Who wants to hear the hilarious story about how I got food poisoning buying dumplings from the buffet because after four o’ clock they are half off BUT they’ve also been sitting under a warming lamp since 11 AM?
Well, TOO BAD! It’s NOT funny and I was in the ER, you heartless sonsofbeetches!
My mommy collected me and I was safely tucked away in the childhood bedroom to recover. Anyway, in the past few days I’ve spent an awful lot of time with the teenage Dawn Summers. Hours spent flipping through yearbooks signed by the same seven boys year after year, at least one of whom would cleverly include a variation of the phrase “since you said you would kill me if I didn’t sign your yearbook…”
I laugh. I don’t remember doing that, but I don’t doubt it either.
I’ve scoured through her journal entries and stories, even found a movie she starred in and wrote in the ninth grade. She played the cool headed sidekick to a flamboyant detective. She looks older than I look now. Weird.
Most of her writings are thinly veiled vows of revenge and catalogues of slights.
“It’s exhausting being me…” begins my favorite entry. She was sixteen. She thought this was “so old.”
What strikes me the most about young Dawn Summers is her complete humorlessness. She is serious about her studies, and her extra curricular activities at school. She is serious about God and church. She is serious about Days of Our Lives. I remember laughing as a kid, but from these mementos, I couldn’t begin to guess when or about what.
There are things teachers would tell my mother on parents/teachers night. And while I remember my straight A, extra credit doing, class participating self’s teeth clench with rage that I’d received anything less than unfettered praise, I suppose now I understand their concern about a seemingly joyless child. An unhappy girl.
I don’t think I ever thought of myself as unhappy per se. She worried, certainly. And feared and judged and envied. But she had real problems!
Guilt that her mother had bought a word processor that she couldn’t afford because teachers complained that her homework assignments were difficult to read, when she knew full well the problem was writing those essays on a moving school bus in the morning. She’d mix up books that she borrowed from the public library with those I borrowed from the school library. She wished she had money for new Gameboy games.
But unhappy? Not per se.
In fact, I only found one picture where she isn’t smiling, with that trademark twinkle in her eye. (A visage forged from countless hours practicing for pictures in her bedroom mirror.) The photo is from a performance of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She isn’t the focus, but the photographer captured her in the lower left of the shot. She’s sitting on stage; her legs hang off the edge. She is wearing blue pajamas for her supporting role as an asylum patient. A clump of hair is wrapped around her left index finger and her right thumb is in her mouth.
I remember the director asking each actor to think about their character, who had they been, why were they where they were now?
Dawn had decided her character sucked her thumb. And twirled her hair.
And hated everybody.
Her character stayed in bed. Her character was tired.
The director smiled. “Excellent! Run with it!”
Dawn smiled back.
But, no, she thought, my character does not run.
Heh. I take it back, young Dawn was quite funny.