Author's Note: A bit of a prequel explaining Effie's story, from her point of view. For once I'm actually describing how she looks.
Everyday seems to start in the evening. So every night I wake up and its "Hello world I'd like it if you were a little gentler today than yesterday. No? Alright...I suppose I'll just have to manage."
Is it really so strange that I start up conversations with everyone like that? It must be, elsewise I wouldn't hear snickering every time I turned my back. Or recieved quite so many invitations to the sanatorium as I did. Of all the kids at my old school who recieved such invitations (I do say there were a lot) I think I recieved the most after we all gratefully never saw each other again. There were crazy Katies, emo Larries, punk Harries, and anorexic Annies. I was a Stefanie...known to all as Effie.
For a while my motto was "Ask and thou shall recieve". But after a while I realized, with a slow and unfortunately stupid kind of revelation, that no one was listening, I just went on acting like they heard me precisely. It delved a little into madness when I imagined their response, even if it was as rude as a blatant, "Shut the fuck up or I will shove staples up your nose," kind of imagined response. I tried to stop but the stone had begun its decline down the hill and there was nothing I could do.
There was no solace at my house with my family. My father saw everything through rose-colored glasses, and sometimes mint-colored or aqua-colored, and insisted I was fine, everything was fine, the world was just fine, fine, fine. My mother jumped at the sound of the slightest squeak or rattle on the door handle; I couldn't approach her with a dillemma like that. So after a woeful 13th, really the worst age to be in your life, I was stuck on my own. My childhood had been so full of joy it had used up its qutoa as it made me who I am. All that was left was the not-so-joyful things, like growing up, and learning how to do chores and want to work adequately, and realizing that Starbucks was a terrible place to work and that only smart people knew how to eat well and cheap. I'm not so smart, but I think I could manage for a while.
The first incident that I was doomed to readjust time and time again, started out in front of a Taco Smell. Because like every ordinary, slight-dimmed, Caucasian girl; I needed a pair of shoes. Next to the music store was my destination, and once I had a soft set of slip-on shoes (ignoring the fact now that I'd be accused of lesbianism for wearing such cozy shoes), I prepped myself for going to the Taco Smell across the street for an evening lunch.
I think it was the blood splatters and screams that were ensuing from the said restaurant that made me consider Italian.
"Oh dear God!"
"My eyes! I can't see my eyes!"
"Somebodeee! Pull this churrito out of my ass!"
And other such shrieking.
Finally, coated in a enough blood to dye all his clothes a deep maroon, someone stepped out. He was skinnier than I was, barely taller, but he had a "bam!" factor that gave him a presence. Put him a crowd full of people, make him an utter stranger, and you'd still be able to see him admist the blur of everyone around him. He wasn't handsome, or even cute like some of the most effeminante boys, but I couldn't help but think to myself. "Hell he'd do."
He stalked off, and I was left standing next to a formerly unseen and awestruck man, gaping in delight at the carnage he'd just seen. "Woooweee!" he squealed like a skinny pig, "What an artist!" He had to be an adult with his height, but he was covered in pimples with oily and ruffled hair, and gave off the presence of a teenager. He looked around for more inspiration, his eyes falling on me. "Uh oh," I said aloud, before taking off down the street. Those easy shoes helped alot as I ran faster than the inspired man who whined as he chased, calling out- "Aww come on! I won't rape you if you're a lesbian!" No, no, I was perfectly fine with living as it was. New shoes and all that.
I ordered Italian after all, the mush of overcooked noodles devoured easily as I ate alone in my little apartment. I didn't care much for Italian, but the bread was an irresistable aroma, soft and warm and fragrant. In other words, completely unlike anything my life had been.
The next days went on like normal. I watched over a post office for the night shift, helping everyone who waited at the last minute to mail their bills or send blackmail. But the most interesting thing I would do was talk to my reflection. Yes, talk. Didn't I tell you how often I do this?
I suppose she looks like me, we both have the same curly hair. We both have watery grey eyes, although I've often argued with Other Effie that her's are a little more green (I swear I swear it's a compliment!). And a lifetime of dark days and indoor habits has left our skin pale and blue skimmed with nerves and veins if you look closely enough. I rather like my bone structure best; its the only thing I can claim to be utterly natural and my own. My hair? Years without changing shampoo brands. My eyes? Years of tears over the littlest things (there's a dead racoon sitting by the road, poor thing he doesn't even have a grave now). My skin...my abandonment of the sun, of my childhood, of assuming I always had someone with a ready ear.
But I'd always have my good bones. Even if my flesh were to shrivel into a comparison of a concentration camp survivor, they'd be beauteous.
The Other Effie was difficult and a braggart. She claimed she could do more to herself as a reflection than I could ever do as a real person. But that's what she wants to be...real. When I pin my hair up to the left, she doesn't want hers to be forced to pin it up to the right. When I wear something with words, she doesn't want them turned into gibberish on her chest. She's also incredibly pitiful and teary-eyed, moving me to fits of crying in the bathroom.
I did anticipate other company though. It would be mighty disappointing if all I had was company that made me cry.
Mr. Vargas. He was the school councilor at a strict private school across town, and every Wendsday he came mail things for his assignments. He was a good guy, a zealot without the shrieking preachings of other zealots that took up boxes on street corners, and mild-mannered. It disrupted the line when we would talk, but talk we did. A good guy. A really, truly good guy. I once asked him why there were so few in the world, because I could and asking such an honest question would merit and honest answer. "Because its very hard. Talk to any philosopher and they'll agree that it's extremely difficult to do the right thing all the time. It wears on you like surf on cliff rocks, chipping at you steadily. But someone does it and they don't regret it."
I smiled, a rare thing since I usually just looked like a half-wit to everyone I talked to and replied. "Am I nice?"
He died the day after I asked. He had never been given the chance to answer when a customer behind him jostled him and told to get the hell out. I found out because someone had brought him into the post office with his address. Whoever did it left his remains, bloody and a inevitablely dead mess, in a big glass jar. They'd taken special care to pick off the label and tape a new one in a messy scrawl. His glasses were cracked and taped to the front of it. I should have screamed and cursed and uttered profanity to the skies but that was not my duty. I was too much of a civil servant to do that now. I simply picked up the jar and told the boss I was doing a delivery this time. I walked all the way to his home and opened the door...surprisingly unlocked.
It was a lonely and forlorn place without him. I could feel the history of his presence, pictures from his student's art classed tacked up on the walls and the kitchen table tidily organized with his school work. A tidy place, so cold and empty. He had no one else to live with him, no family or friends or even a single pet. Clean dishes he'd most likely done that morning sat in their drying rack. This morning he'd woken up alive and alone. Now he had a guest and was dead.
I surmised he though I was nice that night. It was very hard to take him home the way he was and sit there all alone. I hugged his jar, peering at the cracked bones, innards, flesh and blood. It gleamed a sickly red in the moonlight and I ended up falling asleep on the couch. This was so saddening I couldn't even cry. His funeral was void of even a preist, and this was a man who full-bodily believed in God. A gravestone was set and the grumbling groundsman dug his hole, a pathetic three feet deep as there was no coffin or full body, just an old glass jar. I laid him down and tried my best to pray...but I didn't know how. So I sang an old nursery rhyme I knew only the words too, the melody silly and made-up.
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie
When the pie was opened, they all began to sing
Now wasn't that a pretty dish to set before the king?
The King was in his counting house, counting out his money
The Queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey
The Maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes
Along there cam a blackbird and he snipped off her nose
I could only guess I was crazy too, for singing something so ridiculous. Mr. Vargas' death and my little nursery rhyme affected me greatly that night, and I had a dream that someone had taken up his jar and slathered him all over a piece of toast like raspberry jam to make me cry. Blackbirds swarmed my vision before turning into Mr. Vargas who wore a crown made of queen chess pieces and asked in a metronome voice, "Am I nice? Am I nice?"
I met Devi through work. Meaning she had work for me to do and I was compelled to do it. I had changed my job...the people at the post office had begun to melt into bloody jars in my sight and I couldn't bear another day at work with tears in my eyes. Now I worked at the bookstore as a clerk, and also as a go-between for Devi who wrote advertisements for the place now. For extra she paid me to buy her groceries and bring them home-she had undergone a horrific near death experience after she suffered yet another unsuccessful date. I vaugely remembered the night I witnessed the mass slaughter at Taco Smell and wondered "Hell he'd do" outloud, inciting a scowl from Devi as I helped put away her groceries. She loathed me because I was so dim-witted I never truly suffered. That was the falling point of Devi; she was not stupid all the time, merely when it came to dating boys. She was very clever on everything else, which led to her contemplation of her suffering, which made her bitter (which made me pipe down and take my reward of thirty bucks when I was done) and she saw too much happiness in my half-conscious life.
"I am not your friend," she growled once after I attempted a conversation.
"I never asked-" I tried to begin but then she threw a blob of paint at me. The result was sticky purple paint on her hands and all over her wall. I felt a surge of pride; when it came to track, dodgeball, and life, I never lose. Devi sputtered angrily and screamed at me in a way that made her look like a bird of prey, and I high-tailed it out of there as I explained that Devi was not quite done with the paint job for the new shop front.
I was happy, right? I had work and I wasn't starving. I suppose I could use more, but then I look into shopfronts and realize I don't need a thing that they sell inside. But I was also miserable. If it was Other Effie, who made me cry, or the jar of Mr. Vargas who gave me nightmares, or Devi who sought my eventual destruction, whom I depended on for friendship...then perhaps I did hold onto some of my misery. I enjoyed a clear and witless childhood, happy in wondering only what I would have for my three meals. But then I had to grow up and put some brains in my head...and it was so difficult. I had to think on everything I had done that day, and the day before, and the day before that and so on. It left me brain-dead as I walked around, seeking simple work.
Was I happy? Was I nice? Was I miserable?
It was then Devi who swept all of my questions away with a proposal. I had the urgings to be good to her and ease her bad tempers, but she still had it out for me. However, perhaps the prompting of her failing dates moved her to become a matchmaker. She told me she had arranged a blind date with someone she'd known. I was excited, "Oh how nice. Should I wear a blindfold to be politie?"
I'd always thought that way. Blind dates were for blind people. Devi smiled unnaturally. "Perfect." she said with a simper. "Just perfect."
The eve of the date I prepared. I gave good and thought-out excuses to my boss, cleaned my clothes and changed the shampoo for the first time in twenty one years. I wore my old prom dress, a green cotton one with sheep embroidered around the waist. And because it was green and I was being fashionable for once, I wore the same soft shoes I had bought so long ago, only this time I dyed them a deep purple.
As I stood before the steakhouse, a slip of paper giving my directions I pulled out the purple silk of the blindfold, binding it tightly around my eyes as I gave my name to the waiter. Being blind was a unique experience...I could only fell the anchor of the things around me like a pulsing warmth...the fiber of the carpeted floor, the slightest breeze from the waiter walking in front of me, the growing and fading conversations between the table. Finally I felt for the space of the chair, my shoes bumping against another pair underneath the table, and I did my best to beam at my visually-challenged date.
"Hello." I whispered.
There was a familiar presence sitting across the table, I could feel it as the toe of my shoe was gently nudged against the leather of a boot. I think I had felt it all along...the day I witnessed blood and agony like nothing else and feeling like it was as simple as watching a movie...the day that someone had left the mottled and ruined remains of Mr. Vargas on the stoop of the post office...the day I met Devi locked away in her cell of an apartment.
I felt it again. Through his voice and his creeping rage that seemed to bubble up from and unknown resevoir as he asked in an offended tone- "Why are you blindfolded?"
"I'm nice," I replied, remembering old questions finally answered from my own revelations and conversations with a miserable girl in the mirror. "I'm only trying to be nice."