I'd Write a Story
By Mileva Anastasiadou
I told myself I’d write a story. I’m not certain yet as to whether that was my decision or if it was Santa who asked me to finally grow up. I know people think Santa doesn’t exist but in fairy tales. Yet I feel old enough at sixteen to not care about what others believe. I had given up on Santa long ago, until he appeared again, silently demanding my faith. I’d cringed at those cheesy Christmas movies which all revolved around the common dream: a house, a family, a job, patience and exhaustion which pay back in shopping and long nights out, smoking and drinking, minding your own business, until you die and rot away.
I told my brother I’d write a story about his bitchy girlfriend. I emphasized the word “bitchy” on purpose. He didn’t mind. He probably feigned indifference to discourage me, knowing I’d take no as a challenge. Perhaps he’s too busy to care about me. He’s been working long hours to help mother support the family. He doesn’t need my grumbling over his bitchy girlfriend. She’s tall and beautiful and arrogant and stares right though me every time we meet, like I don’t exist, or as if I were invisible.
I told my mother I’d write a story about her son’s bitchy girlfriend. She only shrugged and looked away. I believe she doesn’t give a damn about what I think of his girlfriend because she doesn’t give a damn about me. Ever since dad left us, she doesn’t even look at me. As if I’m to blame for my father’s departure. She always asks if I’m hungry or sleepy or tired and she takes care of me so that I don’t starve, yet that’s all I am to her. Another obligation to take care of. She never asks how I feel, if I’m sad or lonely or anything of the kind. I’m only another body to her. A body that needs feeding to survive.
I told my therapist I’d write a story about my brother’s bitchy girlfriend. He showed me that inkblot card and I said, that’s Santa Claus, and he looked at me bewildered, while I bowed my head ashamed, yet mostly confused, wondering why wasn’t my answer satisfactory. Just let it flow, he said, so I said Santa again. He then pointed at those red stains, asking me how I explain them and all I could see was Santa’s cap, yet I didn’t speak at first, cause I knew that wasn’t the right answer, so I said blood, that’s what he’d expected and I saw a smile of satisfaction on his face and I knew I was right.
A mild case of regression, I heard him say. I still don’t know what that word means. I haven’t heard anyone I know using it, yet admittedly, I haven’t met many intelligent persons yet. You need boundaries, he said after careful thought. Otherwise, you’re fine. I may be depressed as hell, yet to his eyes that’s normal. As long as I recognize the correct answers and am submissive enough to speak them out, as long as I’m willing to keep my thoughts to myself, I am realistic enough to be be considered normal. Reality is never too far away, he said before ending the session. It may not be far, yet it’s getting harder and harder to find my way into it, I thought.
I told my brother’s girlfriend I’d write a story about her. She looked right through me again, then burst into laughing. She asked if I planned to be a writer. I’ve always found words fascinating, I told her. You’d better do something useful instead, she said and then turned away. Define useful, I yelled. But we were in a club and the music was loud and nobody heard my voice. I watched them dance for a while and it was like watching the Muppet show. As if they were puppets moving to the rhythm by invisible strings, hanging from the roof. Or as if they were playing roles, unsuccessfully, which made them look more like cartoons than actors. They looked defeated, yet arrogant from afar. Already beaten by life, although they’re only a few years older than me. I may be young, yet I recognize defeat when I see it. And I’ve also noticed that people who have succumbed to defeat are too strict on people who try to resist it.
I also wanted to dance, yet I felt too awkward to let go. That moment I only wanted to be a feather in the wind, so I could dance freely. I wished I could beat gravity and float in the air, yet gravity pulled me downwards. As I craved for freedom, to be light like a feather, floating here and there, instead of only downwards or towards the end of time, but back and forth, up and down with the wind changing direction all the time, I saw Santa flying high in the sky, waving at me. You can’t see the sky from here, said my brother. You can only see the roof.
It was the strobo lights that made me think seriously again. That’s how I decided to become a doctor.
I told my teacher I’d write a story about my brother’s bitchy girlfriend. He asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. A doctor, I said. He looked at me in a way that suggested I couldn’t make it. That it was a target too far for me to reach. He said I should think about writing. Writing doesn’t pay, I said. What doesn’t pay is a waste of time, says mother. He said I’m free to choose whatever I want, yet we’re all limited by our personality and talents and capabilities. Then are we truly free? We are, he insisted, yet his face showed otherwise, as if he didn’t believe his own words. He suggested I should talk to a doctor before I make any decisions.
So I did. Or circumstances made me. A sore throat led me to the doctor’s office. She didn’t have much time so I told her I’d write a story about a girl I detest, to catch her attention. I saw her eyes flashing with delight, the moment I talked, like she saw a spark in me. My mom shrugged, as if expecting the doctor to not pay attention to my words. She’s harmless, she said, only she didn’t speak aloud. She only rolled her eyes and transmitted the message the way adults do. She’s determined to be a doctor when she grows up, she said instead, in all pride. The doctor asked why. I said I’d be a doctor to make a living. That’s not a proper reason, she mumbled. Don’t mind her my mother told me after we left; she grew up in a different world.
I told my boyfriend I’d write a story about my brother’s girlfriend. I didn’t use the word bitchy this time, as I was aware I’d sound as bitchy as her. And I cared about his opinion. He touched my breasts and sighed. I was happy to give him pleasure, yet disappointed in his lack of interest in my story. So I pushed him away. He looked at me angered, as if I had taken away something that belonged to him. Don’t I belong to myself?
I saw the doctor again two days later. Only this time, I went alone. She asked how my throat was and if I had started the story. I couldn’t answer because I had to keep my mouth wide open for her to check my throat. She was kind enough to remember me, yet rude enough to not expect an answer. Your throat is fine, she finally said. She then asked if I still wanted to become a doctor, like anything would change in two days. I nodded. Just to make money? It was my turn to roll my eyes. She then asked what I truly wanted to be when I grow up. I didn’t understand the question. What if you didn’t need the money, what would you do then? Why do anything if I don’t need the money? She lowered her eyes and took a look at her notes. If you don’t feel invincible at your age, the loss is too immense, she said. The game is lost before it begins, the defeat predetermined and that’s a victory the system is certainly proud of. I asked her who the system was. She made a gesture with her hands, as if the answer didn’t matter. Or perhaps she didn’t know. Or she didn’t want to give away names. I can’t be sure.
It’s usually the other way round, she said. It’s not common for adults to encourage kids to be more idealistic. Kids are idealistic by nature. My therapist advised me to remain grounded, I told her. You should find what you want to do and do it, she then said. You should reclaim your freedom. You may starve either way, yet doing something you love won’t be a total waste of time. I told her what mom said, that she’d grown up in a different world, that she didn’t need to think about making ends meet. She then stared at me for a while, which made me feel awkward and I told her. She said she was sorry and didn’t mean to make me feel uncomfortable. Only she couldn’t stand watching the dying of light before her raging eyes. I couldn’t detect rage in her eyes. I only saw sadness or even despair.
I told Santa I’d write a story about my brother’s bitchy girlfriend. Instead, I made the story about me. Which is what you’d expect from a sixteen year old anyway. A girl who’s old enough to make decisions about her future, yet too young to be taken seriously. In my defense, I wanted the leading role for once. I grew tired of having the supporting role, of running around to keep things together. I craved to be the protagonist for once, for the world to revolve around me.
I stopped believing in Santa at the age of five. Yet I now know he exists. I saw him coming down the chimney on Christmas eve this year, waving at me. We don’t have a chimney, my brother said and advised me to not talk about Santa much or I’d be in trouble. We’ve been living in an rat hole, ever since dad left. It’s an apartment actually, that looks like a rat hole. You should be more considerate, mom says, adding I should be thankful I have a roof over my head. According to her, I sound like a spoiled brat. Only I don’t feel like that at all. Spoiled brats have everything they wish for, whereas I don’t even have a future.
No presents this year, Santa said. They say Santa doesn’t exist, yet at least he cares enough to wave at me every once in a while and he cared enough to reply.
Unlike all supposedly real people. Santa is an ally. Unlike reality.
I saw the doctor once more to tell her I’d write another story; the story of hope and freedom. I didn’t visit as a patient this time, I said. I’ll become a doctor to find a cure for despair. She was surprised to see me all dressed in red, yet she found the reason good enough. A cure for despair is what humans need. It saddened me to see you settle for crumbs before you life even started, she said. I was after the money, not crumbs, I told her, yet she insisted that money is crumbs compared to real dreams. She didn’t like the idea of the old story anyway; it sounded too desperate.
Rage against the dying of hope, she mumbled and told me she had to hurry.