TITLE: Personal Details
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: Not owning any characters, not making a profit. Although… doesn’t God belong to everyone?
NOTE: For those of you interested, the lyrics comes from “Digi-Boy’s Theme” from the videogame “F-Zero GX”, which probably tells you all you need to know about me.
Joan listlessly used her fork to push her food around on her plate. Tonight’s dinner was something with an unpronounceable Italian name and a lot of garlic and while Joan generally liked that kind of food, today she just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm. Her family was busily talking about this or that, but Joan didn’t pay them any mind either. She didn’t even notice it when the talking stopped and it took quite a while before she became aware of everyone staring at her.
“What?” Joan said.
“Honey, are you all right?” Helen asked. “You seem a little… distant.”
Joan shrugged. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” said Will. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing dad,” said Joan. “Except… Oh, never mind.”
“No, I mind,” said Will. “What is it?”
“Nothing important, OK?” Joan snapped.
“Joan had yet another flaming row with Grace today,” Luke said.
“Hey, shut up!” Joan shouted. “It’s none of your business.”
“Really?” said Luke. “I mean, judging from the volume, it did sound a lot like it was the whole cafeteria’s business.”
“Can it, geek boy!”
“Joan, don’t call your brother that,” Helen said.
“Well he is,” Joan said sullenly.
“Why’re you even hanging out with this chick if you guys fight so much?”
“Kevin,” Helen admonished him.
“It’s none of your business either,” Joan snapped at her big brother.
“It sounds to me like you two fight a lot recently, so I think it’s going to become our business,” Will said.
“Look, everything’s fine, all right,” said Joan. “Now, if I can be excused?”
Without waiting for a reply, Joan left the table and stormed up the stairs into her room, loudly slamming the door shut behind her. She let herself fall down onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling.
What had they been fighting about anyway? Joan couldn’t quite remember. She had that a lot with her recent fights with Grace. They never really were fighting about anything, they were just fighting for the sake of fighting. Then again, what was the sake of fighting anyway? Just another way of saying “we’re not really talking to each other” or “we have issues” or something? It wasn’t “I don’t like you”, Joan was certain of that at least. After all, she and Grace got on fine, or as fine as can be, most of the time. It’s just that when they didn’t get along they really didn’t get along and that was happening a lot more often lately.
The door to Joan’s bedroom opened, framing the silhouette of one of the parental units. Joan mentally prepared herself for the obligatory comforting talk that would put her parents slightly less at unease but that would not change anything.
The following morning at school Joan was just getting some books out of her locker when she detected a giggling presence behind her. Turning around, she noticed that it was, in fact, two giggling presences, dressed in the latest heights of fashion. Joan expected a gay joke coming up any time now.
“So, I hear you broke up with your biker girlfriend,” said one giggling presence.
“She not butch enough for you or something?” said the other.
Joan rolled her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you people I’m not interested in her that way? I used to date Adam for God’s sake!”
“Sure hon. You just keep sailing down that Egyptian river.”
Joan uttered a noise of frustrated exasperation and walked away, the annoying giggling following her.
“One of these days I’m just gonna haul off and punch someone,” Grace said as she plonked down next to Joan in their AP Chem class.
“You too, huh?” said Joan.
“Pretty much,” said Grace. “I don’t know where they get these ideas.”
“Well, you’re you, I’m me hanging out with you and everyone else is an idiot,” said Joan.
“Guess that could be it.”
At the other end of the table, Adam looked more confused than usual. “So, are you guys friends again or something?”
Joan and Grace simultaneously glared at him.
“OK then. Great,” said Adam, smiling faintly. “Glad to see you made up.”
“Why should we be making up?” said Grace.
“Because of that fight yesterday?” Adam gambled.
Grace dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. “That was nothing.”
“It wasn’t?” said Adam, sounding thoroughly confused again.
“Nah,” said Grace.
“Actually, Grace, according to my brother pretty much the entire school could hear us,” said Joan
“So?” said Grace.
“So… we’ve been fighting a lot lately,” said Joan.
“Yeah,” said Adam.
Joan and Grace glared at him again.
“I’m… gonna go… read something now,” said Adam. “You guys go on without me.”
“Look, can you even remember what we were fighting about?” Joan asked, turning back to Grace.
“Sure I do,” said Grace. “It was about… I mean, you… Look, I…” She stopped. “Actually, I’m drawing a blank.”
“Me too,” said Joan. “So what’s going on between us then?”
“Nothing,” said Grace. “We’re fine.”
“For the moment,” said Joan. “But one of these days we’re not going to be ‘fine’ after an argument and I don’t want that.”
“I guess… me neither,” Grace said grudgingly.
“Well then maybe we should meet up after school and talk about it or something,” said Joan.
“Oh look,” Grace said with cheerful sarcasm. “There’s a class going on.”
Joan sighed. If Grace used “paying attention in class” as an excuse to end a conversation she really didn’t feel like talking.
After school, Joan waited around for Grace to show up. The person who showed up instead wore too much black clothes, black make-up and piercings.
“I see we’re going for the Goth look again,” Joan remarked.
God shrugged. “Grace already went home.”
Joan sighed. “Of course she did. She’s been avoiding me since AP Chem.”
“She’s got a lot to think about,” said God. “So do you.”
“Yeah? Like what?” said Joan.
“Why Grace has been avoiding you since AP Chemistry seems a good start,” said God.
“How should I know?” Joan said. “Grace isn’t the most open of persons in case You haven’t noticed.”
God shrugged again.
“Well could You at least give me some kind of hint?” Joan asked.
“I think I already did,” said God.
“In that case it wasn’t much of one,” said Joan.
“That’s not My fault,” said God.
“No, of course not,” said Joan. “I guess it just went way over my mortal head yet again.”
“No, I don’t think so either,” said God. “Oh and you’re almost out of Kleenex back home. You might wanna pick up a new box at the convenience store.”
“And after that I obviously come home to find my mom bawling her eyes out or something,” said Joan. “Either that or something important is going to happen at the store, am I right?”
A glimmer of a smile appeared on God’s face. “Goodbye Joan,” He said before walking off.
“You do realise You’re not being helpful, right!” Joan shouted after him.
God just raised His hand and gave a curt wave.
Nothing happened at the convenience store and everybody had been suspiciously dry-eyed back home as well. This surprising lack of any further delays gave Joan ample opportunity to start early on her homework, though she wasn’t quite sure if this was a good thing or not.
She was done with French and about halfway through Biology when her cell-phone rang.
“Joan,” she said, grateful for the interruption.
“Yeah, hi,” said the voice from the other end of the line.
“Hey Grace,” said Joan, her voice slightly less enthusiastic.
“Look, you wanted to talk, right?”
“This afternoon, yes,” said Joan.
“It’s still the afternoon,” Grace pointed out. “And besides, I needed to do some thinking first.”
“Oh,” said Joan. “Right.”
“Anyway, know that little diner over on Fourth Street?” Grace asked.
“I… think so, yeah,” said Joan.
“Meet me there?” Grace asked. “Say, around seven?”
“Sure,” said Joan. “It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to be anyway.”
The little diner over on Fourth Street was run by a guy named Joe, who had obviously been inspired by a lot of really old TV shows where all the guys were the sporty type, all the girls wore really long skirts, all the father smoked pipes and earned the money and where all the moms were constantly in the kitchen making sure dinner was going to be perfect.
It was, in short, not the kind of place where’d you expect to find a girl like Grace. Even Joan was somewhat surprised to see her sitting in a booth.
“Hey,” said Joan as she sat down opposite of Grace.
“Hey yourself,” said Grace.
“I didn’t think you’d ever set foot in this place,” said Joan, going for the small talk.
“I wouldn’t, except it’s the only place in town where I can get a kosher burger.”
Joan blinked. “You care about stuff like that?”
Grace shrugged. “As far as traditions go, it’s not a bad one,” she said. “Also, there’s not a lot of chance anyone from our school is gonna see us here like this.”
“I’d hate to think of it if someone did,” she said. “We wouldn’t hear the end of it.”
“Exactly,” said Grace.
A pretty blonde waitress, smiling the vacuous smile of someone who believes that being blonde and pretty are the only things that really matter in life, walked up to the booth.
“Hello, can I take your order?” she chirped.
“Oh, I’ll have a strawberry milkshake, please,” said Joan.
“Nothing for me,” said Grace.
The waitress carefully wrote this down. “OK then. It’ll be right up.”
Joan carefully watched the waitress walk away, suspicious for any signs of Divinity. When none became apparent, she turned her attention back to Grace.
“OK then, back to the subject,” said Grace.
“We had a subject?” Joan asked.
“Why we’ve been driving each other livid lately,” Grace deadpanned.
“Right,” said Joan. “So… any thoughts?”
“A couple,” said Grace. “Like lately I’ve been noticing that you’ve got a lot little mannerisms that are pretty damn annoying.”
“Oh,” said Joan.
“But the thing is,” Grace continued, “everyone has annoying little mannerisms, that’s what makes ‘em individuals. And most of the time people don’t even notice those unless they go way out of their way to pay a bit of extra attention.”
“That’s nuts,” said Joan. “I haven’t been paying extra attention to you or something. I mean, no more than usual.”
“Yeah? How many moles do I have on my neck?”
“Three I think,” said Joan. “Why?”
“Why do you think,” said Grace.
“Oh,” said Joan. “Uhm… well, maybe… oh.”
The waitress walked up to the table, still smiling happily. “OK then, here’s your milkshake,” she said, completely failing to notice the uncomfortable silence.
“Er… thanks,” said Joan. She patted her pockets. “Uhm…”
Grace rolled her eyes, took her wallet out of her jacket and paid the waitress.
“Enjoy your shake,” said the waitress. “Bye now.”
The waitress skipped off again, letting the girls relapse into their own private thoughts.
“I think I’ve been checking you out lately,” said Grace quietly. “And I think I like what I saw so for obvious reasons I started focussing on the few things I didn’t like.”
Joan scratched the back of your neck. “That’s an unusual theory,” she said.
“It’s true for me,” said Grace. “So what’s your excuse?”
Joan shook her head. “I don’t think about you like that.”
“That’s not what I asked,” said Grace.
“And I’m not attracted to you either,” said Joan.
“Still not answering the question,” said Grace.
“I… I don’t know.”
“Well when you do, be sure to let me know, all right.”
Grace stood up. Joan grabbed her arm before she could leave.
“We’re still friends, right?” she asked.
Grace smiled ruefully. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?” she said. “Enjoy your milkshake.”
Joan couldn’t see the movie playing on the TV. The images were blurred, but she wasn’t quite sure how or why. Then again, she wasn’t quite sure of a lot of things right now and the blurred television picture was the least important of them all.
Joan noticed something white and papery being held in front of her.
“Need a tissue?” asked Luke.
Joan took it and dabbed her eyes with it. The television unblurred in a hurry. Apparently, she’d been watching a western.
“Thanks,” said Joan.
“So why were you crying?” asked Luke. “This time?”
“Grace,” said Joan.
“You guys had another fight?”
“Sort of. In a way. Except, we sort of hadn’t really.”
“Right,” said Luke. “That sounds… illogical.”
“I think Grace thinks she likes me. You know, that way,” said Joan.
“Grace thinks she likes you?” said Luke.
“Well… maybe she knows.”
“I’d think so,” said Luke. “She was totally checking you out when you tried out for cheerleading squad. And she said you don’t make her feel like puking, which is pretty high praise from her, let me tell you.”
Joan groaned. “Well that’s just great. Those try-outs were ages ago, why didn’t she say anything sooner?”
“I think maybe it was because of the whole Adam thing,” said Luke.
“There was no Adam thing at that point,” said Joan.
“Of course there wasn’t,” said Luke. “We were all just imagining it.”
“Fine,” said Luke. “So I take it you didn’t handle Grace’s confession very well?”
“Why do you think that?” said Joan.
“There’s a variety of reasons actually. Mostly the fact that you already implied this fact. So how did you react?”
“I didn’t,” said Joan. “Not really.”
“Interesting,” said Luke. “So how would you have liked to have reacted?”
“I don’t know. Let her down gently?” said Joan, uncertainty edging her words. “I mean, I told her I wasn’t attracted to her, but…”
“I’m not quite sure she believed me,” said Joan. She sighed. “And I’m not quite sure I believed me either.”
“I see,” said Luke, because he felt it was an appropriate phrase to buy him a little thinking time. “So I suppose you are, to put it simply, really confused.”
Joan managed a smile. “Yeah.”
“Well, they say that love and attraction have nothing to do with reason, but then again ‘they’ say a lot of things and most of it is utter crap,” said Luke. “I think what you need to do is to think long and hard about this and be honest with yourself.”
“Yeah, I heard that one before,” said Joan. “But I’m not exactly the thinking type.”
Luke shrugged. “You don’t have to be. Emotions are amazingly simple, it’s just that the reasons behind them usually aren’t on account of being, well, emotional. But when you’re angry, you know you’re angry. And when you’re in love, you know that too, even beneath the doubt and the confusion and the denial. Well, that’s what I think,” he added.
Joan looked at him. “You seem surprisingly OK with all of this.”
Luke smiled weakly. “I spend a lot of time on the Internet and… well I like to think I’m not a hypocrite, so to speak.”
“I think I could’ve done without knowing that,” said Joan. “But thanks.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” said Luke. “Besides, it wasn’t a very interesting movie anyway.”
Joan walked down the pavement on her way to school and wasn’t paying any attention to anything around her. She was quite literally lost in thought. And, like so many people who are lost, she was going around in circles.
She liked Grace a lot. She felt better when Grace was around, which was nuts because Grace wasn’t the type of person to make people feel better about anything. Joan was quite at ease with Grace’s almost perpetual scowl, but she really treasured the rare moments when the girl actually smiled. And she liked leaning against her during AP Chem, feeling Grace’s warmth through the cold leather of her jacket. There was something about Grace that made the world seem like a better place, or at least gave the world the potential for being a better place eventually. But Joan wasn’t gay or even bisexual and as much as Grace went for the ambiguous look, she was still a girl and Joan Wasn’t Into Girls. But be that as it may, she still liked Grace a lot.
“I know what you are made of. And I know what you’re expecting.”
The voice cut through Joan’s thoughts and she came back to reality. Between all the people she didn’t notice, there was one she did: a dark-haired female street musician brandishing a guitar.
“Is that You?” Joan asked.
The musician smiled, but said nothing.
“Are You here to give me some kind of hint?”
“Do you want Me to Joan?” the musician asked.
“Ah, so You are God,” said Joan. “And apparently, this time you can sing.”
God shrugged. “So what kind of hint would you like?”
“I dunno. What I’m supposed to be doing maybe,” Joan said. “You seem to delight in telling me that time and time again.”
“Well, I can’t give you any advice on what to do in this particular matter,” said God. “It’s a free will thing, basically. But I can tell you that you are you.”
Joan gave God a blank stare that was nevertheless filled with feeling. “Thanks. That’s really helpful.”
God smiled and took up Her guitar again.
Joan stood at one end of a school corridor, the students milling about around her ignoring her completely. At the other end of the corridor was Grace, currently assaulting her uncooperative locker. Joan swallowed once and started walking.
Joan Is Straight.
The thought was there before Joan realised it, blocking her progress. Joan looked at the statement in a metaphorical kind of way. She decided that it was, perhaps, a part of her. After all, there had to be more to her than just that.
Joan Is A Subdefective.
Well that was true, Joan grudgingly admitted. There was no doubt that was her social status. But then again, that didn’t exactly define her, now did it?
Joan Is A C-Average Student.
Joan frowned. That wasn’t true. Well, not any more at least. Because of God’s incessant meddling her average grade had been bumped up to a B. Of course, a lot of people still treated her as if…
Joan stopped as the realisation hit her. This was how other people thought of her. Well screw that, she wasn’t about to let other people tell her who she was! Joan was Joan and she was whoever the Hell she was.
Joan marched onwards and soon came face to face with Grace.
“Hey Girardi,” Grace said.
“Er… hi,” said Joan. She felt her certainty slipping away again. The righteous indignation she’d been feeling hadn’t told her how she felt about Grace. “Can we… talk?”
“About how I’ve no idea who I am right now.”
Grace raised an eyebrow. “What, did you lose your memory or something?”
“No, nothing like that,” said Joan. “It’s just… I’ve always liked boys.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you already told me that yesterday.”
“But I like you too,” said Joan. “Although I don’t know how much, exactly.”
“Uh-huh,” said Grace.
Joan looked at that sceptical face for a while. The face of the short, fanatical, vicious Grace. Or the face of the warm and caring Grace. No, none of that. Just Grace’s face.
And she did like Grace.
Joan smiled and took Grace’s hand. “I think it’s a lot to tell you the truth.”
Grace smiled back. “You know something, I think we’re going to prove all those ignorant idiots right.”
“You know something,” said Joan, “I think I don’t care.”