Becky is a novelist, essayist and short story-ist. She is currently working on her second novel, a collaboration with artist Letisia Cruz entitled Bone Girl. Read the opening below, and check out Becky’s Publications Page for links to her other pieces.
By: Becky Fine-Firesheets
When Kate starts a new page in her sketchbook, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. No plan, no idea, just black lines on paper, some lighter, some heavier, some straight, some curved. The most fun part for her is watching what the lines morph into. When she was young, they often became people, characters she made up. For a while they became trees or flowers. Then, during middle school, she went through a yearlong obsession with roots and they found their way into everything, attached to the bottoms of buildings or flowing out of people’s heads. She finally got over this and, after seeing a Picasso exhibit at the museum in the city, moved onto cubism. But then something weird happened: the lines stopped morphing into anything. Everyday Kate fills her notebook with lines on top of lines, lines beside lines, lines far away from lines, but nothing happens. She’s embarrassed and refuses to show the pages to anyone. She thinks real artists draw real things and only fake artists draw lines that become nothing.
“Try something new,” her best friend Michelle suggests.
“I don’t know… like, circles?”
So Kate draws circles. Tiny circles inside of big ones. Misshapen circles. Long, melty circles. Fat, plump circles. She writes the word zero on one of the pages and thinks, How stupid, I made a sketch of nothing. She goes back to lines on top of lines with a few circles thrown in here and there, but she still feels stupid.
After months and months of this, Kate looks at her sketches and realizes that she is a fly trapped in a web with no way out. She squirms and twists but doesn’t seem to move, much less escape. She gets tired and stops trying, lets herself sink into the silk. But then her chest clenches and her breath shortens and her heart races and she wakes up and starts it all over again.
Kate has no idea where this is taking her. It’s approaching that time when she’s supposed to think about life after high school, like college or a job or locking herself in her room forever, but she doesn’t have any plans and doesn’t know how to find them. Michelle always goes on about New York City, how she’s going to become a fabulous Broadway star, and why doesn’t Kate come along and study art there? But New York is Michelle’s dream, not her own. Besides, she’s not cut out for art school. The applications alone require a whole portfolio that ‘shows your versatility,’ still lifes and oil paintings and things Kate just doesn’t care about. And, even if she did, they wouldn’t be art school good. Kate knows this because she’s tried. She finishes all of the projects her art teachers assign, even does extra credit sometimes, but they never turn out that well. The only time she gets compliments, ever, is when people look at her sketchbook, and because she hasn’t drawn anything real lately, she hasn’t shown her book to anyone and therefore hasn’t received a compliment in months.
Part of her is okay with this. The conversations rarely stopped at the compliment part, anyway. They usually turned into something like, “Wow, that’s beautiful. Are you going to paint it now?” Or, “I had no idea you were so talented. You should make a comic book!” One time, a friend of her mother’s even said, “This would be an amazing sculpture.”
Simply thinking about it makes her want to scream. Why isn’t her art good enough just the way it is?
But Kate knows that nothing about her is good enough just the way it is and will never be. Michelle and the other drama nerds feel bad for her so they let her hang out, but she knows she is not one of them. She’s not one of anybody. She is just Kate, alone and not that likeable.