Mar/Apr 1998  •   Fiction

Making Statements

by Fanoula Sevastos

The Dali hangs on its head, but who can tell. I consider turning it rightside up, but decide it makes a statement this way. I'm always making statements. It's hard work, too. Dye my hair auburn? Not me. I wanna be sixteen different shades of blonde. Keep'em guessing all the way. Nancy, on the other hand, she likes safe. "Just go natural," she says. "Your hair will be nice and healthy that way." Screw healthy. I smoke two packs a day. Who cares if I've got split ends.

Nancy and me, we're heading to the circus today. She never got to go when she was a kid. She wants to see the clowns dance around the rings and the tigers jump through hoops. Me, I wanna have a beer and watch the fat guy swallow flames. Nancy's okay, though. I teach her about art and pot and she shows me how to match my perfume to the outfit I'm wearin'. I'm tellin' you, she comes in handy. Just the other day I was talkin' about how I walked through the rain without an umbrella and how good the mist felt on my lips. She told me to wear chapstick to protect'em. She's always thinkin', Nancy is. You just gotta love her.

The only problem with Nancy is her face. She's too damn cute and I can't shake the feeling of wanting to kiss her all the time. She'd freak, of course, so I don't. Oh, I occasionally pat her hand or give her one of those good-buddy hugs, but I steer clear of those lips. She's got these full, pink lips that look great with her blue-almond eyes. Of course, we rarely talk about sex. She doesn't like my type of guy, anyway. Give me hair down to their chest with a little hoop of an earring squinting through, and I'm theirs. Nancy, she likes'em conservative. She likes polo shirts and khaki pants. I'm a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl, myself. Occasionally, we'll double date, but not much. Which is okay with me, 'cause I don't particularly like having her around when I'm with a guy. She's too distracting. It's that cherry-colored lipstick that does it to me. That, and those tanned legs when she's wearing a skirt. Which she always wears on a date. I'm her best friend, I know these things.

"Let me drive today, okay?"

Nancy always wants to drive but I don't let her. She just goes too damn slow. Checks her rearview mirror about four times every thirty seconds.

"Nah. I'll drive. Hop in."

My driving terrifies her but she doesn't usually complain. Occasionally, she'll let out one of those "oh my god's," but then she settles in again and sings to the radio. Pop music. That's the deal. If I drive, she gets to listen to Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton. I've tried to teach her how to listen to jazz, how to let it seep into her every breath, how to let herself float on every chord, like my dad taught me, but she doesn't like it. "You can't sing to it," she says. One of these days I'll get her high and show her what I mean. Not that we haven't gotten high together before, but it's always a hassle with her. She giggles too much while trying to inhale and never quite gets the full effect. She doesn't like it much anyway. It makes her dizzy.

"You're gonna owe me for this circus thing today," I say.

"But I thought you wanted to go."

"Yeah, I guess I do. It'll be alright."

"The first thing I'm going to do is get some cotton candy."

Nancy has a sweet tooth. I didn't mention that before. It's like we're still in junior high or somethin' with her. She likes her M&M's, the kind without the nuts, and her Kit Kats and those Suzy Q's with that disgusting white foam inside. I keep tellin' her, "Nance, we're freshman in college now. It's time to switch to those white chocolate Hershey bars. Everyone eats that brown stuff. It's the white chocolate that makes the statement."

But she's stuck on those M&M's. Luckily, my dad's got some money and I keep her well stocked. Hey, she likes'em, right? Anything for Nancy. I met her back in grade school. I was all quiet back then, and she came right up to me and made friends. Saved my life, I'm guessin'. Let me cheat on homework and stuff. We'd play hopscotch as a team and beat the shit out of those other girls.

"Hey, check out that guy on the tightrope, Nance. What a bod!"

"Oh, he's gross, Suzy! One of these days you're gonna marry the wrong kind of guy and he'll take all your money and you'll be left with nothing."

"Who says I'm getting married, anyway?" I tell her.

Nancy's always talking about how she's gonna get married someday and have a couple of kids. And she will too. She'll marry some nice banker who wears paisley ties and drives a Volvo. A slow death, in my book. That's why I'm always encouraging her to take chances.

"I wanna swing through forests on Tarzan's rope. I wanna kiss a tarantula and dare him to bite back. I got stuff to do, Nance. I don't have time to be married."

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course you're going to get married."

Just then the clowns show up and Nancy gets all distracted. I love to watch her face when it flushes like that. It takes on that Washington Apple kinda glow, like a little kid's cheeks when he says something cute and then laughs out of embarrassment right along with you.

"Hey, Nance?"

"Hmmmm. What?"

"Wanna go skinny dippin' tonight?"

"What?" Her attention now diverts to me.

"Skinny dippin'. Just take off our clothes and jump in my dad's pool in the middle of the night. Then, make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. We gotta put macadamias in'em, though. Otherwise, they're for kindergardeners."

"Skinny dipping? I don't know. Why can't we wear bathing suits?"

"Alright, maybe we'll wear suits. We'll see."

It's the beer that makes me bring that up, I'm guessin'. First thing we did was get Nancy her cotton candy and me a beer. Luckily, Nance looks older than 18 and she never gets carded. Now, though, I'm dying for a smoke. Too many kids around so they won't let you light up in here. Not that I mind kids at all. But I'm having a nicotine fit and all anyone cares about at the moment is that long-tailed monkey doin' somersaults.

"I'm going out for a while. I need a cigarette."

"Oh, don't go, Suzz. Look how cute that monkey is. How do they get him to do all that stuff?"

"They feed'im bananas like there's no tomorrow. Get me another beer, okay? I'll be back in a bit."

Problem is, I can't go now. Nancy's got that I'm gonna pout face on. She wants me to stay and watch the monkeys. And I feel bad 'cause Nancy's never had a pet. It's her parents. They think she'll never do homework for fussin' over a kitten, or somethin'. I gotta get her out of that house. Maybe get her to move in with me and dad. I stay and watch the monkey.

After the monkey show there's elephants to contend with. Elephants and hoola hoop girls and plenty of midgets dressed in red. No wonder they call it a three-ring circus. Nancy, though, she can't get enough. Her eyes, they're glowing now.

By the time the ringmaster raises his long black wand to end the show, I'm dying for a smoke. I never did go out for that cig'. I didn't wanna leave Nancy. She looks different somehow today, full of something, but I don't really know what.

"Come on," I say.

I can tell she doesn't wanna leave yet, but she follows since all the animals are heading backstage now, back into their cages. I light up and drag long on a Marlboro as soon as we hit the gates. She leans against the pebble-studded wall. Kinda keeps her long legs out in front of her and eases her shoulders up to the stone. She looks all daydreamy. God, is she beautiful.

"Suzy, I was thinking..."


"About skinny dipping. Is there any chance anyone would catch us? Like your dad, for instance?"

"No chance. My dad'll be too distracted by that girl he's been sleepin' with. I'm tellin' you, it would be fun."

She gets quiet. Now, I know what that means. She's gonna do it. When Nancy's not gonna do something, she tells you right off. When she gets all quiet like that, she's not so much thinkin' about it as imagining herself doin' it, talking herself into it without any of my help at all.

That's when I kissed her.

I didn't really mean to, I don't think. I just started thinkin' about skinny dipping and watchin' her face as she was leaning there against that wall, and I just kinda stepped in and planted one on her. Right on the lips, too. And I lingered there for a minute, just feelin' those lips against mine, feelin' all sorts of love for her right then.

"Suuuuuzzzyyyyy! What the hell are you dooooinnnng?!"

Shit. "I'm sorry Nance. Really, I wasn't thinkin' straight. I'm sorry."

She was mad and I was scared now. Like when my mom found out that I was skippin' school and she left me and dad. Scared like that, I mean. I must've turned fifteen shades of red. And I was feelin' kinda sick, my stomach all tied up in knots and all.

"You're so weird!!" she blurts out, and now she's cryin' and runnin' and I'm just kinda standin' there, watchin' her. I'm feelin' bad and really dumb and I start cryin' too.

"Nance!" I yell. "Nance, I'm sorry!"

But she's not listenin' anymore. She's out in the middle of the parking lot with her face buried in her hands. Just standin' there, hunched over a bit, sobbing.

I don't know what to do. I wanna go after her, but I know better. She doesn't want me around right now. So, I start wanderin' around, end up walking back through the gates. I go lookin' for our same seats in the arena. I sit in Nancy's spot, and look out onto the empty stage; just sit there staring at monkeys and elephants and tigers walkin' around in circles. I wish I had some cotton candy. Cotton candy would really make a statement right now.