Coming of Age Inspirational Teens & Young Adult

I’m glad I’ve changed, physically. Embarking on college, I learned how to dress myself well, do makeup, and smile more. It was beyond me speaking of the ulterior motive for such a change. I just made it. I just acted differently and had different views on things compared to my high school days. Aha! Were they laughing at me? They were making fun of my hideous face altogether. The leaves of the sycamore tree by the window, whom I oftentimes greeted warmly in the morning, were hurling a chorus of derision towards me, me in this very photo I was trying not to tear. The wind was performing its hula dance like wild bears scratching in the air at lightning-fast speed, only not out of rage but mockery. Even the sky, to whom I had many times poured my shivering heart out, was gilding all over my room, a nauseating texture of sunlight to reveal the exact similarity of my uneven skin now and then. I couldn’t believe I once looked speechlessly horrible. The overly round face was as large and wide as a 14-inch plate; the fleshy nose and its flat bridge were in plain sight; the big eyes of which I used to be proud as a tot sorely lacked necessary appeal. Crap! That PE uniform puffed me up into an awkward carton box. I was not this ugly now, I hope?

Last night, I found an invitation card in the mailbox. It was the invitation to a reunion party, from my high school class president. How on earth did he know my address? We hadn’t talked since graduation and just remained low-key friends on Instagram. I wasn’t sure he lived in Los Gatos or not, but the restaurant was near my apartment, about 2 miles from here. Whatever, part of me wished I hadn’t opened the invitation card, hadn’t checked what was inside, hadn’t taken out the old picture of my AP English Literature class, and so I wouldn’t have been reminded of my unsightly appearance, which I doubted was the past or ongoing reality. I knew not where we huddled together and took the photo, what we did before and after, why we were there, and how I was terrible … It had already slipped off my memory. Yes, it had. I had forgotten this look of mine. Raw, unsophisticated, an untrimmed creature. Why did they send it to me? No why did they have to keep the picture? I felt awful. If only I would be able to erase myself… it’d be perfect.  


I was pissed off as hell and didn’t notice the blatant shuffling of Amy Wallace’s feet. Her feet, they took me a while to come to terms with their weird shape – a long, thin body with fat pinky toes, outsizing every other except the big toes. I couldn’t help raising eyebrows from time to time when she painted her toenails, showing off those feet of hers.

“Hey, it’s time! What d’ya staring at the photo like an idiot for? On a writer’s meditative streak again?”

Amy’s raucous voice was her sheer disadvantage. She once flunked a job interview in the first 5 minutes saying hi to the interviewers because of her shrieking tone as if she were crowing. Inevitably, I was jolted out of my skin by this voice too. But to some extent, I was getting familiar with it. One morning I woke up and didn’t hear her babbling around, I felt unfulfilled to start the day.

“Ya going or not?” Amy shouted. “If ya don’t wanna go, get your butt up and help me make dinner. Steve will be here at 7!”

That’s the uppermost reason why I made up my mind to go. I didn’t hate Steve, but I couldn’t stand his hoity-toity behaviors. 2 out of 2 times I was out with Amy and her boyfriend, he smothered me with his “extraordinary” story from being a yuppie in medical school to a well-liked orthopedic surgeon. I swore he thought dating him was an edge Amy had over her peers, an example of whom, in our small society, was me. His snooty look with his chin lifting up half an inch and eyes narrowing two thirds never failed to crack me up; I was both amused and sorry for the guy because he was dead clueless about his shallow knowledge of others. Given that I wasn’t the kind bursting out laughing at someone and incommode him, I had to suppress myself, which was enormously hard specifically with his silly arrogance slap bang in front of me.

“Of course I’m going! I just dunno what to wear. Arghhh!” I answered Amy wearily and stretched out, moving my stiffed body up.

“So please leave before Steve comes and don’t go home before 10. I don’t want our romantic dinner interrupted,” she cried. “Please! Do me this favor!”

“Yes, yes, alright,” Her tone was unnaturally high that I couldn’t tell my roommate was asking me for a favor. But I guessed there was no point arguing with her; my feeble voice would eventually wave a white flag of surrender. “Don’t worry, I’m leaving in 5 minutes!”

Amy seemed to murmur something that said I wouldn’t be able to leave in 5 minutes; however, I gave it no hoot because what had snatched my attention was the white gloss of the closet’s sliding door. Why did it look so grotesque? - my head was screaming. The gloss was utterly unbearable for the eyes; it shined like the disgusting grease on my face at the end of the day, showing how tired I looked. Yeah, the grease that has haunted me for decades, even when I had on copious amounts of mattifying cream, let alone when I was a crudely barefaced highschooler. If I hadn’t been in a rush, I would have grabbed a sponge and scrubbed off the oily gloss till it ceased to shine. But I had to go now; I wasn’t in the mood to meet Dr. Steve; I should get changed now.

As usual, I threw on a black crop top, pair of denim cargo pants, and a mahogany big belt. Scanning across my little jewelry corner, I suddenly wanted to wear the new necklace I bought at H&M. It was gold, definitely the fake sort, and had a circular pendant. It beat me the actual meaning of that circle; it basically looked cute and so I paid $4 for it. Ok, just makeup and done. I first intended to do it real quick; the thing was once I got involved, I started to be ultra-deliberate in contouring and eye-lining. When I glanced at my phone, 15 minutes had whizzed past. Honestly, I was quite flustered and in an instant couldn’t decide what to do next, whether I should put away my makeup stuff or go for a pee. Like an imbecile ant blocked on both sides, I turned willy-nilly around while barely moving since every possible direction was a blur to me.

“Lana, come on! Steve’s on his way!” Amy must have lost her patience with me. Her hysterical yell was blended with the fervent gurgling of pork stew. The two of them were hastening me.

They roused me, in fact. Without further hesitation, I cleared my desk, putting all the makeup back in its place and tossed a couple of things in my brown hobo bag. I combed my hair, checking my look the last time, and headed out of my room. I stopped at the bathroom for a second and then continued my way towards the main door. I didn’t need a pee, I thought.

“Your 5 minutes are others’ hour,” Amy’s lips curved into a smirk.

I didn’t reply, pretending to be laser-focused on tying my shoe.

“Here,” Out of nowhere, she presented to my face the invitation card. Oh, the white gloss on it!

“What?” I grunted, keeping myself busy with the shoes.

“Your invitation card! Where the hell ya knew the party? Ya flung it on the kitchen top this morning. I bet it’d help ya know the address later. Don’t wanna see ya come back too soon because ya dunno the address. Not again, ya know!”

She’s right. She’s right way so many times. I tend to pop out, knowing not where exactly I’m driving to.

“Thanks… Have a great date!” I said apologetically and slid the card in the outside pocket of my bag. “I’m heading out!”

“Lana. Just have fun,” She said lightly. Though we weren’t in a close distance, it felt like she were whispering a kind of comforting wisdom into my ears. She smiled too, very briefly before turning to the pork stew.

I smiled back and closed the door shut. The caressing sun warmed my back.


The party started at 7:00ish and I arrived 5 minutes early. I was beginning to regret my choice. Indeed, I could have avoided Amy’s marvelous boyfriend and the ill-boding reunion by hanging out somewhere by myself; maybe, in Valley Fair mall, or Westfield, or a petit café whose quietude would be conducive to my writing. The thing was a portion of me was curious about them, my high school friends. It had been 5 years; so much had happened. I knew some were certainly thriving although I hardly cared about their updates on social media. I wanted to see them. I wanted them to see me, see my change. I didn’t find the current state of my career as an unpopular broke writer impressive, yet my physical look was something I wanted them to see. Still the same round face, but less chubby, better trimmed with makeup, and snazzier fashion I believed. I might show up for an hour and then nestle in solitude in the bookstore café nearby. Right, I didn’t have to stay until everybody ran out of nonsense to gibber.

Being early or on time entailed long waiting and forced conversations before the event officially commenced. Hence, not until 7:15 did I get out of the car and walk to Aldo’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant. I was pleasantly amazed by our class president’s upgraded taste, from Costco’s fatty ice cream to fancy Italian cuisine, though it apparently meant my purse was in peril. One more step up the stairs and I was about to meet them. It was mighty annoying when your body was born ready to shift to the next move, your mind, by contrast, fretfully contemplated the worst-case scenario in which your expectation fell short. I wasn’t scared; I just couldn’t resist thinking I would miserably crawl on the old trail where I was thrusted in a flock of yellow ducks and realized I was black. I hated it when they all seemed to watch the same movies, listened to the same music, and I, liked different things and thereby was different.

“Lana?” Someone called my name. “Remember me? Eeve!”

Holy Moly! Eeve Cala! The tall girl always carrying a guitar. Lucky her she had an athletic physique; otherwise, her poor back would have developed a hunch. She was one of those whose chic look I envied. She still wore silver nose rings that brightened her skin tone and dressed in Gossip Girl styles. It was not solely the clothes and jewelry; it was her attitude, comportment, and everything else that exuded smartness. There was a short time I tried wearing Gossip Girl dresses in my freshman year; however, I soon gave it up because it didn’t match me. Eeve didn’t change. She had the face and body leaving people awed in silence. More than that, a soupcon of maturity had perfected her charisma with the needed credibility. In comparison with her, I was an ungainly duck.

“Why don’t ya come in? Everyone must be inside,” She asked and looked at me knowingly.

“Yeah, I’m about to.”

“Hey, wanna stay outside for some fresh air? We can sit over there and talk,” She pointed to the patio facing the street.

“You sure? We’re 20 minutes late for the party already.”

“Ah, no problem! They’re gonna drink and dance the night away! We have plenty of time.”


I didn’t know how but I may have unwittingly expressed a tinge of disquiet. Eeve must have noticed that and wanted to calm me down. She had been observant and considerate since I knew her. I could feel my face was getting hot. Keeping composure was usually a cinch for me. Or perhaps, my old friend had too keen an eye, so any disguise was ineffective.

“How’re ya doing?” I asked her as soon as we sat down, hoping to steer the focus away from my own perturbing embarrassment.

“Good! And ya?”

“I’m doing ok.”

“You kidding me? You’re more than ok!” She gushed, all of a sudden.

“What d’ya mean?”

“2 weeks ago, I swung by Barnes and Noble and saw you signing books, talking to your fans or whatever people. You looked très professional!”

“Well, not really successful as ya think. It was a small event and the turnout wasn’t big enough for much profit. To tell ya the truth, I’m quite a broke writer under the literary radar.”

I had the faintest idea why I told Eeve this. Why did I explain to her instead of saying yes and moving to another topic? I possibly was sucked by her credible charm and felt tempted to open up.

“Under the literary radar? Ya may be exaggerating. You’re not super famous, but I got to say you’re known. Ask the people in the party later! Many of them know at least one book of yours. And I know all. Your short stories and 2 novels. They’re beautiful! I’m actually reading your latest novel now. I got it that day.”

I was silent. On the one hand, I was processing what she said; on the other hand, I did my best to differentiate which was true and which was conversational politeness.

“Ya think you’re broke? So I’m penniless. It’s good you’re making some money and going firmly on your career path. Me? I’m making no money out of my music. No money. I released songs on YouTube, promoted them on Insta, Snap, ya name it. It’s been a year since I was out of college, but no money. I work at Target to fund myself.”

I didn’t say anything. But I gave her an understanding look. She was getting emotional.

“We’re all struggling, Lana, one way or another. Especially ‘cause we’re fresh graduates. Anyway, I’m happy to see you’ve changed.”

She paused. I meant to say I looked different now, but she went on before I had a chance.

“You’ve dropped your icy pride.”

Another pause and this time I was dumbfounded. “Icy pride”!!!

“In your book launch, you talked, smiled, interacted with others. It’s genuine, I can tell. You’re not holding back, not noble and cold as you were anymore… We were pretty scared of ya back then, ya know. We wanted to get to know ya more, invite ya to parties but we thought ya were too high to do things with us. I remember your uncomfortable smile whenever I or anyone asked ya something, like ya didn’t like us. We admired ya a lot! Your essays always got an A and all the stuff ya discussed in class was amazing. I really wanted to ask for your help, but I was afraid. The entire class were. But the Lana I’m talking to right now, still brilliant, pretty, and so much more.”

“I was uncomfortable because we didn’t have anything in common! You guys liked rap, I liked pop. Ya thought the novels and poems we talked about in class were stupid. So how could I share my love for literature when you guys despised it? And I’m still pretty? When the hell was I pretty?” I raised my voice a bit high, pulling out the picture, and hovering it between us. Amy’s voice had rubbed off on mine.

“Is that why you kept yourself away from us? Who told you we despised literature? I loved our assigned novels too! Many of us really wanted to discuss more with you about literature. And… it didn’t matter we liked different things. I always shared something others knew zip about. How can ya know they don’t like your stuff?,” Eeve took the picture in my hand, “Ya don’t think you’re pretty?”

“I wore no makeup and dressed terribly. I just wanna erase myself in it.”

“Sure ya know how to get glammed up more now, but ya were fine in this. I think what you’re actually irritated about is your frigid vibes, solemn face, and fixed smile. Like a cop! Ya looked so uncomfortable. But now, except the uncomfortable look earlier, you’re great. If I were ya, I’d keep the photo as proof of positive changes, to look back and laugh and never repeat the mistake!”

“And Lana, why’s that important? Our past isn’t shame but lessons for future. You’re you. Ya feel you’re pretty and take good care of yourself and live your life! That’s it. Why care if someone thinks you’re not pretty? Our life’s too short to be wasted on others’ judgment or nitpicking yourself. Do what ya want, connect with people and all!” Eeve held my hand and said, “So, shall we go inside? Just have fun!”

“Just have fun…” I regurgitated her words in an undertone. I wasn’t sure Eeve heard me.

We stood up. I spotted the invitation card lying spread-eagled on the ground. It must have fallen out when I yanked the picture out of it. I picked it up, dusted it off for fear of soiling the white gloss. I placed the picture neatly in it and put them back in the pocket. With Eeve, I went in, stepping through the door. In some way, Amy’s comforting wisdom was resounding like a lullaby in my head: Lana. Just have fun. 

April 05, 2024 23:47

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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