January thirty-first. I thought it would never arrive. Finally, I was twenty. Not that it was a big accomplishment or anything. I still couldn’t drink in the States, but I still felt older. I was doing all right in school. I was passing my courses; even my new course Creative Writing. Rich didn’t think my stories were the greatest, but he could see that I had somewhat of a creative mind.
“This one about God controlling every person on this planet is an interesting concept. But what if it wasn’t God, what if it was some outside party?”
“Like whom?” I had asked him last week. I had gone to his office to talk to him about my story, because Rich thought I could be doing better in the class if I focused more.
“Why don’t you make it a love story?” Rich offered. His blue shirt almost matched his navy blue chair and he had his hands clasped in front of him. Then I saw him flash me his gold watch as he stared at the time. “Well, sorry Art. That’s all the time I have, but I think the story’s coming along.” And just like that he was shooing me out of his office.
I hadn’t really thought much about the story after that because I didn’t really have to focus on it until the portfolio, which was due in April. Rich had told the class that we could keep submitting the same story, but he did recommend we focused on the assignments for the workshop pieces to expand our minds as writers. The first assignment had been to write a story that took everyday concepts and turned them on its head. I didn’t really know what Rich had been talking about at first, but then I thought of what was going on in my world around me.
Last Friday I had seen a pencil in the S. parking lot, which was close to the Expository building. It was a large building with half a greenhouse. I had my art class there. Yes, I was taking an art class. When I told people: “General Arts”, I meant that very seriously. I was trying out all art classes. I had been to a drama course in the Vale building a few hours before. The art course was just an introduction to drawing. My professor for art was a frizzy red haired woman with thick glasses. Her name was Jayne Grimsby. Her name made me think of Ontario. I did not think this was a good thing.
I walked into the class and Professor Grimsby greeted me with shining emerald eyes. Her eyes were jewels. They were such a bright green I almost felt like I was being hypnotized.
The room was a series of tables scattered around and blank yellow pages of paper littered the tops of them. Actually, there was so much paper that you could barely see the tops of the tables.
“Welcome to art!” cried Professor Grimsby. There were about ten people sitting around the tables. I felt I had just walked into a kindergarten class for adults. “What’s your name?!”
“Arthur,” I told her hoping that she wouldn’t figure out my nickname.
“Arthur! That’s so cool! Your nickname’s ART! Everyone say hello to Art! It’s alright if I call you that, right?”
I shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Art in art class,” said a blonde girl with sapphire eyes.
Sapphires and emeralds. Did all of the students have eyes the colours of jewels? Not mine. Mine were more of a milky blue.
Professor Grimsby clasped her hands together. “Well, Art, welcome to art class. If you want the technical term, this is ten-fifty ‘All Right Tableau’. Get it? ‘ART’! I thought it was clever. I’m your professor, Professor Jayne Grimsby. Susan thinks I’m the female version of Jay Gatsby. She’s the girl behind me with the bright blue eyes. Aren’t her eyes just the prettiest?”
Grimsby then stepped over to Sapphire Eyes. I just gave them a fake smile.
“Fantastic,” I said trying not to sound sarcastic.
“I think our first assignment will be to draw Susan’s eyes.”
But when all the students gave her blank stares, she realized the class hadn’t understood she was joking. “I’m joking!”
The class nodded, feeling like idiots. Who was this woman?
“Anyway, Art, take a seat. You can call me Jayne by the way.”
“O.K.,” I said to Jayne as I sat down beside Susan. Jayne went back to her desk.
“So now that we have everyone here...” Jayne glanced at the class list to make sure. “We can begin introducing our names to the class and then say what we want to do as artists or, better yet, what type of artist we already are. I know that for everyone except Art, you’ve already heard each other’s names. But this will be a good refresher. Art, why don’t you go first?”
“Um...well...” I began. “I’m Art as you all know and I guess I’m here to learn how to draw?”
“Is that a question?”
“No. I’m here to draw.”
“Draw what exactly?”
“I don’t know, pictures?”
“What kind of pictures?”
And then for some reason I decided to lie. “I want to draw eyes. I find them to be the most fascinating part of the human face: the way they glow and how there are so many colours. I mean, you have grass eyes, ocean eyes (mix of blue and green), even chocolate brown eyes. And like every colour, an artist has to choose the right one. So I want to draw the chocolatiest eyes, the oceaniest eyes, and the grassiest eyes.”
I guess the lie had worked. Susan looked shocked. Actually, the whole class looked shocked. I think they actually thought a true artist had just stepped into the room. I smiled at all the surprised faces as I listened to everyone else’s answers. None of them were as long and descriptive as mine. Some students wanted to really explore comics but how to draw them, some cartoonists, but no one seemed to be as obsessed with something like eyes.
And now that I had made that speech, Jayne didn’t seem to take her eyes off me. She really thought I was some brilliant eye fanatic. And I realized that I would actually have to play this up if I wanted to not reveal the fib.
This was my first lie of many.
But that had been yesterday and today was my birthday: Saturday, January thirty-first. I woke up and planted my naked feet into brown slippers. My floor was too cold and I thought it was such a hassle to always pull on socks and then shoes so I could get out of my room. Sure, the bottom of my slippers might get extremely dirty because of all the “pigs” (according to Jake), but I didn’t care. It was fucking university!
Once my feet were in my slippers I noticed that there was a hair on the black carpet by the right post of my bed. I picked it up and recognized that it was brown; almost the same brown as my slippers. Chocolate brown. I only knew one girl with chocolate brown hair: Alice Sterling. I know, I haven’t described her hair like that before. But that was her hair and I think picking up this small strand made me realize how beautiful her hair really was. And as I stared at this chocolate string of hair, I realized that there was a bit of red in this strand as well. So Alice’s hair was a chocolate brown with a hint of a cherry red like an ice cream sundae without the ice cream.
I smiled. I really did love this girl.
I dropped the strand of hair into the blue trashcan by the desk and then grabbed my dorm key before heading to the mailbox to pick up my birthday cards. Once I had typed in the three-digit number:
I found one small envelope and when I was back in my room, I opened it up. On the front of the card was a blue sky with a big red balloon floating behind the vast blueness. When I opened the card, I read in cursive writing:
We know that moving away from a city is tough and I hope you had a great Christmas even if you were away from your friends in Kelowna. Kaylee tells us that you’re practicing meditation, which is great and will relieve the stress and homesickness you might feel later on.
We hope the New Year brings you great things and that your birthday is a special one. Though you’re not at home, I hope we can skype sometime later today and that you go somewhere special tonight if it’s a new bar or a restaurant. Your father and I want you to explore the city of Kelowna, as from our knowledge you seemed to be a bit trapped in just the campus.
With lots of love,
Mom & Dad
My sister’s handwriting wasn’t as fancy as my parent’s, but it still made me smile.
I hope you have a fantastic birthday and a fantastic new year. Don’t work too hard but still have fun. You seemed a bit down when I last saw you so I want you to come back happy and with lots of stories. Today’s your day, so make it your own.
Inside the card was a hundred dollars (remember that was from my parents and my sister so not a lot of money, really), which I stuffed into my wallet that was still sitting on my nightstand. I had no idea what I would spend it on, but it was nice to see the brown bill inside the black flap of my wallet. After my wallet was back on the bureau, I decided to have a shower and then get dressed. As the water rushed over my face, I thought about the month so far. Tomorrow would be February and I wondered what the love-month would bring. Nothing seemed out of place, but things to me did feel out of ordinary. I mean, I could explain everything if I really wanted to. Alice’s strand of hair? Hey, unless I D.N.A. tested it, I wouldn’t really know it was hers. If it was hers, it could have fallen off her any of the times she had been in my dorm room. I bet if I had really searched, I could’ve found several hairs. The Wonderland songs? Maybe I had listened to those songs a lot and my Genius iTunes was playing them because of how much it thought I loved them, or maybe it was just a coincidence. The Post-It? Maybe it was just some note Joe had written.
I could come up with an answer for every strange occurrence, but a part of me didn’t want to. A part of me wanted to believe this staged game. I guess it made my life more exciting than it was. But if it was some staged game, who was staging it? Alice? It seemed like a lot of work for one girl. But Alice didn’t know it was my birthday today; no one in Kelowna did. The only one that knew about the date was my calendar because I had written on my Pink Floyd calendar on today’s date, My birthday. And unless Alice had seen that scrawl on my calendar, there was no way of her knowing about my birthday. But my calendar was just above the desk and in plain view from Joe’s bed so maybe she had seen it and just hadn’t mentioned it to me. But the day wasn’t over and as I got dressed, I wondered if Alice did have some special surprise planned for me. But what made me question this idea was that these strange occurrences I had been witnessing had been happening before my birthday. Maybe they would end tonight. But something told me this was going to become a regular thing. Maybe I was hallucinating. But from what? I didn’t do drugs and this wasn’t a problem from alcohol. But I did know that the brain could create its own drugs, so maybe I was hallucinating off that. Maybe the world was just moving regularly and not strangely at all. Maybe I was the one who was strange and I was the only one seeing strange things.
But as I changed into my clothes, snapped my Toy Story watch on my wrist (O.K., I was a child at heart. But I liked looking at the faces of Buzz Lightyear and Woody in the morning), and put on my red Converse Chuck Taylors on my feet, I stepped outside of my room and tripped over an easel that was standing just outside the door.
The wooden structure collapsed from my weight and made a loud snap as it folded into itself as I crashed into the grey carpet below me. There was a poster on the left wall of the door that read ART in big red block letters. The word was pasted on a blue background and I didn’t read the words below it, I had gotten the message. Everything seemed too well planned and whom the fuck places an easel in front of someone’s door?
I was about to walk up to Alice’s door and knock until she opened it, but then decided that maybe I would go along with this game. What harm would it really do? I was planning to spend my birthday alone in a restaurant and the day would probably end with me going to bed early because of how lonely I was. But if things were happening around me and trying to send me some kind of message, I wanted to be part of it even if it really was a hallucination or just my crazy imagination.
I hadn’t really been the most imaginative kid. If someone in preschool had told me to draw a lion, I would. And it would look like a lion, not some strange dragon with red eyes. Maybe this little journey, whether it was conducted by Alice or not, would give me inspiration. So I placed the easel back up in front of the door and walked towards the stairs. But just before I opened the door to the stairs, I heard a crash and then Joe’s voice.
“What the fuck is this doing here?!”
I chuckled as I headed down the stairs to the cafeteria. I wondered if Joe was going to be part of this accident of my heart.