Chicago native Cyn Vargas has had the Columbia College Chicago experience three times over, as an undergrad, as a staff member in Alumni Relations, and now as a grad student. She was kind enough to send me a story excerpt, which I’ll let her tell you more about:
It’s from a short story – On The Way – which is part of my thesis and got the honorable mention for Short Story Award for New Writers from Glimmer Train in Feb 2012. I started it in Joe Meno’s Advanced Fiction class in the fall of 2011.
Excerpt from middle of On The Way:
Benny used to look up to my dad. He lived down the block in the house with the bushes that were cut up to look like different kind of animals: a dinosaur, a llama, and a spider even. His dad and mine were friends long before we were even born. Benny stayed with his dad after his mom left, and my mom always treated him like her own until my dad left and then she really didn’t want Benny around as much, so we’d go hang out in the park down the street. We’d talk about movies or school, or sometimes even we’d talk about his mom and where she could have gone almost a year ago. We’d maybe talk about my dad and why he could have left because no one ever told us anything.
I found Benny in the park, playing basketball by himself. He waved at me and jogged over. It must have been whatever was in that pill my grandma made me take, but I felt my stomach get nervous a bit. I wanted to tell him what my grandma was making me do, but as we started walking, his arm limp like a tube sock around my shoulder, the other holding the basketball, he said, “Walking with you must be what it’s like to get hip checked in the NHL.” He laughed and pushed me slightly away.
There was no one in the park except the squirrels that stood on their hind legs and watched us walk past. Benny’s noodle arms covered in his track jacket that used to be his dad’s hung at his side. The wind blew through my hair and some strands stuck to my lips and some birds called to one another between the trees and the sun came out, making our shadows darker. I watched my flat, veiled self, there on the pathway, bordered by dying grass, sway left to right, left to right, my hips nearly taking up the whole sidewalk.
“I think he likes you,” Julia told me in class. “He’s gonna try to kiss you soon and probably feel you up,” and we giggled, but when she said that, I closed my eyes and hoped he would in the park, under the only tree that bore white flowers. I hoped that he’d grab me and kiss me and I’d even let him feel me up although I didn’t have any boobs really. Benny’s shadow came closer to mine both of us stretched out on the cement like stomped black licorice except my hips that grew wider and wider. I looked up at him, the birds had stopped, and the squirrels were gone. Benny’s pimples were all in one area on the other temple, but everywhere else his skin was smooth like the middle of a Band-Aid. He smiled at me, his teeth in those clear braces that you could still see despite no metal.
“You mad?” he said.
“Nope,” I said and he put his arm around me again, our shadows one for a moment, our tree just a few steps away.
“Seriously, hip check!” He laughed again and we stopped, the white flowers overhead like suspended snow. He bent down and I rubbed my hips. We were almost in high school and we would be going to different ones. We wouldn’t be like we were now.
Nothing ever stayed the same for long. My mom and dad proved that. I wanted to tell him how my grandma called me fat, how my mom was always working and never there for me, how I cried in my room and hated who I was. I wanted to tell him this, but I didn’t want to lose him too. Drive him away like my dad, have him see how ugly I was like my grandma had said, fade into nothing like my mom, so instead I didn’t say a word.
Underneath that tree, he turned his head one way then the other and bent down and kissed me on the lips. I heard the basketball fall to the ground, his hands on those hips that he teased and we opened our mouths, our tongues touched, and his lips soft with mine.