by Anne

mid-sized car in the mid atlantic.

growing up in a lysol-ed, pine-sol-ed, dust-bunnied suburb of baltimore, youth was a dustbowl. driving down the drag on repeat, in moms japanese model x, make x, hatchback, no a/c. masturbating over a change in the movie marquee. counting the number of sallow-skinned men making crude, tonguing passes while waiting for a bus.

liberation, fornication, illumination, college was a whirlwind kaleidescope. setting fire to cinder-block -dorm walls with hairspray. dredging banal filler phrases from advanced english classes to stretch an essay to the requisite 750 words. learning how to make the boys faces turn red by moving a bony knee just slightly to the left.

time to straighten up and fly right: jobs are no longer jobs, they are careers. creating an ikea dream home with less than $2000. purchasing power suits in the juniors department, although slightly shorter and more neon. popping two tic-tacs to neutralize marlboro lights.

in the aftermath of two world wars, josie was little more than a press release announcing a WalMart opening, and she knew it.

josieís got a thrift-store sofa she carried away from an exboyfriendís place. itís supa-70ís fly, matted down by too many movie marathons on bad basic cable channels and burned by smatterings of smoldering cigarettes.

her decorating skills vomited up every thought, feeling, fear, she had ever had: house-in-a-box do-it-yourself bookshelves lined with vonneguts crisp sentences, gargoyles displayed proudly on uneven walls, dusty photos of people she hates, cards from people she had forgotten, trash she couldnt muster the energy to throw away.

its a torment. when josie was ten, she saved the white plastic pieces that held the pizza box tops from crushing the cheese and used them as barbies coffee tables, and now her whole house was a junk drawer.

tough girl. she lives in the city so she can tell everyone shes urban chic but there is a grocery a block away and a blockbuster closer than that. clean aisles, bright streetlights, parking spaces, chain restaurants.

weak girl. she lives in the city so she can tell everyone shes urban chic and there is a biker bar on her alley where the revving sounds like fireworks. rats gnaw at the trash if she doesnt snap the lid tight, the back yard is cracking cement, the girlfriend next door gets her face beaten in if he thinks shes cheating, and a fuse blows every time she attempts to vacuum.

iíve got glimmering hell rising up inside me, like alka-seltzer bubbles in the core of my stomach. and no, i donít know enough to compare my pain to yours, but in my standard histrionic fashion i say to you: i wouldnít wish this on my worst enemy. i am not five years old. i donít have a worst enemy, as if there is a long list on lined purple paper, with xyz named at the top. you, you, i wouldnít even wish this on you.

itís a suburban torment. itís 18 years of standard white-walled, driveway, no-dead-leaves-in-the-gutters, cable in every room, incarceration of brain cells in every layer of paint.

i write on the inside of the closets, for those who will come after me. josie josie josie. josie loves so-and-so. josie wants to be a movie star. josie goes to public school. josie balances extracurricular activities with appropriate grades in order to make it to the top of a public college and save everyone money and gasoline.

the only thing that is mine is the skin.

they have infiltrated the brain with racist belligerence, middle-class values, middle-class religion, middle-class politics. there is no extreme. there is no finishing the table until your plate is clean. there is no going to school until the bed is made. there is nothing but muted yellow siding and sky blue tiles in the bathroom and a mailbox that clearly states the last name of the occupants. there is a red flag, when bills need to be taken. there is a decent occupation with full benefits and vacation time. there is a cubicle and there are pictures of doggies or families on the wall. there is a square meal and eight glasses of water a day and pantyhose and the evening news and everyone frowns at appropriate junctures, when children are killed in accidental apartment fires. there is bedtime and curfews and afterschool jobs at a vacuous mall. there are appropriate allowances and raises for appropriate grades and everything comes down to reason and logic and logic and reason. and sometimes, someone, everyone, someone somewhere needs to counter that. too much balance weighs down, and eventually buries the scales.

i know about the eating disorders. they are too distasteful and i like my lo mein too much to give it up.

but chaos can exist within the simple canvas of the skin. physical rebellion rebirths the scales, digs up the scales and gives them life. they sway and dance and mesmerize the viewers. and so i fuck and i burn and i scape and i scratch and i brand and i maul and i bleed and laugh so hard my eyes tear up and my stomach clenches and my smokers cough gives way to a hack and i too, watch the scales sway up and down, one side then the other, knowing i created movement where there was a void.

∑ ∑ ∑

summary of plot concept below (new stuff, I need help!!!)

this story is about creating unbalanced scales, chaos in josies life. and how the chaos, the unbalancing, is the way josie goes through life to find herself. to find meaning for her existence. josie fears the idea of simply following the examples that her nurtured suburban existence gave herthe idols, the ideals, the simplicity and the comfort. josies own definition of life defies the idea of comfort and simplicty. chaos gives her meaning.

but in reality, this external chaos is an excuse to avoid internalization, internal strength, internal probing. hell, for all she knows, all those people sitting in front of the tv right now in suburbia, if left alone with no cable, no electricity, theyd be completely comfortable in that solitude. theyd enjoy the calm. theyd enjoy the time to reflect on their lives, their experiences, their goals. but if josies cable died, shed have to start burning herself or take a pill or have 3 drinks, etc.

climax is the argument, the fight where josie finally confronts the concept of external discovery versus internal discovery, and how external discovery may have very little to do with internal awareness, strength, self self self. it doesnt mean shes "found" herself and knows all the answers to her own point in existing. but its the simple turning point that is the point in itself for josie. its the biggest step shes ever takenshe finally starts having a conversation with herself. and she is amazed at how far she can get in expanding her "self" by sitting in a room with no drugs, no money being spent, no chaos, no noise.

as she probes she finds details within the previously resented personal history. she remembers a window that she loved to look out of, she remembers songs, she remembers warmth and dreams and delicacies within the most simple of experiences. she lets go of some of the rage.

its not a 180-degree change. she doesnt find love, a job in the peace corps, a birth mother she never knew about. nothing like that. its simple and probing and hopeful even in the fear of walking nearly blindfolded through her brain.