A Peel for Approval
Dreamed 1990/9/24 by Chris Wayan
Ariana is thirteen, scrawny, kooky, and brilliant. I've known her mom a long time, but lately, I keep finding excuses to talk to Ariana instead. I drive her around when her mom can't. I'm too old to date her, but I like her so much. Feel ashamed for being so attracted to her and not her mom, but I am.
Last month, Ariana sent some painted leaf-designs to a art publisher. She used real leaves. Not only did they reject her work, they ruined it too: got the leaves wet, so the paint ran and the leaves moldered. She sent them a box of art and they sent back compost with a rejection slip!
Ariana's response: she painted a second set of leaves and sent them out to a rival art magazine.
More importantly, she wrote her first story, a short, screamingly funny piece. Then she inscribed it on a banana, and mailed the banana to Playboy.
I'm impressed at her nerve. Not just for submitting a story, but to Playboy--her mom'll kill her if she finds out. She hates Playboy for objectifying women.
Playboy rejected Ariana's banana.
But she already has her next story written up. She's inscribing it on a fresh banana right now. I think it's a scream, and ought to get editorial approval, at Playboy or anywhere else.
But Ariana is losing faith in her talent. She tells me "I have to get out of here, away from my mom, NOW! I can't wait any more for them to recognize me. I got these phone numbers from my friends; I'm gonna go live with these people and they'll let me stay out of charity, cuz I'm gonna get pregnant and live on welfare! My mom won't be able to control me then!"
A wave of horror washes through me. So smart and so self-destructive! The people she plans to stay with aren't even FRIENDS. She HOPES they'll give her a room out of guilt or kindness... I say "what if they won't? Then you'll be pregnant and homeless!" I want her to have faith in her creative work--send more out. She can make it that way!
Which hides my selfish reasons I want her to succeed. If Ariana gives up, what hope do I have of sending my own stuff out till I get accepted? I should be her role model, but she's mine--I haven't had the courage to submit MY work!
And of course the obvious. I want to be her boyfriend--I don't want her to fuck some anonymous guy and become a single mom just for the welfare money.
I may be shy, I may be a pervert, but this is a crisis. I have to be honest with her.
"Ariana, I push you to publish because I want to be a writer too... but I'm scared."
On to the real heart of it. "I hang around you because I like you, but not just your courage and your brains. I think you're beautiful. But I've been too shy to admit... I love you."
I shyly touch her arm, it's all I dare to do. Especially since a woman named Kramer is watching us. Blonde like Ariana, but unlike her every other way: a big solid calm woman, very adult, very sensible. We've been friends for years, but I never felt this way about her. I fear she'll be horrified that I want Ariana. But I do.
Kramer rolls her eyes, laughs, and says "About time you admitted the obvious." She links arms with Ariana, who offers her arm to me. We link arms too, and we all walk on together.
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