(donate to chewbobington at gmail dot com)
(A description of what I'm doing is here.)
2393 / 22061 words. 11% done!
The truth is, I'd never been much for the goth scene. It never struck me the way it seems to strike some people. I just don't see the appeal in that much black. I mean, I certainly like looking skinny and everything, and black certainly has the slim factor going for it. But throwing a corset on top of all that just made my ribs hurt thinking about it.
So as I watched my friend Miriam lace up her corset strings, my sides gave an involuntary pang of pain.
"This will be my first gig with my new band," she explained. "I want to wear one I've broken in."
Miriam wasn't always goth. In fact, I remember a time when we sat in a sandbox together fighting over who got to play with the pink My Little Pony. I always won because I took karate as a kid, and I never really understood the whole self-discipline thing. She was defenseless around my Real Handchopping Action.
"Why can't you wear that cool dress you got at Macy's the other day?"
Miriam snorted. "Please. I can't wear that. I got it for my grandma's wedding. You don't wear something you wore to a wedding on stage."
"Yeah, okay, but it had spiders on it."
Miriam gave a final grunt as she yanked the corset strings in to a presumably satisfactory position, then began tying them into a hopefully demonic-looking bow. "They weren't spiders. They were spider flowers. And also that dress is pink."
I flopped down backwards on the bed so that my head hung over the edge. Now Miriam was upside-down. "You're wearing pink knee highs!" I pointed to the neon pink and black striped socks riding up (down?) her legs to her lacy green garter belt, which sat darkly under a puffy, bright yellow tutu.
"Those are ironic," she explained.
She turned a few times in the mirror to make sure she looked dark and sinister enough.
"I don't know, I really like this one, but I think the purple leather would really make this outfit!" She marched to her closet, where she had no less than ten corsets. The real ones. She'd explained this all to me ones. She didn't bother paying for the kind you could get at Fredrick's of Hollywood, the kind with the "crappy plastic". Instead, she paid hundreds of dollars for corsets made of high-quality, innard squishing steel. The contents of her closet would make one of those sweat shop kids cry from the sheer thought of how much it all cost.
Miriam plucked a daunting looking overbust from the rack, holding the purple leather up to the one she currently wore, which was a white satin fabric with intricate gold embroidery running up, down, in, out, and around the whole thing. Lined in black, of course, so it didn't come off as too happy.
"What do you think?" she asked.
I shrugged. "They both look sinster in different ways."
She sighed. "Mads, sit up and be serious. We've got to leave in half an hour and I haven't even done my makeup yet."
I grumbled, just so she knew how much effort it was to turn over and force myself into an upright position. I made a face that I hoped looked like I was really concentrating on the decision at hand.
"Hmm." I placed my hand on my chin and stroked it for good measure. If I was serious about it, the purple one probably would dull down the insane amounts of color emminating from her lower half. But then she'd have to spend another ten to twenty minutes extracting herself from her current corset in order to put on the new one. And I'd probably have to help.
"You look fine in what you've got on," I told her, hoping I sounded convincing enough.
She rolled her eyes at me and carried the new corset to the mirror to check for herself. "I don't know. I'm not as used to this one, but I think it would really pull the outfit together." And before I could stop her, she was undoing the bow she'd just finished making on the first corset.
I've gotten used to Miriam not taking my fashion advice on things. Even before she became all darker than thou, she'd worn stuff that made me feel uncomfortable being around her in public. Like, she'd wear her hair in ridiculous pigtails even though pigtails went out in second grade. Or she'd put on crazy, mismatched socks, then roll them up over the cuffs of her jeans, and I don't even know where the inclination to do that came from, because it looked so dang goofy.
So I guess I wasn't really surprised when she began adapting her wardrobe to the goth lifestyle. Now she had an excuse to dress like a spaz.
"Okay, Miriam, I'm going to go downstairs and wait for you," I said, hopping off the bed and heading out of her room.
I supported Miriam a lot, I really did. You had to, really. She was a lot more ambitious than me. I certainly hadn't been in five bands in the first three years of high school. I'd never made a point to star in every school play. I didn't want to be editor of the yearbook so that I could put in as many pictures of myself as possible in an act of artistic expression. I felt content to while away my time making passing grades and staying out of trouble. So watching Miriam take each project she undertook by storm always sort of inspired me. But it could get wearying, too. Hence the leaving for some breathing room.
I'd made it to the kitchen just in time to see Bret, Miriam's boyfriend/drummer, stumble through the front door carrying some sort of musical equipment. He looked and caught my eye.
"Hey, Madeline, you mind helping me with this?" he asked, hopping precariously on one foot while balancing whatever he held on the opposite knee.
"Sure." I ran over to grab the door and try to help keep him from dropping the whatever it was.
"So, what is that thing, anyway?" I asked. I'm not afraid of showing my ignorance of the world of rock and roll. Goth and roll? Rock and angst.
"It's a sculpture I made for Miriam's birthday. I wanted to surprise her with it." He positioned it up against a wall so that it couldn't fall over, and gestured grandly with his fishnet-gloved hands. "What do you think?"
I stared at it. I guess I felt better that it had nothing to do with the band, and I wasn't as out of the musical loop as I'd thought. I supposed it could be a pretty cool piece of art, if you were into large metallic structures with wires jutting every which way, some of them connecting to nothing.
"It's very...electronic," I nodded.
"Really?" Bret put his hands on his hips. "I was going for something more industrial."
"Oh, well, it's that, too!" I said.
He nodded. "It's cool, Maddy, I know you're not really into this stuff." Ah. So he'd seen through my ruse. Damn. "Is she ready yet?" he asked, gesturing up the stairs to Miriam's room.
"Nope. There was a corset emergency."
Bret nodded, clapping his hands together. "I'm super jazzed about this gig! Our first one as Interrobang Widdershins. Greg came up with the name. You like?"
I'd had a lot of time to think about whether or not I liked the name of their new incarnation, as there had been fliers all over the school for weeks promoting their gig tonight. And here's the thing. I like interrobangs as a unique form of punctuation, but I really didn't know what "widdershins" was, and I didn't really want to ask in case it was something gross or gruesome, because you never knew with these goth types. Maybe it meant flaying the skin off of babies and using the flesh as a charming hat. I didn't want to support something like that. So honestly, I wasn't entirely sure if I liked the new name or not.
But I couldn't explain all this to Bret, who seemed so freaking excited about it. He was one of those guys who was always happy about things. Which seemed in direct contrast of his heavily-lined eyes and swoopy hair that I just wanted to shove behind his ear, but somehow it worked for him. In fact, the gloomiest I'd ever seen him was when he had to dress like a "normal" for our eighth grade graduation ceremony. Put him in cirque du soliel garb, and he was on top of the world. Ask him to wear a cumberbund and watch the tears flow.
"I like," I said simply, hoping I would not be pressed further. I wasn't.
"Is Colleen coming with us tonight?" Bret asked, adjusting the straps hanging criss-crossed over his backside.
Colleen's my other best friend besides Miriam. When we were in elementary school we did the whole best friends forever, three musketeers, til' death do us part, spelling out things with our initals stuff (the best we could ever come up with was "MCM", there's not a lot you can do when you don't have a vowel in the mix). But we'd loosened our grip on each other since freshman year and let other people into the mix. Now we had a whole slew of humans we considered friends. One could even go so far as to say we'd started our own clique, if you could have a clique of generally disregarded outcasts.
"I don't know, the last thing I heard was that she had to take her little brother to his dentist appointment and she'd meet up with us if she got back in time."
"How long does it really take to go to the dentist?"
"With all the novicaine they shoot you up with these days? Hard to say. Plus, it's October. All that Halloween candy floating around. It's cavity season, man. There's probably a long waiting list."
Bret nodded. He made his way to the fridge and opened it up as if it were his food to rifle through. Which, knowing Bret and Miriam, half of it probably was. He pulled out a box of leftover rice from a recent call to the Chinese place, and settled himself in a chair near the table to consume it.
Like Miriam and Colleen, I've known Bret since we were six or seven. That's the private school curse; you go to the same elementary schools and they feed right into the same high schools. Even if you live in a huge city, you're around the same people from pre-K to graduation. Not that I minded, I liked most of the people we went to school with. But for some reason, Bret's one of those people I'd never had much to say to. He's not a bad guy, not in the slightest. I just have a tough time coming up with conversation starters. I can keep a conversation going once it's started, it's just those first few opening lines I struggle with. It's worse ever since he started dating Miriam. I don't know why. I just always feel very awkward, like, "Hey, I watched you eat dirt on the playground, and now you're making out with my best friend...I hope you've washed your mouth since then..." you know? Very weird. I can't make myself come up with anything relevant that doesn't sound like I'm accusing him of keeping her out too late on the weekends.
So the two of us sat in awkward silence, although it was probably only awkward to me, since Bret seemed perfectly content munching on his cold rice and humming to himself. I found myself wishing I'd stayed upstairs dealing with the corset drama.
Finally, Miriam appeared at the top of the stairs, leather purple corset firmly attached, makeup done to excessive yet flawless perfection. She'd also anchored a small, ornately embroidered top hat at an angle to her wild red curls.
"I'm done. Do I look perfect?" She held her hand up to her face, framing it and asking us to gaze upon its beauty with reverence. I tried not to snort.
"Gorgeous as usual, my darling," Bret declared, abandoning his rice to jump up and meet her at the top of the stairs. They swaped a careful kiss, delicately making sure neither of their lipstick got smuged. "I have a surprise for you," he whispered, and led her down the stairs to the hallway, where the bizarre industrial art piece still sat.
Miriam saw it and gasped. "Oh my gosh, that's amazing!" she cried, reaching out to examine it more closely. "You made this? Mads, did you see this?"
I joined them in the hallway. "Yup, I saw it when he brought it in."
"Isn't it fantastic?" She wrapped Bret in a huge hug. The two of them looked very out of place in the hallway Miriam's mother had decorated thirty years ago in floral pastels and diving swans.
Bret checked his watch. "Okay, girls, we need to get going, or we're going to be late."
Miriam nodded seriously, and followed Bret out the door, her hugely buckled boots clomping over the threshhold.
I trailed along behind them, feeling supportive yet terribly underdressed.
** ** **
"I'm going to need a huge overdose of Gilmore Girls re-runs when we're done with this place," Colleen yelled to me over the crowd noise. She'd managed to make it after all. In fact, she beat us to the club. It turns out the dentist appointment had not been that lengthy after all. "You know, just to get the darkness out."
Here's the thing. I don't really laugh. I snort. In the most unattractive, non-ladylike fashion imaginable. It's probably the number one reason I remain unattached. That, and my unspeakable fear of initiating conversation with anyone other than people I've known since babyhood, or gay guys.
"At least they have good shirley temples here." I took a sip of my Sprite and grenadine and watched the opening act musically lament the state of the world today, yet offer no solutions on how to improve it.