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(A description of what I'm doing is here.)
25130 / 41627 words. 60% done!
Miriam decided that my grounding was actually a heroic form of punishment for a brave deed well done. I'm not sure how she came to that conclusion really, but I'd take it.
Mom didn't let me lounge around miserably in my room during my grounding, either. As boring as that had sounded at the beginning, I would have gladly spent four hours locked up in my room doing nothing as opposed to the myriad of tasks she gave me to do instead. In the time during my incarceration, I got to mow the front lawn, do the dishes every night, fix the window that wouldn't open in the sitting room, help my mom paint the dining room, cook dinner at least twice, and wash, fold, and put away laundry for all three of us. As a kid who really hadn't had much to do in the way of chores other than keep her room clean her whole life, this stack of duties hit me pretty hard.
Luckily, I made it through, and came out on the other side a stronger, and more well rounded person. Well rounded in that I'd decided to get a maid if I ever had to live by myself. Or just have kids to do all that work for me. Or my place would just dissolve into unkempt shambles.
"You're free," Mom declared when my week was up. "You can go to friends houses, invite friends over, whatever. Just don't sneak out. Or get any more tattoos. At least until after you move out."
"Done," I said, and we shook on it.
** ** **
Our town has two parks in it that are large enough to be considered "parks" by the general public. One of them is more of a children's playground sort of park, with tons of structures for climbing and lots of brightly colored decorations. The other one is more spread out, more landscaping and open space, one of those "relax and take in the beauty of nature" sort of places. This is the park where I was to meet Alec and Bret and a bunch of other people to spin poi. Koi. Fish. Balls. Whatever we were spinning.
I got there early, and no one else had shown up yet, so I sat on one of the many benches and admired the impressive trees growing around the area. The day had been slow so far. I got up, took a shower, puttered around for a bit, then made my way to the park to give Alec another chance. I'll be honest with you, I was mostly doing this for Bret. I liked Bret well enough, and I didn't want him thinking I was just dissing his friend for no good reason. Maybe a more laid back setting would be better for getting to know him, rather than the awkward atmosphere created by parties and clubs.
I took off my shoes and squished my toes into the soft, chilly grass. It felt nice. I decided to walk around while I waited on everyone to show up.
The park has been here the entire time I've lived here, which is my entire life. But it's always been the sort of place I think about going without actually ever going. Sometimes, though, you just need a good walk to clear your head.
I thought about Colleen, who's note tirade had slowed a bit last week, but not died out completely. She'd taken more to shooting me nasty glares in the hallway instead. Or sending her male minions to say rude things to me and Miriam as they walked past us on our way to classes. In short, she continued to be immature about things.
But out here in the park, it didn't seem to matter. The wind blew through my hair, and I felt like if I could be here, and be still, if I could soak up enough of this fresh air, then things would be okay. I closed my eyes and let myself sink into that calm.
"You look like you're deep in thought."
I snapped my eyes open.
"Oh, hey, Alec." I tried not to think about how goofy I probably looked, standing in the middle of the park with my eyes closed.
"I'm glad you came. I heard about how you got grounded and stuff."
"Oh, yeah. That." I noticed that his hair did not hang in front of his eyes today, and I felt grateful for that. It saved me a whole lot of wasted agony, wishing I could push it back. "You changed your hair," I said, in an attempt to start a conversation. (And this time, I'm sticking to it.)
"Just trying something different," he said. "I got a trim, too. It's a little shorter."
I nodded. "Looks nice."
"You think so?"
Silence. Hooray for awkward silence! I swung my arms back and forth a bit in an attempt to amuse myself.
"So, do you want me to show you how to do this?" Alec asked, dropping a backpack off of his shoulders and producing a pair of tennis balls attached to a length of rope.
"Those are the poi?" I asked, pointing to them.
He nodded. They didn't look like fish at all.
"Sure, show me."
Alec nodded again, then began to swing the balls around. I stared at him, amazed. The balls seemed to be flying of their own accord, creating patterns around him and sometimes even hovering in space. He looked to be doing very little, while the balls floated and swung freely. It looked, surprisingly, quite beautiful. Much more beautiful than the fish I had imagined.
When he'd finished, he handed the poi to me. They felt heavy and awkward in my hands. "Um, I don't think I can do what you just did."
Alec grinned. "That's okay. It takes a lot of practice. Here." He took my hand and adjusted the rope so it flowed through my fingers. "Grip it like this, and then move your hand like this to start it swinging."
I did as he said. The ball swung, but nowhere near as gracefully as his had done.
"That's right, you got it, now just keep practicing that, and when you feel ready, try it with both hands at the same time." He smiled encouragingly, and produced a second set of poi from his bag. Alec continued to play while I practiced. It didn't take me long to fall into a serene sort of rhythm. Well, at first, I kept smacking myself in the face and worrying that I was making a fool of myself. But once I got a better hang of it, things started to flow nicely. The rest of the poi spinning group trickled in slowly. I was kind of surprised by how many there were.
Bret showed up eventually, as well. "Maddy, you came!" He pulled out a set of poi that actually lit up and glowed, and began swinging them as if they were extra appendages. "I'm really glad to see you here!"
Now that there was a huge crowd of amazing poi spinners, I began to feel self conscious about my lack of knowledge or skill. I sidled up to Alec and tried to catch his attention, but instead, I ended up bumping into him and throwing off his groove.
He laughed. "Don't worry about it. What's up?"
"Uh, can you teach me something else? I feel like a huge loser only being able to swing these one way."
"Sure! Here, watch this." He got his poi spinning, then split them so that when one ball was up, the other was down. "You can try that, then also try swinging them backward." He left me to practice these new techniques.
I played with them for a while, but eventually, I set them down and watched everyone else. I'd never seen anything quite like this. Not everyone played with poi, either. One girl had a small sphere that gracefully traveled from one hand to the other, hypnotically swirling as if it had a life of its own. Another guy had brought some balls to juggle.
This group was so different from the friends I'd grown used to hanging out with. I watched them all, every single person clearly in possession of their own "It". Nobody here seemed concerned if anyone else was watching them. They were all so intent on their own tasks. It fascinated me. How many times had I been hanging around La Musica Noche and worried that everyone's eyes were trained steadily on me? More than I could count. Probably every time. I always felt convinced that everyone was looking at me, thinking, "Look at that girl. She totally doesn't belong here. You can tell because she isn't dressed properly. She doesn't look comfortable. She's just emanating 'I don't fit in' vibes."
And yet, as I sat and watched, I didn't feel a single eye on me. I was free to sit and observe. Eventually, though, Alec noticed I'd stopped spinning and came to sit next to me.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Fine," I said, smiling.
"So what do you think?"
"I think I've never seen anything like this. I didn't even know crap like this existed."
"Crap like this?" He smirked at me.
"I don't mean 'crap' like 'oh, this is crap'. Stuff. Stuff like this. Everyone's so good."
"Well, we do this every weekend. We all started out just like you, you know."
I shook my head. "No, I'm pretty sure this is one of those things you have to be born good at."
A laugh from Alec. "Ah, that's where you're wrong. Anyone can learn this."
"I think I'm too spazzy for it. I was born with spazzio rising."
Alec took a deep breath and let it out, his face relaxed. "Well, if you're bored, I could always take you to dinner or something."
I smirked at him. "Are you asking me on a date, Alec?"
A return smirk. "Maybe."
I don't think anyone had ever asked me out on a date before. It felt...different. New. Like a rush. A good kind of rush, though.
"Yeah, okay. But I'd like to watch some more before we go, if that's okay."
He nodded. "Yeah. That's okay." He grinned at me once more, then stood back up, rejoining the crowd that continued to happily flip, spin and toss their poi around. I felt more peaceful than I had in weeks.
** ** **
"So, I don't know about you, but I like sushi," Alec suggested as he packed up his poi.
"Hmm, I'm not too big on seafood." In fact, I hated seafood. A lot.
"Mama's Pizza it is, then!"
Ah, pizza. The universal compromise. Was that redundant?
Alec waved to everyone, and then we left the park, falling into step together.
"So, how long have you been spinning poi?" I asked. Look at me! Initiating conversation! I deserve a merit badge.
"A little more than a year. It's addictive, you know?"
"Kind of like cocaine?"
"Yeah, except more legal."
I snorted my classy lady snort.
"Do you have any hobbies?" Alec asked me.
I thought about that. I wanted to tell him about my thousands of awesome hobbies, the least of which included helping out in homeless shelters, volunteering at nursing homes, all while creating magnificent works of fine art. But when I tried to think of one interesting thing to say, my mind ran blank. It's not like you can list "getting ill advised tattoos" as a hobby.
"Uh, I like to read," I said, cursing myself for how lame I sounded. Who doesn't like to read? Reading wasn't nearly as interesting as spinning poi. And then I wondered why I cared so much about making myself sound interesting to Alec. Was I starting to like him? I mean, he had nice eyes, now that his hair wasn't flopping around in them. They were an intense green, and when he smiled, they crinkled up in this adorable way. So, I guess he was cute.
"Reading's good," he said.
I nodded. "Do you read?" Ah, there we go, first stupid question of the conversation.
"Yeah, every so often. I don't have a lot of time to read, you know?"
I never really understood this excuse for not reading. I always manage to find time to read, but I guess everyone else isn't as nerdy as me.