Chelsea Biondolillo



Rosalee had just pulled me out onto the porch, away from everyone else, away from Anne. Even though Rosalee is Anne’s mother, Anne almost always calls her Rosalee, not Mom. Anne is my best friend. But her mom is weird.

If Rosalee was mad, she would’ve said so right in the kitchen with everyone else. But she saved her weird stuff for in private—unless it was totally public. Like, once, for Anne’s birthday, she hired some random guy to come to school and sing her a song. We ran away from him for ages, but eventually a teacher found us and we had to go to Barb’s classroom where of course a crowd had gathered, and this guy sang Anne a song about how beautiful she was and gave her balloons. Anne said she was so embarrassed—but no one else’s mom ever sent in a guy to sing for their birthday. So I’m not so sure.

That year, Anne got a big mirror on a carved wooden stand for her birthday.  Anne said Rosalee made a speech about Anne’s womanhood and seeing her true self. Sometimes I think that mirror was a dumb present for a sixth grader.

Now, with Rosalee dragging me out on the porch, I was all tense. She made me look at her. I really wished she’d act like a regular mom and just leave me and Anne alone.

“I want you to know how special, and beautiful you are.” Oh my god. “Now, look at me. Do you understand that you can do anything you want to? In the world?”

“Yes.” My mother told me this all the time but more like, Quit screwing around, you’re the smart one.

“And you are a beautiful, smart, capable woman. Do you understand that?”

Eye roll.

“You need to understand that you are a beautiful and smart and capable woman and you are going to do amazing things. I want you to tell me you understand me.”

“I do.” I didn’t mean to whine, but I did a little. “Can I go back in?”

“Yes. You can.” She smoothed my hair down on my head and sort of patted it. I could tell that I hadn’t answered the way she wanted. Like I was supposed to say, Oh wow, you’re right, suddenly you made me look beautiful just by saying it.

I have beautiful hair (when I brush it) and beautiful eyes (when I’m not giving a look). But I am not beautiful.

My grandmother has taken hundreds of pictures of me, usually for practice when she gets a new camera lens. She has told me a million times that I can have a pretty smile, if I don’t show my teeth and don’t curl my lip so it gets mashed under my nose. If I hold very still.

She says the problem is that I insist on doing unattractive things. Like popping my finger out of my mouth to make a water-dropping sound and slouching.

My mother has pictures of me that she says are very pretty. She says I’m photogenic. I guess that’s a kind of beautiful.

But it’s not the kind of beautiful that strangers see. They tell me that my hair cut is nice.

Grown ups act like Anne is stranger-beautiful. This one time, at a bus stop, this crazy guy was freaking out about how beautiful she was. He said, “If you were standing naked before some guy with your hair ass-length, you’d make his WORLD.” He also said he wanted to craft Anne a purse. Out of leather.

He didn’t say a single word to me the whole time, even though I was standing right next to her and no one else was around.

I don’t get it because Anne wears the same size pants that I do, but everyone knows I’m fat. One time, I mentioned this, and Anne got mad at me and said that she wasn’t the same size as me at all, that her waist was much smaller, only most jeans didn’t fit her right. And then I said, “Do you mean you aren’t fat, you just have a fat butt?”

I guess I have a fat stomach and she has a fat butt and that makes all the difference to hippie guys at bus stops. She also has blond hair and blue eyes and straight teeth whereas I have dishwater hair, and hazel eyes, and I am not supposed to show my teeth when I smile.

Anne doesn’t tell me I’m beautiful, the way her mother does. I don’t tell her she’s beautiful either, since everyone else does. I remind her that her ass is gigantic whenever she says something about how another gross guy said something creepy to her.

One time I told her to stop bragging about all the gross guys and she told me it can’t be bragging if she doesn’t like it. I don’t think that’s true, but she tells me I don’t understand, since creepy bus stop men leave me alone.

But that isn’t true, either. Bus stop men don’t leave me alone. They just don’t say anything that I can tell like a funny story. They stand really close when I’m sitting on the bench and there’s no where else to sit, so their cocks are right in my face. They sit next to me on the bus when I have a window seat and pretend to fall asleep so I have to push them when it’s my stop.

Once a bum came into our school, because of the open campus. He followed me until I was stuck in a corner by the auditorium. Then he slapped his hands on the wall next to my face and leaned in like he was going to kiss me. I dropped to the ground and got away.

Afterwards, all the kids told Barb how he must have been crazy because he wanted to kiss me.

Can you imagine? How crazy he must’ve been?

Chelsea Biondolillo’s prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Nano Fiction, Passages North, Shenandoah, Brevity, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Diagram and others. She is currently the 2014-15 Olive B. O’Connor writing fellow at Colgate University.

 … return to Issue 7.2 Table of Contents.

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