<%-- Page Title--%> Fiction <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 117 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 08, 2003

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Ashna Ali

A long white-washed hall stretched a forever away it seemed, ending in the distance somewhere in a sparkling point where the afternoon sun must be blindingly meeting the window pane. She proceeded slowly down the hall, observing the marks on the age-old paint. So many generations of students must have come and gone here leaving a faint wispy shadow of their identity behind. A piece of gum, torn poster, map of the world, student election flier, sneaker footprint. Size 38? No, 40-something. Like Dave? He used to fly in those things.

She listened to the light footsteps behind her as she felt herself slow down. Click, click, click, click…High heels. Snail pace. Just to trail her down halls where she'll never belong anyway. Again. The broken record of her life. She could always tell someone's personality by the way they pushed her out. Annoying. Tries too hard.

She was wheeled around, the lady's voice droning along somewhere in the distance about academic standards. Barbie with muffled bees spewing from her lips. The lady gestured towards a building through the window they had finally reached as she spoke, smiling proudly. It was a large brick building with large shiny windows glinting in the sunlight. Jail for cheerleaders.

She looked the lady up and down for the first time. Sky-high hair piled up on her head, a tight white blouse, and fitting black pants a size too small finished off with stilettos. 50's beauty pageant reject. A cry to the gods of Hollywood plastic surgery. But then, who was she to talk?

She spoke slowly and softly almost as to not scare her away. Vulnerable baby. She smiled wide, flashing cigarette-stained teeth, hoping to make her feel comfortable. Her golden hoop earrings moved with strands of her hair getting caught in them, and her cheeks stiffened as if cramped as she smiled. Classic Barbie doll caught in the world of anorexia and Virginia Slims. Well meaning all the same. Struggling bimbo; what a novel thought.

She looked down at herself, thinking of the contrast. Her ripped jeans clung to her legs, as faded and torn as her dreams. Old sneakers worn-out from years of work, a black tank top from Paris. Toe-shoes only lasted months, and then frayed and eroded away like petals caught in a hurricane of pirouettes. Paris. Vivre la France, vivre Paris, vivre mes ambitiones. Dead. Mortes.

Paris where she trained so hard with Dave and Madame Verushka. Pain shooting through her legs and arms, in perfect balance with harmony, then ease. Flying through music. Dove in moonlight. She was the most experienced, the most talented, the most graceful. Always infallible. Except once. Stupid drunk bastard. Should've just gone ahead and killed her. He had. - Blinding-light-white-hot-searing-screaming-men-in-white repetitive-flashing-sound…

A boy about eighteen dashed up the stairs and waved at Barbie lady. Clearasil. He suddenly looked down and caught sight of her and gave her a once-over. 'She'd be cute if it weren't for the legs…' said his eyes. Real cute aside from being confined to a machine, eh? Cutie in a cage. Amused and disgusted. Repulsive, isn't it? Not exactly Greek god

himself. Should take the little that comes. No more choosing. No Paris.

The lady kept buzzing, and slowly descended down the steps, her heels clicking like gunshots in the quiet hall, her hand out, like she expected her to follow. To follow. She froze. Wax figurine at Madame Tussaud's. Pin-drop silence. Prayer for the marble to swallow her up it seemed. She looked mortified. Deserving. Idiot. She smiled sheepishly as she turned back. She tucked her hair behind her ear, the sun bouncing off her hoops. She stood behind her, and pushed forward. “Let's take the elevator.” Figure that out by yourself, Einstein?

The elevator was tall, narrow and completely wooden. It looked antique and beautiful, like something out of an elaborate ship. Titanic. Too small for that, though. Cupboard at Dave's. Hide and seek at 8. The wood would have soaked up so many conversations, whispered secrets, horrors, souls. That tiny little space had more history than any textbook could ever offer, and you could feel it in your veins as you stood there. Cologne and cigarette smoke hung on the air. Cheap cologne and Marlboro Lights. Movie theatre. Something strong. Brandy? Definitely alcohol. Must be a teacher. Another stupid drunk. Damn them all. Well, it was better than the machine on the stairs.

The doors creaked when sliding open, and Barbie pressed her manicured fingers against the door to get it open, and pushed her out in her chair. Screeching crazy sound-ambulance-ring-ring-ring-ring-ring-flashing-light-zip-flash-“broken”-“emergency”-ring-ring-ring-“never dance again”-flash-flash-ring-ring - School bell.

She leaned her head back, letting the metal at the top of her chair cool the back of her neck. She was getting exhausted. Just getting special treatment because of the legs. She was tired of people speaking to her slowly, watching their words, not mentioning sports, glancing at friends over her head, like she couldn't tell what they were thinking. Like she was stupid as well. Retard. Not a bright, experienced, accomplished prima ballerina. There was no admiration, only pity.

Kids poured in and out of the doorways chattering away in loud shrill voices. Invasion of the jungle monkeys. “Basketball season…and the party last night…and what was on the tes Whoa! Is she new? What the hell happened to her? That's one hell of a wheelchair…” Teen movie. Ultimate cliché. Makes you want to vomit.

If only Dave could see her now. Standing with a college intern in high school within a mass of petty gossiping teenage future clueless politicians, architects and world's slaughterers. Beautiful make-up caked model reject and tragically crippled prima ballerina. Had to laugh. It was almost poetic.

She watched the eyes grow wide with surprise, astonishment, compassion and pity. Pity. Poor little cripple. Poor. Stupid. Cripple. Graceful angel of the arts bound to a cage on wheels for life. A soul imprisoned by a body deprived. No. Just poor. Stupid. Little. Cripple.


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