TRACKSIDED

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OFF TRACK

MONA

I’m pretty, smart and wealthy, why, why doesn’t he see me?

My strokes are violent, and so is the painting; anger pushes me to paint. Looking at my work, I know I’m exploding.

I’m angry at Jane and Brad for keeping secrets, but above all, I’m just fucking mad at myself for being jealous like a 12-year-old would.

Yes, I’m an adult, I’m supposed to be mature, but I still have this crush, which at this stage I have no choice but call it love. Yep, the sentiment for that Henry lookalike is that profound.

Deep down, I still desire my cousin to tell me all her secrets, so we can giggle together because it’s all I have going for me. If only I could do a rewind of the time, we were like Siamese twins.

People think I’m so damn happy because I have everything one can wish for; it’s not entirely wrong, but it isn’t right either. Having what I want would mean having Brad and an average family.

“Are you okay, Mona?” My mom says from the door; she knows that something is nibbling my conscience when my paintbrushes are out. Painting takes in my tormented emotions; art is my catharsis.

The canvas becomes the keeper of the darkness that cloaks me. Once I finish, I feel cleansed, immaculate in thought.

Mom has just got back, and she’s taking off her hijab. My mom is going through a faith crisis again; she has moments like that where she wants to connect with Allah and repent.

It happens when she visits family in Egypt; what’s cool is she doesn’t impose her religion on me and lets me live. Dad is cool too in his way. He let’s mom do her thing, dad loves her unconditionally, it’s beautiful to see, and I wish someone would feel for me that way.

My dad loves my mom more than she does him. Mom admitted it once she never felt anything for anyone like she did for my deceased father, and she has never gotten over the grief.

I never met my birth father, but the one I have is perfect, he’s a hard man, but he’s a military; what do you expect?

Dad is more open-minded than what people think, even if, with his blonde hair and cold blue eyes, you’d imagine him in the KGB and torturing people in some abandoned warehouse. It’s what he probably does when he’s on missions, but I don’t want to know.

Many people say he looks like Dolph Lundgren, the guy who plays Rocky’s opponent in Rocky IV, but for me, he’s just my dad. The one who buys me everything and punishes me military style when I do wrong.

Brad and Jane still shudder when they recall how he made me stand on my knees with my hands behind my head a whole day without food or water when I got a tattoo done in Itaewon.

I do all of these crazy things, but I hate the idea of disappointing my dad, it’s not that he scares me more than mom, but I guess I love him more than her. Perhaps I’m just trying to give back to the man who offered us a better life, or I’m trying to fill the gap of love my mother owes him. Nevertheless, I love and respect him; my dad was always the person I thought of when Jane tried to convince me to take Nirvana Blue or do other crazy stuff.

Jane used to diss me, calling me daddy’s little girl, and she was right. I don’t want my dad to see how tinted I am.

I don’t know what, but something happened when Jane and Brad disappeared. My dad and uncle Travis took some distance from one another, and my mom kept asking me if I was taking drugs and sleeping with boys and stuff. My mom doesn’t seem to appreciate Jane anymore; she stares at her as though she had leprous or something. Dad even told me to keep her eye; I hate not knowing what happened.

Also can’t stand the fact that Brad still fancies Jane; with all these secrets, I became paranoid, I began to think perhaps Brad got Jane pregnant behind my back, and she left the country to get an abortion. He got exiled for what he did.

I’m a bitch; I’m not a good friend.

I hear steps; I turn.

“Jane.”

Her eyes stalk every inch of my room as if she’s looking for cameras. “sorry, to barge in like this.”

“What’s wrong? What happened? You are all red. Won’t you supposed to have a lesson today?”

Jane looks like she’s about to faint as she exclaims,” Mr. Kim is THE KIM.”

I cock an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”

“Remember you joked about saying, what if Mr. Kim was Kim Tae Won, and I said stop watching Kdrama.”

“Yeah, and?”

“Well, someone heard you.”

“NO WAY,” I yell.

“Yes, way,” Jane says as she grasps her head.

“Oh, my gosh, Jane,” I grab both of her hands, “it’s a sign.”

Wow, I can’t believe it. I’m genuinely happy for Jane, and at the same time, I think to myself, how come everything rolls for her this way.

How does she do it?

For some reason, there are people who, without an effort, get all things handed down to them.

It seems like it was only yesterday Jane talked about her sudden crush, and bam, the guy becomes her tutor, as though someone is shifting the moon just to light Jane’s face.

“I’m jealous.”

Jane’s expression and frown make me realize I said it out loud, and I can’t retrieve my words. I’m not a good liar, so I just spill my thoughts. Jane can do whatever with them. The mean part of me hopes she’ll feel a little burdened by my words. Hey, I’m no friggin mother, Theresa, get over it.

“You are one lucky shit; you get them all, don’t you?”

“Eh, Mona, I haven’t got Tae Won, and if you are referring to Brad, you know that I will neverㅡ.”

“Why won’t you never?”

“Eh, his my friend, remember and youㅡ.”

“So you pity me because if that’s the case, I just want to let you know, Brad isn’t the last man on earth, I’ll get over it, and I don’t want no pity.”

“Will you? “Jane says with an inquisitive stare as she crosses her arms.

“Will what?”

“Get over him because you’ve had a crush on Brad since we’re 14, and you are still in Brad-limbo.”

I bite my bottom lip; I want to smile because this argument no longer makes sense; there’s no point pursuing.

It won’t change a thing to the fact the boy of my dreams likes my depressive cousin who has a crush on a bouncer.

I burst into laughter to camouflage, and I hope it works.

Jane frowns, “what’s so funny?”

“I just imagined aunt Rebecca’s face, if you present Mr. Kim, like, mom, I’ve met someone. Oh, great Jane, what’s his pedigree?”

“That isn’t funny,” Jane says, laughing too.

Like Jane, I love giving aunt Rebecca the runaround. She is so prude and such an easy client that she has been the source of many laughing fits.

Even though we are joking around, I can’t help but feel sorry for aunt Rebecca; I still see her coming here sitting in the living room without makeup or chignon, explaining how she can’t cope with uncle Travis’s infidelities talking about divorce.

I think the worst time was five years ago; she often came seeking advice, asking my mom if I too caused trouble, did I come home drunk, or under the influence of drugs, if I ever talked about Jane.

She questioned me too, about Jane’s friends, or if I was aware she skipped school and stuff. I lied, like a faithful friend and cousin. When Jane disappeared, I wondered if I did the right thing back then.

Now Jane is here, with all the drama one needs, I’m happy; I felt lonely without her.

I’m not a brutal girl, but people here don’t seem to appreciate people without masks. I hate pretending, but Asia is full of rules, customs, and behaviors; it’s hard to connect with people who are always hiding their feelings. When I think of it aunt, Rebecca was probably Asian in a past life. Jane and Abby don’t know their mother’s personality, how anxious and worried she is.

Somehow, I feel the anger mount against Jane. She has spoilt my purification ritual. My mind clouds with dark thoughts; she’s so selfish that I just want to hit her till she gets it or dies.

Gosh, I need to paint more.

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