Take Your Time

Alyssa Bralower


It’s April, and while the majority of the citizens residing in Lakewood stew in a bath of pastel yellows, purples and greens Anna becomes shrouded by a case of the mean reds. With the last of winter’s snow melted, the soft blues that become Anna’s eyes, her wardrobe, and her dreams are heated into a fiery crimson. It turns her cheeks, her fingernails, her small, often clenched fists into spots of molten lava, an emotional interpretation of the Red Spot on Jupiter.


The mean reds sneak up on Anna like Christmas to a mother who’s just made a Thanksgiving feast. With every New Year she knows they’ll be around the corner, but it always catches her off guard. The only person who sees it coming, who feels it, who premeditates it is Anna’s roommate, Patti.


Aptly named after semi-androgynous pop legend, Patti Smith, Patti Faulkner was a black trouser wearing painter. She found her muse in strange and dark places: the innards of a bull, The Fugitive’s Dr. Richard Kimble and the crumbled up tissue that’s been sitting outside of their apartment door for a week. Listening to the Jive Bomber’s “Bad Boy,” Patti contemplated Anna the way she would one of her Expressionist inspired compositions. She mused, Anna is all about emotion. She screams in colors and cries static. Her mood swings like a pensive pendulum.


While Patti is perceptive; Anna is slightly delusional. The two are at opposite sides of the same perspective, analyzing, criticizing, humorizing and romanticizing the quaint life they’d made for themselves in the pseudo- Puritan town of Lakewood. Just outside Denver, Lakewood didn’t have anything more to offer than a distant view of the Rocky Mountains and a King Foodie four blocks away. The mountains stood as an icon, not as a tangible place that the more adventurous of men have experienced.


Patti kept a journal of the life she had imagined for herself. The last chapter, she had always hoped, would portray her, and possibly Anna (depending on the sequence of events that would maybe unfold) climbing the mountains. Whether this was proverbial or literal, she hadn’t specified.


To her, life was an outline. She had a rough sketch of the events that would take place in her idealistic life. So far, as according to the plan that had started forming in the fifth grade, Patti had had: three emotional breakdowns, been off and on a number of FDA unapproved anti-depressants, fourteen passionate imaginary love affairs and was currently in the midst of developing her first real one. Still to come in the narrative she was creating for her life was a devastatingly dramatic midlife crisis, a divorce from her one true love leading into a series of marriages to rich, elderly white men to study and create a body of work from.


For Anna, life was series of rough drafts. Writing about her own experiences as they occurred, she occasionally reworked them after the fact. In this way, she had no regrets and every moment was eventually immortalized into something special. Each vignette of a memory ended soundly with a mild piece of social commentary. After her freshman literature course, Anna never left the question, “So, What?” unanswered.  Take Anna’s eighth birthday. The actual anniversary happened on November 12th, 1984. This date, documented and recorded as true on a birth certificate in the basement files of Cook County Hospital in Northern Illinois, was more of a suggestion to Anna, who was now twenty-two.  The hours following her roller-skating party led to a true account of the event.


Patti had found this original draft of Anna’s party stuffed in yellow lettuce-edged sock years ago. It had said:


Today I'm 21, that’s what I told my dad. He smiled and laughed and picked me up and put me on his shoulder. We were so tall, like that tower my mom loves in France. My dad told me not to grow up too fast and that there was so much time to be 21. I think he’s right so for now Ill stay 8. 8 years old! I remember being 7 because that was only yesterday and I know I was six because I had Mrs. Golub and she celebrated holidays just like me, Halloween and Hanukah are her favorite. I know when I was 5 because I met Laura, and she is my favorite person to play with! I invited her to the birthday party today and she said yes, she said she would come and bring me a present in my favorite color yellow! Me and my friends are going roller skating and then we will eat pizza and the best food on the planet birthday cake!


For a class assignment, Anna had written a memoir about her eighth birthday, let’s call it a second draft:              

My eighth birthday, April Sixteenth, 1982, was the first time I remember feeling sadness. I don’t mean the kind of sad that you feel when you get Beach Barbie and Doctor Ken instead of Author Barbie and Summer Lovin’ Ken- Do they make an Author Barbie? They should. Well I mean it was the kind of sadness that clings to your ribs, to my still soft six inches long ribs that were on that day covered in a blue watermelon jumper.


Despite the age, despite the dates the two accounts were distinctly Anna. Patti had snuck into the Anna’s favorite colored lettuce-edged sock repeatedly, looking at the two accounts together, trying to find the link between the two narratives that was either tucked into her roommate’s mind, or was lost forever- being replaced by a more romantic and extreme version of the events that had transpired on her eighth birthday.
Patti and Anna hadn’t met until the Seventh grade. In a sea of flat chested, rhinestone clad thirteen year olds, the two girls, the two young women had bonded. Patti being the only girl to wear eyeliner like a twenty-something and Anna having a bust like a twenty- something. This aesthetic didn’t speak to their character, however. They looked older, but the two spent their Friday nights reading Mrs. Faulkner’s Cosmopolitan, wondering what exactly an orgasm was.


The two discovered this together, throughout high school and college, as they relayed their sexual escapades to each other moments after they occurred. Anna wrote these moments down too, but only revising her later less memorable encounters. Anna had told Patti, “Your first kiss is special even if it isn’t, really.” This and the death of Anna’s mother in 1998 were the only moments in Anna’s life that had been written down once, and only once.


Anna was currently sitting on the navy carpet below her, putting together a puzzle of vintage beer cans. Patti watched with mild interest, glancing down at the progress between twenty minute immersions in her sketchbook. She was currently studying the human figure, but so far this study had amounted to drawing every line but the correct one to describe a human’s calf. Patti looked down at her own calf. Calves are ugly. Really, really uhhhghly. She looked past the muscle and at the awkward  squared off but still oval shape the appendage made when it was flexed. An outsider would have thought that her whole reason for being was contained within that muscle.


Anna, noticing this, took the opportunity to put her leg up next to Patti.

“Man, that body part is kinda gross if you isolate it like that,” she murmured.


“That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking.” The two girls started at the two calves, the two female calves.

Anna’s face turned pale. “Ugh, bodies are gross. Humans and innards and organs and proteins and cells and microcosms are gross. Let’s walk over to King Foodie and get a drink.”

Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240