really dumb thing. (by the way-mom and dad are letting me move back home, but i’m apparently going to have to change aspects of my behaviour. i said i’d try my best-but i don’t think i’m so bad. it’s just that i get caught.)

so here’s the scoop: after jackson passed out, i roamed his apartment for inspiration when i came across a couple of heavy duty black magic markers on the floor beside some dirty plates and books (agatha christie, tom wolfe etc…). then it hit me: i grabbed the markers, put on a ball cap of jackson’s and took off (on foot) downtown. when i arrived, i made my way to the first bank i found. making sure no one was around i began writing “capitalist pigs,” in huge letters on the glass window. then i scribbled some visuals to go along with the words. i was real nervous and kept glancing around all jumpy, but no one was around. (the downtown in this city is dead at night. except for a few drunks, everyone always goes to the bars in the north end instead.) making sure my cap hid my face, i moved on to cibc and started the process again when a cop car pulled up. i almost shat my pants, but walked away in an exaggerated nonchalance, forgetting to hide the markers. to make a long story short, i got busted, which killed my whole plan and my pride. the cops threw me in the back of the cruiser, which was very uncomfortable, and took me home. they didn’t handcuff me. mom and dad were angry, but relieved i was home. the cops threatened to charge me, but didn’t. (i have to go back to the banks and clean up the windows. how humiliating.) when they left dad said, “we’ll talk about this in the morning.” and so we did. i wish people would take me more seriously. so now i have more chores to do, have to modify my behaviour (whatever that means) and am not allowed to hang out with jackson (though i probably still will). whatever. all i know is that as soon as i graduate high school, i’m outta here.

Catherine Paquette is a Montreal based writer and performer. Her writing has appeared in various publications including Fireweed and Vallum: contemporary poetry.

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