The prologue of the prologue is done, and now we can move on to what is simply the prologue. Huzzah!
I’ve set the stage a bit for where I was emotionally, in high school.
Is it any wonder that when I wrote about growing up, I said I was comfortable being a loner?
I did love Elias, very much. Elias also stressed me out enormously. I was frequently afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, something that would send him into a tailspin, something that would bring him crashing down. Adult Liz knows that’s horseshit; Elias was responsible for his own feelings and managing them. But adolescent Liz very keenly felt responsible for a lot of Elias’ pain. Adolescent Liz had spent years being groomed (by her mother, her religion and society in general) to accept responsibility for the feelings and mental states of those around her. Adolescent Liz had it pounded into her that it was her responsibility to make people feel better, to bend to the will of others, to be a support to all those around her, and to not even acknowledge that her feelings and desires existed separate from caring for others, much less to put time and energy into those parts of herself.
So I’ll write it again, because it merits pounding home: Is it any wonder that I was comfortable being a loner?
Being alone was the only time that I had to look after myself. But both Elias and my mom (my two biggest time sucks) didn’t really understand or accept the concept that I needed “alone time” (I’m so glad that’s become an important part of poly culture. I hope that spreads to become a facet of all cultures). They did both understand the concept of needing time for school work.
I instinctively understood that I needed this “time for school work” to be something that nourished and recharged my soul. I think this is why art was so appealing to me. But not just any art. I wanted to do mixed media art.
My mom had ambitions growing up of being a wonderful singer. So she pushed me towards chorus and musicals. Don’t get me wrong; I like musicals. But I like watching them, not trying to be in them. Music is something I also like…to listen to. Not to do.
We had a lot of fights when I was growing up over this. I wanted my electives to be about art: pottery, painting, general art theory and study. She wanted chorus and music theory and for me to take up an instrument, something that I could play while I sang like guitar. My dad played the guitar; I think my mom had visions of a famous father/daughter country duo.
My visions were of being a famous artist. Making amazing, complicated pieces of art that were thought-provoking and combined a variety of media into seamless, intricate works. Sometimes I dreamed about having a studio in some big city, a whole floor of an old factory that was entirely given over to pieces of art and had a tiny kitchen and mattress for sleeping thrown together in a corner. Other times, I imagined staying in the country and having a massive barn that I’d work in, with a cubby of a room off to the side for sleeping, a hotplate and the faucet that used to be used to water the cows would be my kitchen. In either scenario, I would spend hours and hours alone, slowly bringing these labyrinthine pieces to life.
Hours and hours alone. When I had these dreams, I’d have settled for an hour a day alone, without my mom or Elias making demands on my time. An hour creating, daydreaming, doing my own thing.
This is why I really wanted to take art classes in high school. To make things even more interesting, we got a new art teacher, fresh out of college from New York City my freshman year. It was considered quite scandalous that he encouraged all the students to call him by his first name, David.
At the end of my first semester of my freshman year, the school was decorate with the work that David had his students working on. Theoretically, this was supposed to be a display of Christmas-themed art, and it was…but definitely not the way that the teachers and parents envisioned. There were photos of homeless people panhandling in snow, with signs asked people to be generous for the holidays. A piece of mixed-media art made in the shape of a Christmas tree, but created from pieces of electronics making up the trunk and branches, hung with ornaments that were paper-maché balls of Black Friday ads. There was a very large nativity arranged at the entryway of the school, but it depicted baby Jesus being born in a run down building, to a homeless Mary and Joseph, surrounded by rats and wild dogs and attended to by a pimp, a mobster, and thief. That one got taken down nearly immediately and a very stern warning was issued to David and his art students that more such behavior would be looked down on very strongly, and could possibly involve suspensions.
The majority of the students, like their parents and most of the teachers looked down on this display. It was gross, un-Christian, stupid, attention-seeking city art. Art made by snobby people who thought they were better than other people. Or art that highlighted issues that weren’t really that big a deal and should just be left alone. Art that challenged the status-quo and insulted Good People.
This art excited me. Not so much the “in your face” quality of it, but that most of it was mixed media art. And complicated. And not just meant to be pretty. Art that had meaning.
I spent the rest of my freshman year campaigning against my mom to allow me to take art classes. It got pretty dirty. Among the things I did, I flunked out of chorus (which was incredibly hard; that teach practically gave away passing grades), and swore that I’d fail out of major classes my sophomore year if my mom didn’t allow me to switch my electives to art.
Left to her own devices, there’s a good chance that my mom may have let me do just that. She was insane enough about getting her own way that she might have allowed me to cripple my prospects for colleges, so long as it meant she called all the shots about my education. Luckily, my dad wasn’t willing to see this happen. In a rare instance of standing up to my mom, he argued that I should be allowed to choose my electives. After all, when I went to college, I’d be able to pick all of my classes. No parent signature required. So I might as well start learning what that’s like, and how to pick classes myself.
My mom finally acquiesced. I was allowed to pick some of my electives for my sophomore year. I gleefully chose classes with David. At the time, my only thoughts were excitement about the art that I’d finally be able to make. In the back of my mind, I think there was also an awareness that working on art also meant I’d have a legitimate reason to be alone, something to take up my time. Something that would require me to stay later in school, as I used the materials there to work on my art. Something that gave me blessed time away from both my mom and Elias.
I had no idea that this would also be bringing me closer to a predator, closer to someone who might be interested in preying on a young woman. Or was he? Maybe it really was love.
No, it wasn’t. It’ll become clear eventually that whatever David wanted out of me, love – healthy, genuine love – wasn’t it.