That visit to the gallery yesterday had a profound effect on me. When I came home, I was re-energized with the ambition to carry on the high school series, but hit a wall trying to figure out Eleventh Grade. Ninth Grade was the easiest. I spent the majority of the year doing things related to drama club, and it was easy to bring forth memories of all the time I spent backstage, poring over scripts, working on sets, having heated "discussions" with my drama coach about one thing or another that we violently disagreed on.
Tenth Grade was much harder. Ideas certainly came rushing into my head, but I couldn't use any of them. I'm still sort of disappointed that I chose such a benign scene: myself stranded in class, any stupid, boring, pointless class, always in the back of the room to avoid being called on so I could read or draw or write a letter. (I got most of my leisure reading done in class that year. I always had a Paul Zindel book in my lap.) I'd originally had visions of all kinds of brutally honest scenes, but realized that RedHeaded Girl couldn't be a part of any of them.
RedHeaded Girl has come to represent a lot of things to me. She's really become, I don't know...the ideal me. She's come to embody the things I wish I could be. One day recently, I was blindsided unexpectedly with the reason why I've never given RedHeaded Girl a face. Or more specifically and much more importantly, a mouth. Nothing ever comes barreling out of her mouth that could make her look like a bitch, or a jerk, or an idiot. And I don't mean that in the sense that I'm silencing her on purpose. I mean...she just doesn't ever say anything unless it's...interesting, or kind, or really devastatingly hip. She's the kind of girl that everyone wants to be friends with, everyone wants to date... She is, first and foremost, eternally serene, a state of being that I've never in my life been able to achieve, and probably never will. She's certainly not always in control of the situation, but she'll always be entirely calm in the face of it. She's almost always melancholy, sometimes even very, very sad, but she's never shrill, never bossy... She's full of flaws: she hides from things, contemplates taking scary actions...but because she's so killer cool, she's never annoying. I gave her my flaws, and took it a step further. RedHeaded Girl can deal with them in a way I've never been able to:
She can keep her big mouth shut.
Eleventh Grade. It was really hard to come up with a piece for that year, because to be 100% honest, I don't remember very much of it. I spent the school year in a haze of apathy and medical problems, and as a result, my memories of that time period are very cloudy. But this afternoon, it suddenly hit me.
I started spending at least 50% of my time in Niagara Falls near the end of eighth grade, and that percentage steadily increased as high school progressed until I was 18 and living there. Niagara University theatre, Artpark, Clifton Hill, Maple Leaf Village (while it was still around), Shaw Festival, The Rainbow Mall... There was one spot in particular that stuck with me, even after I moved away to Central New York and stopped going to the Falls: The exact middle of the Rainbow Bridge footpath. The spot where they have that little plaque that tells you you're straddling the line between The U.S. and Canada. Every time I walked across that bridge (and that was a LOT of times), I had to stop on that line and look at the Falls for awhile. Night or day, sunny or cloudy... I would stand on that line and grip the rail and stare. Not intensely or purposefully or anything. I just... I would stand there and feel like there was something that was supposed to be happening inside me that wasn't. Like I should be having a powerful, cathartic revelation that would change my life in some way. The deafening roar of the Falls, the violent churning at the bottom, the insane rush of the river before it fell over the edge, the heavy mist that obscured the view and hovered over everything... all that power....I felt like I should be having some kind of mystical, soul-stirring experience that would re-set my brain and my heart and I could walk away from there feeling 100% better about...well, everything. It never happened. But I always had this sort of grim, quiet kind of hope that next time it would. It was enough, at the time, you know, when I was 16, 17 years old. It felt good to know that it might be out there, that it might end up happening for me. And it did, years and years later. Something clicked over inside me and I found my even keel, but it wasn't the Falls that flicked that switch.
I only get to go there once in a great while now, but I still have a squishy, gooey, mushy, bloppy soft spot for Niagara Falls. Even with those horrifying casinos. (Maple Leaf Mall!!! Where have you gone???) At least Clifton Hill is still there. Ahh, Clifton Hill... may your gloriously cheesy neon shine on forever.