Blogging for Books

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My hopeless addiction to books has driven me to enter yet another installment of Blogging for Books, that irresistably clever and yet very challenging contest hosted monthly by The Zero Boss.

This month, the task was to "write an original blog post about one of three topics: lying, fornicating, or going home."

Brace yerselves, for it's a looooong one. (But still well within the 2,000 word limit.)

It was an almost triumphant return.

For one, by the age of 19 I had finally sprouted the curves so desired and fervently prayed for at eleven and twelve, the age when every other girl in town (and, I was convinced, the whole wide universe) seemed to already be busting out of their cotton training bras while my own was still lying in wait, the two white triangles of the useless garment mocking my desperately flat and boyish torso every time I pulled open my underwear drawer.

Of course, I finally did what every other self-respecting (albeit self-respect on a strictly conditional basis) 12-year old late bloomer a few weeks shy of her primary school graduation would do: I faked it.

When I put the training bra on for the first time, I was met with a tragic sight. With nothing to contain or support, the cotton triangles merely hung from the straps, pointless and limp. I quickly stuffed it with tissue, buttoned-up my school uniform and spent hours admiring my new womanly profile in my bedroom mirror, stubbornly looking past the uneven lumpiness. As far as I was concerned, I could’ve poked an eye out.

Ah, if only there had been an admiring eye to poke!

As I was prancing this way and that, admiring myself, I daydreamed about the object of my affection. He was the only Portuguese boy in town, and, as if that fact alone didn’t make him desirable enough, his status was heightened even further by his immigrant parents, who owned Ferreira’s, the only green-grocery in town.

His mother was a formidable, olive-skinned woman with the same jet-black hair and eyes as her husband and son. She couldn’t speak a word of English or Afrikaans, but that didn’t prevent her from shouting what sounded like the worst obscenities in the world at any child or even grown-up who dared to loiter outside their shop.

One time she lost her voice due to a cold – although I secretly suspected that it was all that screaming that had finally caught up with her. Some of the older, braver (or more stupid?) kids caught wind of the unexpected silence, and boldly went to sit on the steps of the store. Legend has it that their behinds barely had time to graze the cool concrete before she simply took up a broom and literally swept the disrespectful offenders away.

A few years earlier, her son had won my heart by bringing me sweets from that very store. It had undoubtedly been stolen goods, because I couldn’t imagine his strict mother sacrificing any of the shop’s inventory, especially not to indulge her only son’s boyhood crush.

The fact that it may have been shop-lifted made it taste that much sweeter.

It was love at first bite, but he had no idea. I only awarded him with icy-stares and feigned irritation whenever the candy offerings were stuffed into my hand. I’d overheard my mother telling my older sisters that playing “impossible-to-get” was the only way to go whenever boys showed any interest. “Pay them no attention. It’ll drive them crazy! Especially if you just immerse yourselves in your school work,” my mom knowingly advised.

I chose to skip the second bit of my mom’s advice, but I followed the first part to the letter.

And sure enough, at the time it seemed to be working very well. The chocolate deliveries were steady for a few months. I came to not only expect the chocolate, but I began to depend on those regular sugar fixes.

One day we were walking to our next class as we’d always done. We were approaching our usual “drop-off” point. I was already switching my book bag to my other arm in order to have my receiving hand free for the sweet reward. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him reach for his own bag and take out the chocolate bar. It was one of my favourites! In what I thought to be a very subtle gesture, I opened up my hand. Why was he taking so long..? Before I had even finished formulating the question in my mind, I heard a high-pitched shriek and a giggle. “For me? Really? Thank you soooo much!”

The source of the annoying twitter was the blond-haired, round-eyed, flush-cheeked Sonja. Sure, it was plain to see that her fairy-face was far prettier than my freckled one, but it was immediately even plainer to see that he wasn’t noticing her pretty and very grateful smile.

No, his eyes were firmly rooted to her bulging chest. A chest that, by the looks of it, could probably not remember what a training bra even felt like anymore.

I felt totally crushed. (Luckily I was still far too young to grasp the biggest irony of it all, that a boy had dumped me despite the fact that we had a shared preoccupation.) It was so unfair. My mom had never even mentioned this possibility! But then again, why would she have? My sisters had all been wearing real bras for ages. For that reason, I was sure, boys would wait for them until the end of days.

It was later that same day - the fateful day that marked my very first break-up and signaled the end of my freebie sugar fixes - that I resorted to the tissue. I never quite worked up the nerve to actually leave the privacy of my room with my enhancements – even after I’d figured out how to smooth out the lumps and perfect the shape with two strategically misplaced shoulder pads – so no one in town ever got to see me with my carefully constructed ‘falsies.’

Instead they had to wait for a late spring day several years later, when I rode back into town for the first time since I’d left.

Seven productive years had gone by since our family had moved away to the big city.

At 19, I had graduated from high school and was already wrapping up my freshman year at journalism school.

Yes, my years away had been fruitful indeed: After all, I was wearing underwire!

I’d always sworn that I would only return to my childhood town once I’d become wildly successful and famous. Many of my high school fantasies involved the exact moment when I’d ride past the town’s rusty “Welcome!” sign. Everyone from my past would be there, lined up on both sides of the main street, craning their necks and shoving each other out of the way to get a clearer view of me, the celebrity.

In my daydreams, all the townsfolk still looked exactly the same as they had all those years ago. (Well, everyone except Sonja. My imagination had mercilessly given her a complete breast-reduction.) I would be the only one of my peers who had grown up. In fact, not only would I have changed, but I dreamed that I’d look exactly like my favourite actress. Never mind that she was a dark and stunning brunette and I was a pale and very plain-looking redhead.

So I’d show up, miraculously transformed and beautiful – yet everyone would of course immediately know that it was me. I smiled when I thought how they would all gasp at my sudden and glorious beauty (and, especially in my earlier fantasies, at my enormous breasts) and cheer and applaud and be filled with adoration and envy as I’d make my way slowly through town, stylishly draped across the back of some sort of luxurious and shiny convertible…

Needless to say, the reality of my grand re-entrance was vastly different. For one, even though I had definitely grown taller and a little bustier, in essence I was still every inch the plain, pale, freckle-faced redhead and therefore still way too recognizable as my younger, awkward self.

Also, I wasn’t famous (or even infamous) yet!

But here I was anyway, in all my plain obscurity, visiting my best friend from childhood and her parents on their farm just outside the entrance to the town.

On that bright and hot late spring afternoon, a few hours after my arrival on their farm, the pair of us borrowed her dad’s sputtering old Mercedes for my first reunion voyage into town.

As we drove past the “Welcome!” sign, I was not feeling as brave and sophisticated as I’d always dreamed I would be. In fact, all my big-city bravado had vanished, and I suddenly felt twelve and insecure all over again.

My fluttering nerves had a brief respite as I marveled at the passing scenery of the town.

It was remarkable. This place, the stage where all of my first life dramas had been played out; the little town which had served as the setting of so many of my later fantasies… it all seemed so disconnected from my memories.

Make no mistake, I still recognized it. After all, I’d spent nearly thirteen years of my life here, and I could still anticipate all the landmarks before they came into view: the hotel on the right, the street down to the train station on the left, a stretch of open field followed by the gas station with its tiny convenience store and faded green and yellow “BP” sign.

The three steeples marking the churches of the three major Afrikaner denominations faithfully poked through the tree-lined horizon. By the looks of it, the handful of English-speaking folks in town was still taking turns to worship at each other’s homes. (I suddenly remembered that the three Portuguese had always been the only unclaimed souls, and that it had further secured our belief that the screaming foreign woman was a demon.)

But time had shrunk the entire town; had worn it all out. In the harsh and unflattering light of reality, the buildings looked shabby and neglected. Save for the opening of a video rental the year before, there had been no growth at all. In fact, it actually seemed smaller in scale, and the distances between places were much shorter than I’d remembered it to be.

And so, in no time at all, we were parking in the center of town, right outside the green grocery.

Before I could plead or protest, my friend simply said: “We both know that you want to see him.”

She was right, of course. But that didn’t make me any less nervous.

So I took a moment to try and calm myself. I sat in the car and looked at the storefront, hoping that it would provide me with a hint of what I would find inside.

I was surprised to note that the building had recently been painted. The concrete porch, which had always been unfurnished so as to discourage loafers and loiterers, now housed a few hopeful tables and chairs. The lunch hour had already expired, but a couple of school children were still out there giggling and having chips and sodas. They seemed right at home, as if things had never been any different.

The most optimistic of it all was the new sign above the door. It read: “Ferreira & Son.”

But it said so much more.

Because in that instant I knew with certainty that I wasn’t the only one who had grown up after all.

5 Comments

deeleea said:

Nicely done Red!!!!!

Beats my coming home story of an ear bashing from an in-law...

Resolved not to go back till next year!!!

Bear said:

I can almost imagine your old hometown red. I seem to romanticize my hometown growing up. It's like visiting Disneyworld when you're a kid then going back to be let down. :)

This is my hometown;I've been trying to figure out how to escape it everyday since I can remember. Oh well,maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Alex. said:

Is there a part 2? The reunion? Beautifully written!

holley said:

A collection of moments so many of us are familiar with. A small hometown is a small hometown no matter what country it's in, no?

Good one! Best of luck on B4B!

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about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • holley : A collection of moments so many of us are familiar with. A small hometown is a small hometown no ma... [go]
  • Alex. : Is there a part 2? The reunion? Beautifully written!... [go]
  • bookstorediva : This is my hometown;I've been trying to figure out how to escape it everyday since I can remember. O... [go]
  • Bear : I can almost imagine your old hometown red. I seem to romanticize my hometown growing up. It's like ... [go]
  • deeleea : Nicely done Red!!!!! Beats my coming home story of an ear bashing from an in-law... Resolved not... [go]
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