Cinnamon

It's hard to explain... Its mostly a story about a girl in southern california

I stuck the candy in my mouth, tasting the cinnamon. After I finished it, my mouth tasted sticky and sugary, like the cloying heat of the air around me. A girl came up to me, wearing a short dress. "You're the new kid, right?" 

I took out another candy, my fingers crinkling the plastic of the bag. "Yeah." I didn't offer any more information. She narrowed her dark eyes, as if squinting would reveal the reason behind my unfriendliness. "You're from the North?"

I nodded once, brushing a lock of hair out of my eyes. "Why…" She began, then seemed to decide it wasn't worth it, and walked away, joining her expectant friends. They leaned forward, huddled together like they were in a football game. 

I hated Southern California. It all seemed wrong to me: the desert heat, the cars spewing exhaust, the ugly flat houses scrunched together. I breathed out, watching the heat ripple at the bench on the other side of the park. I reached my hand backward, dipping it into the dirty cool water of the cement fountain. It was full of algae covered coins and trash. I idly stood up, walking toward the liquor store. It was small, ill-lit by fluorescent lights. There were about three different people who had manned the cash register the days when I had been there. A fat man with a heavy mustache, a middle aged woman from Japan, and a twenty something guy with a wisp of a mustache. I found my cinnamon candy and set it on the chipped counter, watching the japanese woman punch in the numbers. The tv behind the counter was always turned to a channel with a game show. Today a man with a sculpted ruffle in his hair gestured wildly toward a bright wheel. I slid the five dollars toward the woman, who kept the change. I always told her to keep the change. 

I walked the two blocks to my house. That was another thing wrong with this place: Everything was so close together. I could walk to school, to the park, to the movie theatre, even to the miniscule downtown.

I pictured my last days back in San Francisco vividly…. The high school that I had hated so much at the time, that I now missed. Three days before we had moved, I had gone back to collect the crap that had amassed in my locker. 

The linoleum, tan with blue speckles. I neared the block that our house was on.The place where Nadine and I had pretended to do our homework after school, instead sharing a chocolate muffin and gossiping. The pathetic trees swayed in the inadequate breeze. And that one time when it had rained, when we had ran across the yard, under the huge oak tree. I took out another cinnamon candy, although I didn't eat it, not yet. And back when we had both hung out with Allie, when we had made that poster on "The Catcher in the Rye", and accidentally glitter-glued the desk. The sun was at just the right height to blaze in my eyes, making an unpleasant green splotch in my vision. And when I had first met Nadine, right by the water fountain on the 3rd day of school. The excitement of unuttered possibilities had motivated us both. I sat down on the steps, not wanting to go inside, although the air conditioning would be a welcome respite from the sultry heat. My locker swung open easily, and I remembered when Mr. Roland had assigned it to me, on the first day of school. The metal cage had seemed so grown up to me at first- a place to store things of my very own! The pansies were just fading, drooping a little at the edges, looking depressed. My throat began to call for water. 


And how lunch was only 45 minutes long- 45!- something that had been the subject of endless whining. I heaved myself up, my hands scraping the rough surface of the cement. There was only a molded metal locker shelf and some wadded up papers. It only took me about a minute to clear them out. There, at the back, was something Mishca had written in  Sharpie one day before softball practice. "Mishca ♥'s U!!!!" I wondered why I never appreciated what I had… Like the song my Dad used to play while he was cooking "You never know what you got 'til it's gone". Joanie Mitchell. I remembered the name only because my parents would talk about her. There was my physics classroom, with a teacher I had absolutely despised ever since he called me in after school for a detention. Although I hadn't exactly liked him before that. I walked into my room, which smelled of paint, a smell I didn't mind, even liked. We had eaten lunch, for most of the year, under the oak tree, until they had cut it down and paved over the it. It had been done sneakily, while we were on spring break. I heaved the window open; the air conditioning was broken anyway. Even the mention of that oak tree made me ball my hands into angry fists, my teeth clenched. The street didn't look very different from the inside, just flat pavement with trees every ten or so feet. I had talked to the principal, I had sent letters. It didn't make any difference. 


My hair weighed my head down, sagging almost to my elbows. It was the injustice that stung the most- the fact that no one had even know it was about to be cut down! I reached into one of the cardboard boxes on a whim, searching through it though the odds of finding what I was looking for were small. I still remember coming in through the gate and finding just fresh asphalt and sawdust where a tree had stood. I didn't find it. I checked the next box. My friends had lost interest after a couple weeks, but the anger had burned in me until the end of the school year, flaring up at unexpected times. I drew out a pair of scissors. They were the kind you give kids; round edges, rubber, brightly colored handle. I guess I had overreacted a little… After all, it was just a tree. I hesitated for a moment. I knew I would regret this later. But at the time, I couldn't think of a more important thing. I regret most things after I do them, but the real question was, would I regret this more than I was glad that I had done it? I was younger then, I didn't know how to deal with this sort of thing. I slid the hairband off my wrist, examining the pink depression it had made. It had been a bad decision, I realized that after I had done it. No, I had realized it as I had done it. I massaged it a little, then gave up and put my hair in a low, loose ponytail. It's not like I was a "problem kid" or anything. If I had been, I would have realized that I would get caught immediately. I fumbled with the scissors, turning them over in my hands. Of course, it also meant that the principal was easier on me than he would have been on, say, Myra Norburg. I raised them up, wondering idly if anyone could see me through the window. I got off easy, just a detention and a long talk with Mr. Schlieder. It was the kind of school where there wasn't much punishment. The blades caught the light, throwing me off a little. My parents hadn't really cared; they were tree-huggers too. Although they disagreed with my methods. I threw another glance at my long, ponytail, blonde at the edges, but that turned darker the farther up you looked. My memory of the deed was odd; almost like something that you vaguely remember from when you're little, but can't quite decide if it was a dream or not. Obviously, I knew it wasn't a dream when the loudspeaker blared my name the next morning. As each individual hair snapped under the pressure of the sharp metal edges, it made a snapping sound. I put more pressure on the scissors. It had been the first time I had actually gotten in real trouble; it was scary and intoxicating at the same time. Soon, I held the remnants of my long hair in my hand, the disconnected ponytail looking a bit disoriented and forlorn. I hadn't been back since the last day of school, and as I walked through the familiar hallways, the one thing that brought a smile to my face was the sight of my work left noon the principal's door (perhaps out of laziness): TREE KILLER. As I looked at myself in the mirror, at my new, short hair, I found that I was glad that I did it more than I regretted doing it. 

The End

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