Title: One Art
Author: Girl Who Writes
Feedback: is beloved.
Word Count: 2 114.
Genre: Angst, drama.
Summary: Mimi feels like a lost child for the first time, amongst the daring, the sick and the extraordinary.
Notes: Written for speed rent's 200th challenge! Use four challenges, one from each set of fifty - the four challenges I chose were 45, 96, 124 and 165. The title is from Elizabeth Bishop's poem 'One Art', and I think the the poem very much relates to Mimi in this fic. I can't link to the poem at so if you'd like to read it, Google it. It's a wonderful poem.
Each 'chapter-ette' is exactly 150 words according to MSWord. I'm very proud that I managed that; I'm usually quite hopeless at drabbles.Special Thanks: To Greens. This is seriously the best and most fun writing challenge online, and I can only imagine how much time and work this takes. Thank you so, so much.
Spoilers: Mimi has HIV, oh noes!
Warnings: Pre-movie fic, strange formatting, slightly wonky because of exhaustion.
Disclaimer: Jonathan Larson owns Rent; I am merely a fan and make no profit from them. I own Mimi's family.
Money was stretched. The four Marquez children would sit at the table on a Saturday morning as their mother washed the breakfast plates and their father counted out money for them all, even 'pin money' for their mother.
It was two dollars for Mimi, eight shiny quarters that she kept in a tiny beaded purse her grandmother had given her, with red and white hearts. Her brothers got folded notes, but Mimi always wanted coins.
There was a shop on the corner that sold sweets in big glass jars. Mimi clutched her brother Tony's hand and he'd walk her to the end of the street and she'd buy a paper bag of sweets. Better to spend it because it if was saved, their father would come home Monday night and look at the bills, and demand they hand the money back. No money for sweets and hairclips and frilly socks.
She learnt to save her money in her grandmother's old glasses case. She learnt that coins jingled and notes were quiet, and the folded paper was silent and secret. When her father was at work and her brothers were out, her mother downstairs, she'd unfold the bills and wonder what she'd spend her fortune – in her eight year old eyes, twenty four dollars and seventy five cents was enough for anything she wanted badly enough.
She goes downstairs and shows her mother her savings, and Carmen Marquez holds her daughter tight. Mimi wants the ruby slippers she saw in the shop that sells children's clothes – flat shoes covered in red sequins. Beautiful shoes for a beautiful girl, her mother kisses her hair.
Her father storms in, muttering about the injustices of the world, and Mimi jams the roll of notes into her skirt pocket. Her father has already seen it.
Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know Jorge Marquez is doing wrong by his family. Maybe it's the way that his daughter always stares at the ground, or that his wife wears her heavy cardigans in summer. The twins are always littered with bruises, wearing clothes so worn they don't so much as tear as just disappear.
It started with money, it did. Jorge asked Mimi to hand her bills to him over dinner, and then informed the family if they wanted their own money, they could damn well find themselves jobs. That he needed to pay the bills, put food on the table, and couldn't do that if they were off spending it on toys and sweets.
The cracks are appearing. Tony gets a job in the market, Exodus walking dogs. Tristan doesn't. He won't say what he does, but Mimi sees the pencil case hidden under the floorboards.
Mimi's mother says that alcohol has always been poison to the Marquez family – turns their soul black, Carmen says, crossing herself as she recalls her father in law. Jorge never returns to the house when he is drunk, but his temper, resentments and anger hang over the house like a cloud. Anger at the past, the debts his own parents left him. Resentment at his family for turning away at him, for the children's love and respect for their mama.
Mimi stays away from the house, where her father scowls, yells and criticizes, where nothing is good enough. She divides her time between school – a seedy building – and wondering the city. Her escape is the Metro pass she gets new every school year. Something her father cannot take away because all students are given one.
She arrives home quietly at night, and escapes upstairs where she hopes she'll be overlooked.
Carmen Marquez leaves her husband on a Wednesday and Jorge Marquez leaves on a Thursday. Tony goes to work Thursday morning, and Exodus goes to school. Mimi stays home with Tristan, in her old nightdress, and they smoke their mother's cigarettes in the kitchen.
It hurts inside because Carmen is gone, and left her girl behind with Jorge. Tony and the twins will be gone within the year, and she still has six years of high school. It wells up and she bursts into tears, stabbing the cigarette out on the kitchen table, burning the wood in a neat circle, and holds her hands to her face. It's like she's stuck in a tunnel, and the light at the end has been blown out.
"I can make it stop hurting, Mimi." Tristan takes a long drag on his cigarette and drops it in his coffee and stands up. "Come on."
It makes everything go away, like everything is going to be perfect and wonderful forever. Tristan sits beside her, on the bathroom floor with their backs against the wall. Tristan opens the pencil case – a spoon, a cigarette lighter, a baggie of white powder, a belt and the end of a red candle from Christmas.
He tightens the belt around his arm, and Mimi sees a tattoo on his arm, an intricate crucifix, while he injects the needle into his arm. He closes his eyes and smiles before refilling the needle for her, injecting it for her before she can change her mind.
It's like the solution to all her problems are within arms reach. She lies down on the cool bathroom floor and closes her eyes, so happy, so wise and on the way down.
Tristan plaits her hair and they smoke together, and she's happy, so, so happy.
Tristan is the first to leave, packing his things up in cardboard boxes and hugs Mimi tight, promising he'll write to her. He ignores Jorge, staring at him from the doorway as he walks out of the family house, and Mimi wonders if she'll ever see her brother again.
Tony is next, marrying a girl from Brooklyn and moving to an apartment over a shop. Mimi visits twice, drinks milky tea and plays with her new niece, born three months after the wedding. Mimi holds baby Elisa in her arms and hopes somewhere there's a man for her, and he'll marry her and they'll have baby girls and she'll teach ballet.
Exodus is last. He shows her a letter from Carmen, asking him to stay with her and her new boyfriend and child while he studies at Berkeley. Mimi doesn't get a letter or an invitation to see her mother.
Life is repetitive when she's left alone with her father. He works, comes home and he makes himself dinner. He goes to bed, and his cycle starts again.
Tristan's letters come twice a month, delivered by hand and pushed under the door – there's a tiny bag of smack within the folded paper – always copied down from the Bible. Mimi never reads them, but keeps them in an old shoebox.
Tristan's gifts keep her sane. There was three consecutive letters where there was no smack, but pills, tabs of acid. She took some pills but sold them, almost two hundred dollars hidden in her underwear drawer.
She's got it down to an art - how tight to pull the belt without it bruising, how to talk to her father without letting him know she's high, to write a paper for school. She loves her brother for helping her live this life.
Carmen comes home on a Friday, the day after Mimi's fifteenth birthday, with two year old Sierra on her hip. Mimi listens to the yelling downstairs and sits on the edge of the bath, the needle in her arm and the world has a rosy glow. She hears her mother's bastard daughter start to cry, and her mother rushing to calm little baby Sierra. She remembers being twelve and crying for her mother, and no one coming to calm her.
She looks in the bathroom mirror, her hair held back with a white headband, in her neat Catholic school uniform and heavy black shoes. Her eyes are white, and dark smudged circles under her eyes. She's skinny and pale and ill.
"Mimi?" Carmen knocks on the door and Mimi's too out of it to stand up, flick the lock – she's careless – and looks up, the needle still in her hand.
Her mother lets out a strangled scream, which sets the child off again, and Carmen babbles at her in Spanish, grabbing her and shaking her by the shoulders. Angry, frightened and confused. Mimi wants to shriek with laughter, tell her mother she's taken Spanish in summer school for two years because she keeps failing.
"Why do you do this to me?" Carmen shrieks, gripping her daughter tightly by the shoulders.
Mimi tries to pull away, shaking her head, and begins to cough. She's had the flu for weeks, spent her birthday in bed with aspirin, only leaving for school today because her father stayed home. Isolation becomes her.
She wants to scream that she did it for no one but herself. Jorge appears in the doorway, Sierra in his arms, and Mimi knows that there aren't enough pills or powder in the world to burn that image from her mind.
She is not allowed to see her little sister, be near little Sierra, and Mimi doesn't care. Her mother and father stare at her in fear and disgust. Mimi rings Tristan and tries to seek sanctuary in his Village apartment, but Tristan scoffs and hangs up, and Mimi knows what being alone is.
On the ninth day of her return, Carmen takes Mimi to the doctor, fearful that Sierra might catch whatever Mimi has. Mimi wears a sundress and ballet slippers in the middle of November, and Carmen takes her to the doctor office in her shiny white car. The car ride feels longer than it is, Mimi staring out the windows, her fingers numb with cold, Carmen's voice creating a buzz as she lectures Mimi on how she will be seeing the priest at the church tomorrow.
When the doctor sees her arms, he frowns and takes her blood.
The results of her blood test come back two weeks later, Sierra playing on the floor of the surgery as the doctor inspects the results. Mimi plays with her necklace as the doctor clears his throat.
"I'm sorry Miss Marquez, but you are HIV positive."
Carmen sobs, so does Sierra, and Mimi resists the urge to kick both. Carmen snatches up Sierra and leaves the surgery, slamming the door shut. The doctor smiles sympathetically at Mimi, and hands her pamphlets and pages of information, before giving her pill samples, prescriptions and makes her appointment in two days time.
Carmen has left without her, and Mimi walks home fifteen blocks, arms full of papers. She's going to die young and beautiful, a martyr in her pain. In a secret, selfish way, she is pleased her parents hurt because of her; she hopes it hurts them as much as they hurt her.
Mimi leaves that night, three hundred dollars tucked in her bra, clothes stuffed in her school bag. She's sick of pain, she's sick of falling through the cracks, the hate, the yelling, the terror and the judgment. She is sick – dying - she wants to live her time in her way.
She leaves as the sun sinks behind the Manhattan skyline, out the backdoor. She steps on a package from Tristan, the first since she called him. She rips it open, pockets the smack and lets the Bible passages blow away.
Her grandmother spoke of being happy, loving yourself, loving your family. Her grandmother, who was frightened of her husband and son, poor, and died without the treatment her son wouldn't give her. Mimi wants love and happiness and safety. She was dealt a bad hand, so she'll figure it out herself. It can't be any worse than it was.
Alphabet City – love, drugs, ideas, music and happiness whether it is synthetic, rushing through her veins, or whether it's sitting on a fire escape till dawn, listening to the neighbors tune their instruments. In grubby stockings and an old dress, Mimi feels like a lost child for the first time, amongst the daring, the sick and the extraordinary. She thinks of home, a familiar bed and her parents' blank expressions, united together in their disappointment of her. She has left them, heartbroken but united and content together, her final gift to them; a debt she will never let them pay.
Mimi finds a tattoo parlor that's only a bit dirty, and waves money in the artist's face. If she's going to die on the streets, alone but happier, she wants the last word.
Remember me for my passion; the paradise that I imagined curls along her back, the pain cathartic.