Character sketch: Zombies and the Regime
I threw yet another shirt onto the ground. It wasn’t the paint splatters on the sleeves that bothered me. All my clothes were covered in paint—the hazard of being an artist, I guess. What bothered me was the largest, most grotesque, bulbous object that God spurned me with—a bubble butt. There was no way to hide it, especially in leggings. I contemplated changing completely, but the digital clock on my dresser scoffed me; I was going to be late if I didn’t haul ass.
I threw on a bright green sweater-dress that I knew would cover my butt, and Chucks that once matched the sweater, but again, covered in paint. I grabbed a cookie and a coke can and ran out the door—breakfast of champions. I almost made it to my old beat up Ford Escort, when the Wicked Witch of the West stopped me in my tracks. She also went by the term “mother.”
“Seriously? Look at the state of you! What that adorable boyfriend of yours sees in you, I don’t know. You should take better care of your appearance. And that paint…”
“Can’t this wait mother, I’m late,” I growled throwing my backpack into the car.
“The paint is atrocious.”
“Why because it is a reminder of what you hate most about me?” I shot out the accusation. I don’t know why I did it at times; I guess I sadly still hoped she would comfort me and show me some love and respect, but there was no touching this ice queen’s heart. I braced myself for the upcoming sting of whatever she would say.
“Hate? No, that’s not right at all Ria. The correct word would be…disappointment.” Her eyes were soft, as if she really believed she was complementing me, that disappointment was so much better than hate. Didn’t she realize it hurt so much more?
“Well, get used to it. I’m double majoring. Make me mad mother and I swear I’ll go to an art school.” The threat usually made her back off. I figured if I threatened to limit myself to only art, then they’d condescend to let me double major in business and art. It would be the lesser of two evilsfor them. After all, they were forking out half my tuition, so I had to somehow manipulate them into giving me what I wanted.
I climbed into the car and slammed the door shut as she said something along the lines that we’d talk about it when we got home. My father, Hitler, and mother hated the fact I wanted to be an artist. It wasn’t practical; it also wasn’t practical that I hadn’t been a boy and that my birth robbed her of her chances to ever have that prized boy or any other child for that matter. They wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer and proclaimed to all that would listen that I was wasting my brain on “scribbling.” I could not wait to get out of their house, to leave them behind, to start living my life. Graduation seemed like a winning lottery ticket and I was oh-so-ready to cash it in.
I went to meet Brian by his car as usual. He was the boyfriend my mother was oh-so in love with. It was ghastly how she flirted with him. My father loved him as well. He was the like the son they never had: football player, on the honor roll, never did wrong, and was planning to major in pre-med. He was average in everything though, and certainly he wouldn’t get into medical school or even through a pre-med program. He was kind of intelligent but a very lazy student. I liked him, but I wasn’t blinded to his faults as some girls get, or my parents for that matter. He was cute, a great kisser, and had nice eyes. We had been dating for almost six months, like marriage for teenagers, but he was more of a friend than a lover.
“Hey,” he said quietly, shuffling his foot and not meeting my gaze. This did not bode well.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. He didn’t seem particularly sad, like a death in the family occurred, but just a bit put off.
“We’ve got to talk,” he sighed.
“I thought that’s what we’re doing,” I mocked. I knew where this was headed, but I needed to wrap my mind around how I felt about it.
“No, like a serious talk, Ria.”
“So talk,” I prompted. I wasn’t going to say the words. I wouldn’t make it that easy for him.
“We’re graduating in two weeks, going to different schools in the fall. I just think it will be easier to cut loose now, you know, instead of in August.”
“Easier?” I asked. I’m not sure why. I tried to think of something to say to get him to change his mind, some way to get him to stay with me, but none came. And then it dawned on me: I didn’t want him to stay with me. Otherwise, I’d find the words to fight for him. Why not break up? I didn’t love him. I’d never marry him. We were headed in completely different directions in life, geographically and figuratively, and we wanted very different things. He didn’t even fit into my plans.
“This is hard, I know…” he scrambled for words.
“No, not really.” I cut him off.
Brian looked as if I slapped him across the face. He was stunned.
“You’re completely right. We’re not in love. We never should’ve even bothered to date really,” I mused aloud.
“It’s impossible to love you Ria,” he said suddenly full of anger. “You never let anyone in! You never feel anything! It’s like dating a zombie! And you totally over rationalized everything until it’s rancored useless!”
I bit my lip trying not to laugh at his blunder.
“And you laugh? You’re crazy, you know that?!” Brian kicked the bumper of his car and stormed off muttering curses at me under his breath.
“Brian!” I called before he could get far.
He stopped and peered over his shoulder at me.
“It’s ‘rendered useless,’ by the way,” I corrected him.
“Ria, fuck you.”
Then he stormed off.
As I walked to homeroom, I wondered why he was so upset and angry at me that I agreed a break up was a good idea. I must’ve wounded he pride. If he had expected me to cry and beg for him to keep dating me, then he didn’t know me at all. He was probably just lashing out because he was upset, but the things he said weighed heavily on my mind all morning. Was I impossible to love? An emotionless zombie? Did I really have trouble letting people in? He was right in that I was rational, but was that really a fault?
In art class, I tried to concentrate and pour my feelings out onto the canvas. There it was, my emotions for all to see, reds and blues of anger, frustration, and sadness. I could feel and I could show my feelings. So what if my medium was artwork rather than sobbing in the halls like some of the really silly girls in my school? Half the time I swear they cried just to get attention from people.
I didn’t think about Brian again until I saw the back of him in Trig. It was strange. His appearance didn’t bring anxiety, nervousness, or even regret. I felt…resolved. Things were over and that was that. I felt relieved. We would’ve wasted each other’s time if we continued dating. The only thing I lamented was losing the friendship. He was obviously angry, upset, and ignoring me now. The friendship probably wasn’t worth salvaging either; by the time things would stop being awkward, we’d be parting ways for college.
My thoughts drifted off to my overly strict father and what would await me when I got home. Another “pep” talk about how I’d fail as an artist and he would not financially bail me out of my mistakes most likely. He was a hard man, who worked hard at his car sales job, who never amounted to become the Wall Street stock broker he dreamed to be. He tried, but just couldn’t cut it. And mother was a failed ballet dancer, and even stopped teaching lessons when I was little to become a paralegal. My friend Matty said once that they might be dashing my dreams to protect me from experiencing the difficulties they had, and he was a smart cookie, but he gave them too much credit. They wanted my life to be stable for the self interests, so that they wouldn’t need to spend any money on me outside of college and so that I would be successful enough to take care of them when they were old. My mother told me as much once. I couldn’t remember a time when I felt that they loved me, just indifference and annoyance. I felt as if I interrupted their perfectly happy lives.
“How’s your day?” Matty asked me at lunch. We had a strange lunch table, a hodge-podge of different people from different cliques that was glued together by Matty. He was one of those guys, not super popular but able to hang out with just about anyone, very likable.
“Well if you’re referring to the heinous fight with my mother or the very awkward breakup with Brian or the fact upon self-reflection I find that people see me as an emotionless, pathetic, bitch, I’d say not such a good one. Do you think I’m a zombie?”
“Huh?” Matty looked at me as if he just realized I was there. Apparently, the greeting was merely a rhetorical question. He was obviously preoccupied with something. “What were you saying?”
“Nothing, just rambling,” I told him. I shifted my gaze down at the cafeteria pizza, no longer wanting to eat. I’m not sure if it was the cardboard consistency that ruined my appetite or the fact one of my only real friends could care less about what I was going through. Probably a bit of both. The fact Matty could care less hurt even more than Brian’s accusations. I felt suddenly so small, like Alice in Wonderland when she shrinks. No one could see me or care to do so. I was as insignificant as an ant.
Matty, my best friend, was staring at the cheerleading table, staring at Jenny Hapner, his obsession and reason for living since the first grade. He spoke to her twice, about homework. Since the first grade. It made me pity him. When he found out she was a vapid, cold-hearted snob and not the romanticized vision he fabricated in his imagination, he'd be broken hearted.
They made me sick, even Matty. Brian had accused me of being an emotionless zombie. Well, they were the zombies. Oh they felt things, things about themselves. The kids in my school, my parents--everybody--they were all after their own self interests. My best friend ignored my plight readily because I got girl was across the room. They were the zombies and the adults were the regime. I was getting out as soon as I could.
That day was they day I began my countdown to freedom.