Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Day, Part 4, The End.

Ok, I'm not going to be cruel and leave you with a cliffhanger for very long.

Faith said yes. Or rather, Faith circled yes. And she gave me her phone number, starting a friendship that lasted many years even after I moved away. Her parents used to let her come to New York and stay with us when no one else in Millpond would ever let their daughters spend the night with me when I was with my mother. I've been on Facebook all weekend looking for her and enlisting some of my other old, Millpond friends to search too, but no one knows where she is, although there are rumors of her waitressing in a pizza place.

With Faith as my campaign manager and vice secretary, I had credibility. If someone as popular and smart as Faith Hill took me seriously enough to support my candidacy, I had to be for real.

Of course this caused major outrage amongst the popular kids. Faith had betrayed them and in all honesty she probably just did it to get back at them, or maybe she did it because she wanted a friend that she could actually invite over to her house, because I ended up spending the night with her when no one else did. Maybe she sensed that I somehow knew and understood what her life was really like because my life was pretty crappy too. I have always suspected that Faith was sexually abused in some way. I have no evidence or proof of this at all except a gut feeling and the fact that she just sort of acted in the way girls act when they've been harmed in this way. But for all I know I could be wrong.

Faith had a drive and ambition unlike anything I've ever seen. At almost twelve years old she had a plan to be successful and to get out of Millpond for good. She wanted to go to Princeton and she was starting in sixth grade to get everything in order so that she could get a full scholarship. She wanted to do something powerful in foreign relations and work for the government. I was in awe of this. I didn't even know what foreign relations were at that age and college was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to win the election. My goals were very short term.

Faith and I made posters. We enlisted some of my other friends. I had three other friends to be exact and I'm still friends with two of them now. Their moms helped out with paper and supplies and together we made hundreds of posters saying to vote for me, which we taped up all over the halls of Millpond Middle. Everywhere you looked there was a poster for me and we made sure to put two of them next to every one of Dawn Biggs' posters. I wanted my name to be the most familiar on the ballot and I wanted to have so many posters and signs that it made me look like I was more important than Dawn.

The next thing I had to do was to secure the black vote. The black kids hated the popular kids and never ever ever mixed with them ever under any circumstances. Our school may as well have been segregated for the way kids acted. But I knew a lot of the black kids and had some black friends. I bonded with all the kids who were poor and had fucked up lives, so that encompassed almost every black kid at school and since I was desperately lonely I had no problem whatsoever playing with the black girls, who liked to braid my long, straight hair. I let them do it because I liked to be touched and I thought their hair was so much prettier than white girls' hair.

One day at recess I asked one of the black girls who she usually voted for and she said Dawn. I asked her why and she said "she's popular and she always wins everything." Well, this could not be. That was no reason to vote for someone - by default, just because she always won anyway. I told the girl to vote for me because at least I played with her.

"Dawn Biggs hates black people," I said.

And it wasn't starting a rumor, because it was true.

But then I enlisted Tyvon. Tyvon was a sixth grader who was bigger than all the teachers. At twelve years old she was probably about five eight and two hundred pounds and all the white kids made fun of her because she was big and ugly. The thing was, that Tyvon was smart and kind and although she was huge, inside she was a little girl and actually quite innocent. Her outside didn't match her inside. Tyvon was a lot like Faith. She had plans to get out of Millpond and not get trapped in the cycle of poverty, unwanted babies and welfare. She was also extremely outgoing and although I wouldn't exactly call her popular amongst the black kids, she was something of a leader. Everyone respected her because she was one of the only black kids in the smart classes and she worked hard and got on the honor roll. I googled her and she did get out of Millpond and graduated from a good college, out of state. I bet she's a huge success now. I'd love to see her.

I scheduled a meetining with Tyvon on the playground and let her braid my hair while I convinced her to vote and campaign for me. It wasn't hard.

"I was going to vote for you already," she said, "Dawn Biggs is a nasty girl and you're nice. Plus, it's about time someone else won something around here."

"Thanks," I said.

"I'll get every black kid in this school on your side," she promised.

And with that Tyvon set off on her own mission to overthrow the elitism which had governed Millpond Middle for probably a century.

The day before the election there was an assembly where all the candidates and their campaign managers had to give a speech that they had written themselves, in front of the entire school. I was a nervous wreck. I had diarrhea for a week over it. I couldn't imagine me, ugly, scrawny, smelly, ratty haired me, getting up in front of the entire school, in front of all the popular kids in every grade, and giving a speech.

And then my biological father did something so uncharacteristically nice that to this day I wonder if my memory is off, although it isn't. I have portrayed my father, I think, as being all bad and all sick and horrible. I think I do this partly out of allegiance to my mother and partly because it's easier for me to dismiss him as a villain in my life. The truth is more complicated. My father had good qualities, although most of the time they were overshadowed by his horrible qualities. If he had been able to control his own need to control and dominate, and if he had been able to quell his obsessiveness and fanaticism, if he could have tempered his intensity and learned to understand nuances and subtleties, at the same time overcoming his terrible pride, I think he had some good qualities that occasionally came out. He could be very funny at times though those times disappeared when he met Louise, who was not ever funny at all. He was also smart and responsible and extremely creative. I have creativity on both sides, but I think I got my artistic abilities from him. He was good at drawing and making things with his hands.

And this one time, something good came out of him and he, in the middle of two years of unbearable cruelty, did something uncharacteristically nice for me. My father went on his own and bought me a dress to wear the day I had to give my speech.

The dress was bittersweet. It gave me false hope and made me think that my plan was actually going to work - that if I won this election that my life really was going to get better. The fact that my father did something nice for me just because I was even running was proof that I was right and if I could be good enough and if I could be a perfect child that everything really would get better. My father had bought me a dress.

I loved the dress. It was from Leggett's. I don't even know if that store exists anymore, but it was our one fancy department-like store in town and I always dreamed of one day being able to run in there, all casual like, and getting an outfit for no reason. The dress was made to look like a shirt and a skirt. The skirt was grey and the top, which looked like a button-up shirt with a collar, was pink and grey striped. It had a pink and grey cloth belt that fastened with two metal loops, and the best part was that it had a pink, skinny necktie that you didn't have to tie. It looped under the collar with an elastic band. He also got me a pink, silky hair band. Hairbands were big back then and this was in the days of Madonna's youth when she had popularized wearing a big bow flopping off the side of your head so that you looked like a sloppy birthday present. The hair band had a bow that never came untied. The outfit was absolute perfection. It was the most stylish thing I had ever seen in my life and it looked perfect with pink, opaque tights and black patent leather mary janes. I swear I wish I had a picture of this outfit because we'd all have a good laugh over it now, I'm sure, but in the early 80s it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in all my life. And my father had given it to me.

I took a long time getting dressed the morning of my speech. I had spent a long time writing the speech and perfecting it. It was about how the popular kids didn't speak for the majority of the school and how we needed a Student Council based not on who had money and good looks, but on fairness for everyone. We needed leaders who would make a government for the students, by the students and who really cared, not student leaders who just cared about advancing their social agenda. Although I didn't use the words social agenda back then. I probably said something like we don't need popular kids who want to run just to be more popular. But I meant advancing their social agenda.

I remember getting up on that stage in front of the whole school and giving my speech. The lights were hot and all the teachers were watching and probably thinking terrible things about me because of what Louise had told them. Louise was there too but I have no idea what she was thinking. It was hard to see the audience so I wasn't scared once I got up to the podium and began to speak and I read my speech the whole time hoping that all the teachers would shake their heads and say to each other:

"That girl there, she's going to be somebody. She's going to be something one day. That girl up there is a star."

They didn't. But I did.

After my speech ended and everyone clapped for me, a sense came over me and I knew without question that one day I would be famous and that one day, no matter what Louise did or said, or how fucked up my life was, that my destiny was ultimately much greater than all of it and that I really was meant for something very special. I still know it. And then I sort of didn't really care if I won that election or not.

The next morning in homeroom we filled out our ballots and turned them in and it was a Friday so I'd have to wait all weekend for the results, but I didn't care. I think I cared more that my father had bought me that grey and pink dress. That meant more.

Monday morning in homeroom again they announced the results over the loudspeaker.

Now I could be a real jerk here and make you wait, but, as today is my birthday, I'm feeling generous. I will not keep you in suspense.

I won.

46 comments:

Gina said...

Happy Birthday! I can't wait to read more.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

~Lauren

Decorina said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. You are a gifted writer - and your childhood adversity gave you a gift; understanding. And as fuel for your writing there is nothing better.

Way to go, winning against the elites. I went to a school of rich kids and a few middle class kids. Years later it is interesting to see that the rich kids amounted to - not much. The rest of us have accomplished great things.

Shannon Culver said...

Woo hoo! I love your writing, and this story was especially poignant.
Have a Happy Birthday, and thanks for the gift of your writing.
Shannon

Julian Hsu said...

Happy Birthday! Love reading your posts.

Sam said...

Happy birthday!

I've been reading your blog for over a year now, and I look forward to your new posts every day. Please please write a book, I'd wait in line for it!

Moi said...

I absolutely love your stories. Sometimes I wonder if you are making them up, because they are just SO good. And I mean that as a compliment!

Happy birthday Wide Lawns...

LegalMist said...

Great story, and very well-written. You really have a gift for this.

And Happy Birthday!

Wide Lawns said...

Thanks, and no, not making anything up.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday

Aleta said...

Happy Birthday, belated. I look forward to reading a post just about Faith, to find out how she was an important part of your life and what happened to her.

SoozieQ said...

First Happy Birthday!!!

Second WOOHOO! So glad you won!

I don't know if this is the same woman, but if you grew up anywhere near south NJ I had a client at one of the animal hospital's I worked at named Faith Hill. We also had a Richard Cheney and a Peter Parker. Anyway you might want to search Faith Hill with NJ and see if that's her. No promises, but I'm pretty sure the Faith Hill at our hospital was not the country singer.

floridagirl said...

Your stories remind me SO much of my own childhood! We grew up in an apartment complex that was thrown in the midst of all kinds of ritzy houses. I envied those kids so much and always wished that we could live in one of those houses...years later, found out that most of those kids (not all) ended up with lots of problems- multiple divorces, alcohol and drug problems, etc. Came to find out later that their parents (the doctors and lawyers) weren't all that I had imagined, either. Funny how things turn out!!! Happy Birthday.

MtnMama said...

As one of those girls who was abused, and acted in strange ways that most people didn't clue into, I appreciate your insight and compassion and all of your writing so much. My childhood was right down there in the record books, and it helps to know I wasn't alone.

Happy Birthday.
Thank You

Lana Wood said...

Well, of course you won!

Happy Birthday! Remember, women are like a fine wine, we improve with age.

That Damn Expat said...

Yay! :)
Happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations... thanks for not leaving us hanging.

And...

Happy Birthday!!

renee in seattle said...

Oh you stinker..... ! I just love how you articulate what middle school was like. We must be close to the same age, because you are describing my middle school experience quite vividly.

Janais said...

Happy Birthday WL!

Emma said...

Happy Birthday!!!

Laurie said...

YAAAY! You won!! You deserve to win everything you ever try for in your life. I can almost SEE that fabulous dress on you! Happy, happy Birthday - wish I could give you a gift as wonderful as the one you give to us every day. Hope your day was as awesome as you are.

Amy said...

What did the popular kids do when you won?!

NeekoalinAZ said...

****applauds******

Happy Birthday! And may you have many many more!

Since we are near the same age, I'll share. My most fervent wish for middle school was to get a pair of LA Gear sneakers. You know, the ones that you could mix and match the laces? Yea, those were the stuff...UBER cool.

(BTW, UBER is the new "super" according to my children. I had no idea.

sallyacious said...

Happy birthday! It's so heartening to read a story like this, to hear that sometimes hard work and being a good person pay off. Kind of like they did last Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

I adore your writing and enjoy your blog. Please please please write a novel.

Today is my birthday too! Scorpios rock!!

Hilary said...

I strongly suspect that you're destined for greatness too. You have an amazing way with words. You're very gifted.

Happy birthday. :)

Last Minute Lyn said...

Happy Birthday...I'm glad you won

kerry said...

Happy birthday! That's so awesome that you won the election, and that your dad bought you that dress you liked so much!

So, yeah, what happened after you won?

Devi said...

El Yea! i'd sing you a song but this is the internets....

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Was it the same time last year lol? It couldn't possibly have been a year ago.

Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

Fancy Schmancy said...

What a glorious day for you, and for all of us that never held the "popular vote"!

Caroline said...

"I won." sorry for my language but fuckin' a! this was quite possibly your best story yet. although i may speak too soon for your stories just seem to keep getting better and better as if that were possible.

I was so aggravated when you cut it short (part II), I thought "you can't do that! jeebus!"

TK said...

Happy Birthday to a real winner!

Scorpios; waaay deep.

foxymoron said...

Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!! Happy birthday sweetheart! I just fell in love with you (again). If you ever write a book I will definitely come to your signing and if you let me, bive a a BIG hug!

Your blog is my first hit of the day.

KT said...

Happy birthday!

And, as always, utterly FANTASTIC story. So glad you won!

just a kat said...

RIGHT ON!!!! I just knew in my heart you would win. WTG Tyvon and WL and Faith too!

Happy Belated!

Ambitious Blonde said...

First and most importantly-Happy birthday, Wide Lawns!

Secondly, I'm so glad you won the election. You tell the best stories. If you wrote a book, I would buy it.

Finally, I think a post about Faith Hill is in order.

:)

Jean_Phoenix said...

Hope you had a wonderful birthday! And, how cool is that that you won the election? I fear what a**, Louise, had to say about your winning. But long rock your friend, Faith - hope she is well.

Amy said...

That is a great story.

Happy birthday!

NoMoreVanillaBean said...

Happy Birthday!

And big Yay! on the win.

Paige said...

oh what a wonderful story. I could cry. For real

Karen said...

Hello,

I just started reading your wonderful blog, and I love it. Your life has been hard, but your stories are treasures to read. Thank you.

I read in an earlier entry that you are tired of the animosity between the Democrats and the Republicans. I'm Canadian, but I agree with you. It would be so much better if, when it came to politics, more of us could agree to disagree.

Here is a link that you might find interesting:

http://www.zefrank.com/from52to48withlove/about

and also:

http://www.zefrank.com/from52to48withlove/

It all about extending the hands of friendship, from both sides. I'm not resposible for it, Ze Frank created it. I just think it's a really nice idea.

Hope you had a great birthday. :-)

Karen

mysecondjournal said...

ooo we have the same birthday! i'm older :-(
Happy Birthday

Umm..you have showed us pictures...you were a very pretty child.

Sauntering Soul said...

Happy (belated) Birthday WL!!!

And I just knew you were going to win..... :-)

Anonymous said...

You share a birthday with my 31 year old daughter.

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