Amanda Miska and Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald, Durick Library Student

Inspiration Piece

Flesh and Blood
by Amanda Miska


1. Flesh
Jane was always larger than life:  big blue doe eyes and a heart of gold.  She was the pretty one; I was the smart one.  So people said and so it was.  People like categories.  They make things easy.  Check a box, know the answer. Don’t think, and whatever the hell you do, don’t feel. I wasn’t not pretty.  She wasn’t not smart.  But like a prophecy uttered by a well-intentioned fairy godmother, we became what we were called.

I came home from school with a personality inventory.  In health class, we were exploring future careers that might suit us.
“What am I good at?” I asked, chewing on my pencil eraser.
“You’re good at being weird,” Jane said.
My mom swallowed a laugh.  She thought I didn’t see, but I did.  She swatted Jane playfully.  Jane looked proud of herself.  I went up to my room and put on my headphones, blaring The Cranberries, wanting to scream.

They watched TV; I read books.  They went to McDonald’s; I experimented with vegetarianism.  They went to church; I consulted my horoscope (Aquarius) and Magic Eight Ball each morning before school.  I was a great big angsty teen cliché, but at the time, it didn’t feel that way.  I felt everything. And everything hurt.

My mom put Jane in pageants from the time she was six.  Her hair was a thick and wavy blonde and she had a natural pink flush to her cheeks.  Jane was always runner up, which she blamed on my mom not being as dedicated (read as: psycho) as the other pageant moms.  I was most jealous the time she won a Caboodle full of cosmetics.  She tried to share them with me (she was kindhearted; I was a bitch), but I refused her charity.

I could stand to lose a few pounds, my doctor told my mom at my pre-high school physical.  We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and my mom bought things like chicken breast and broccoli and skim milk.  I had four boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes hidden under my bed: sweet, sweet solace.

I begged my mom to let me bleach my hair.  Like early Madonna.  Or Courtney Love.
“Absolutely not.  Bleach fries your hair.  Kills it,” she said.
“Hair’s already dead,” I said.  She heaved that sigh that I read to mean, Sometimes I wish she’d been born mentally challenged.  Or mute.

Later, at a friend’s sleepover, I dyed it anyway and was grounded for a month. My mom bought a box of L’Oreal Light Brown at the store and made me dye it back, but the hair color combined with the bleach turned my head the color of murky coffee.  I’d never felt so ugly, so I asked for a bob, even though all the girls at school kept their hair long and all the boys liked it that way.

2. Blood
I marry a boy from my hometown who I don’t meet until college (where I am [surprise!] a liberal arts major).  I get a job right out of school [this is a fiction piece].  We buy a house.  And a dog.  We shop at Lowe’s.  We talk about children.  We have dinner parties.  We don’t have sex.
I stray.  It is guilty and empowering all at once.  It is a drug.  I try the various methods of saying no:  the good excuse (I have other plans.), the broken record (No. No. Nooo.), but they don’t work.  He tells me, You’re so pretty. So, so pretty, as he kisses me up against the wall in the work stairwell.

No one is surprised when we divorce:  There she goes fucking up her life again.  Never expected that to last.  She’s just not cut out for it.  She’s never happy.
I remember how, the night before the wedding, when we slept in our childhood bedroom, Jane had whispered, “Why are you doing this?” and I’d pretended to be asleep.

I get a few tattoos and a facial piercing.  I think they make me look tough, so I can fake it when I don’t feel it.  I lose 30 pounds on a cigarette and coffee diet.  No one tells me I look good. It’s all:  You could stand to gain a few pounds and You’re wasting away.

I go out dancing every weekend.  I like the way it feels to move my hips, the slight sheen of sweat that forms on my skin like dew, the way it feels to have eyes on me, the way I pretend not to notice.

I meet a boy.  He breaks my heart, but not without playing with it first, making it pound when he’s near and making it drop when he doesn’t call when he says he will.  He says he just can’t commit.  He stops calling altogether. He moves to San Francisco with the girl after me.  They live together there.  I see her photo on Facebook.  She is so pretty.

Jane is a lesbian.  No one can believe it—myself included.  She could have any man on the planet, yet she wants a woman?  Typical Jane.

Jane is a lesbian and suddenly, I’m the golden child.  Mom calls me several times a week, wondering what to “do.”  She uses the word butch once—sounds like something my dad said that she’s just repeating—and I correct her, like I always do.
“Butch is more the masculine half.  Jane’s definitely the femme in the relationship.”
“Relationship?” my mom asks.  “You call that a relationship?”
I don’t call it anything because I have no idea what I’m talking about.  I haven’t seen Jane in months.  I don’t know if she’s seeing someone, but I like to let my mother think I do.  And I don’t know shit about relationships.  I date boy after boy after boy. If you can call it dating.  I never make it past the third date. My friends say it’s because I always let them sleep with me on the first date.  I think it’s because they can see it in my eyes, the longing, like a stray dog that shows up on the back porch:  Feed me.  Love me. Pity does not a relationship make, nor is it an aphrodisiac.

When Jane shows up at my door late one Wednesday night, I just hug her.  We stand in my doorway silently holding onto each other for five minutes.  I step back to let her in.  She is larger than life, she is beautiful, my big sister, my flesh and blood.

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