I remember once in my old school my class were asked to write about our personalities for and English essay. And I can still remember Miss Phillips smiling, thinking that she had just set us and “easy” task because who can’t think of anything to say about their personality? After all, we all have that person inside that doesn’t change and stays with us forever, am I right?
Wrong. The truth is, I’m a chameleon; my instinct is to change and adapt to my surroundings, whether its high school cliques, or awkward family get-togethers, just think of any situation – you name it – and I guarantee I’d morph myself into some stereotypical, giggly fan girl, or mature and sensible grandchild before you even have time to blink. And don’t give me any of that “be true to who you are” rubbish, because I don’t know who I am, I only know what I am, which is 99.9% chameleon if you haven’t already gathered (…and 0.1% teenage girl).
A.K.A, and accident just waiting to happen.
I remember how immediately my whole class got straight to work, writing a surprisingly large amount compared to what they’d write in the average lesson. But for a few minutes I just sat there, with little clue of what to write about. I didn’t really have any hobbies, aside from copying people (and perhaps eating chocolate). But seriously? She’s probably think I mean class copying and accuse me of copying Jacob in our mental maths tests.
I don’t particularly dislike anything either – although from the looks of it, a few of the others did, and wrote their essays with a slightly aggressive, determined expression. So I suppose I’m a fairly adaptable person. It comes in handy, being a chameleon and that.
I remember glancing around the room and examining the rest of the class, searching for inspiration. My eyes rested on Samantha, who had already written a page, staring down at her sheet with what appeared to be a permanently fixed, sad expression. Instantly I had a brain wave and ended up writing two pages about how much I hated my life and that nobody understood me and blah, blah, blah. It was fun at the time, but not afterwards when Miss Phillips called me back the next day, asking whether or not I wanted to speak to a counsellor. Uh, seriously. No offence Miss Phillips, but I’m pretty sure talking to the creepy, leery school counsellor wouldn’t solve my problems even if I was upset about anything.
I became bored of acting all sad and misfortunate after a while and began to pay more attention to Kerrie; the giggly, back-stabbing, school gossip. It wasn’t too difficult copying her, probably because we all have that gossipy, backstabbing, I-want-to-ruin-your-life evil part inside all of us. And admittedly ruining my class mate’s lives amused me a little; I enjoyed having the class hate each other in a matter of weeks. But it didn’t exactly make me the most popular person in the school, and the amusement of the whole affair quickly began to wear off. Eventually they all racked their little brains and realised that I was the source behind all the gossip and not poor Kerrie, who had become a social outcast due to the event. I wasn’t exactly in Miss Phillip’s good books either; at least one person would run into her office ever hour, crying about the rumours made up about them.
She lectured me for a long time afterwards. So I morphed myself into a sad, apologetic school girl (I even managed to bring up some fake tears) just for her to shut up.
I moved schools several times after that. Then more times after that. And I’m at Roundview now.
My family move around a lot; Dad is constantly taking up different job offers from random places because he has no clue what he is doing with his life. I’m not joking; he’s gone from a teacher, to an engineer, to a business man, to a teacher, to a business man… to I think a teacher again. For all I know, he might have changed jobs again and we’ll all have to move to some bizarre area of the country I haven’t heard about yet.
Mum’s an incredibly adaptable person, so she doesn’t seem to mind this random chopping and changing. Apparently the change of scenery helps with her writing. But what they don’t seem to get us what I think of about all this moving. Surprisingly, so far I’ve managed to cope pretty well with Dad’s mid-life/existential crisis. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time.
I’ve been going to Roundview High for almost a month now. I didn’t really find it too hard to make friends (or somebody that put up with me, at least); I found this girl called Lauren interesting and so I let her take me under her wing. I’ve even followed her lead and started experimenting with eyeliner, mucking around with different smoky-eye looks, although admittedly I look more like a panda than a scene girl. Well that’s what Miss Foster probably thought when she took the time to scrutinise me in front of the class (perhaps the main reason was my excessive doodling on the table; I may or may not have spent the last few lessons drawing a pretty epic-looking chameleon on my desk…).
“Varian dear, do you not think that you’ve gone a bit overboard with the black eye-makeup today?” she asked, with an extremely patronising expression. “I know you think it’s nice but…”
She was followed by sniggers.
“Perhaps it’s not appropriate for school.” She finished, giving me a polite, extremely forced smile.
I received and almost apologetic glance from Lauren, who sat on the other side of the room. I frowned; I didn’t see her getting into trouble for her makeup, although perhaps Miss had already given up on her.
The corner of my mouth twitched upwards into a smirk.
“Perhaps it’s not appropriate singling me out in front of the class Miss Foster,” I replied with an equally patronising tone. “It’s not very nice to pick on one person in particular is it?”
The class sniggered again.
I returned the frown.
She turned back to the whiteboard as if I had never said anything, and I returned back to my doodling.
“Good one.” My partner, Jack nudged me.
“Ta.” I replied, snatching a highlighter and giving my chameleon crazy eyes.
Jack snorted at my drawing, the grabbed my pen and added a rather obscene addition to it, causing me to stifle back a laugh.
“We need red for the eyes. For the outline,” said Jack.
“Good luck finding a red highlighter,” I snorted.
“She has a red pen, ask her.”
“Who?” I frowned, raising an eyebrow.
“Her.” He nudged towards the girl sat a few seats away.
“Who even is that?” I asked. It came out a hell of a lot ruder than I planned (although Jack himself wasn’t exactly the most discreet person). Really, I was just simply curious that I hadn’t noticed this girl before.
“Ciara, I think.” He answered.
Her head was bent over her work and her dark, straight hair shielded her face like a curtain. Two ears stuck out from underneath, reminding me a little of a mouse.
I chucked a pen in her direction.
She turned, with an unusual expression displayed on her face; I wasn’t too sure whether or not she was annoyed, intimidated or calm. It was as if she was a combination of all three.
“Is it okay if I borrow your pen?” I asked, curiously.
“Which one?” She asked. Her voice was unusual as well; the volume itself was very quiet and difficult to hear in the noise of the class room, but the tone seemed confident.
I couldn’t help but watch her curiously as she searched through her pencil case and handed over the pen. I decided that she was pretty, in that unique kind of way.
“Add those crazy vein things on the eyes,” Jack suggested, “…wait watch out, Miss can see you.”
I seized my book and concealed my masterpiece - some people just don’t understand art when they see it.
* * *
Lauren seemed to be a little irritated as she waited for me outside of class after school. She leant against the wall, successfully steering away from the chewing gum infestation (which, at Roundview was quite and accomplishment). Lauren herself was chewing gum, and when spotting me, added her own as a contribution.
“No offence, but next time pay attention to whether or not Miss is watching you,” she sighed. “I know History is super boring but you and Jack were making it so damn obvious. I could see that chameleon from opposite the class.”
“My bad,” I shrugged.
“What did Miss tell you anyway?” She asked, with a slightly curious tone.
“Apparently Jack is such a bad influence in History lessons and that she was planning on moving me. Apparently she doesn’t understand why I am so well behaved with all the other teachers.”
“He is a bad influence.” Lauren insisted. “You do loads of work in other lessons and then you kind of just give up in History.”
Depends who I’m sat with, I thought to myself.
“So anyway, what did your mum say about you going to the concert?”
“She’s giving in.” I grinned. “I kept telling her that it would be super safe and there definitely wouldn’t be anyone there older than us.” I let out a snort. “To be honest, we’ll be lucky to find any other fifteen year olds there.”
Lauren snorted, “teenage girls especially. Unless you count middle-aged biker men.”
The image of bad-ass biker men, holding handbags and wearing tight, black miniskirts made me snort in laughter. Lauren joined in, clearly having the same image.
The two of us split up when we reached the traffic lights; Lauren heading towards the high street, where she had to trudge the remaining three quarters of her journey, and me heading towards my own street,
I didn’t exactly appreciate having to move around so much, but the fact that my parents always managed to find a house so close to my school each time we moved, I had to give it to them.
Immediately I broke into a jog, spotting a weird hippy woman who sat amongst the over-growing jungle of weeds we called a lawn. Her frizzy, long, blonde hair was held up by a brightly coloured scarf, yet straggles of hair had already began to escape, forming ringlets that always seemed to get in the way of her face.
“Weeding?” I asked.
“Searching.” She corrected, she brushed a strand of hair away and continued to scavenge through the grass like a kid pretending to explore.
She sat up, looking defeated. “Inspiration.” She sighed, rather dramatically.
“Haven’t found any in Yate yet?” I asked, smiling slightly.
“Sadly no. This place is about as interesting as your nan’s china collection. Seriously, I’m looking forward to moving out of this place.”
“We’re not moving from here too soon,” I insisted, “not now when I’ve literally just settled in and attempted to make friends… you said that we were going to stay here for a long time because of my exams.”
She smiled. “Don’t worry, we probably won’t be moving just yet, although you know your dad; we’ll probably be out of this dump by next year. Go check on him by the way, he’s having a bit of a tantrum in the study.”
Dad’s “tantrum’s” weren’t an unusual event in our household; it was a weekly occurrence. He would always sit me or Mum down at his office chair with a sincere expression. Then he’d go on and ramble about the universe or something.
“Varian, just listen to me for a moment,” Dad would plead, “Now answer me honestly… do you ever just realise?”
“Realise what?” I ask (with an A+ interested, intrigued and fascinated response).
“Do you ever just realise… how you… are you? Do you understand what I mean? What I’m trying to say is do you ever think how strange it is that you are a jumble of cells… not even that, a jumble of molecules? Does it ever occur to you that you are a mind with deep thoughts and everyone else in the world has their own minds and deep thoughts?”
“All the time Dad. I mean, it’s insane to think that we are all here living our lives imply by chance. It’s bizarre.”
We’d continue afterwards with an in-depth discussion about life and the universe and eternity, before Dad eventually got tired of talking and went back to contemplate his existence alone.
Why I joined in with these crazy discussions, I wasn’t too sure. Although an educated guess would be that I enjoyed being a clone of Dad; it was fun acting crazy and thinking deep thoughts every once in a while. Another, more depressing explanation could be that I was just simply bored.
I didn’t really have any hobbies; it’s always been like that. It wasn’t that I hated everything and that I was one of those negative people you can’t stand. It’s just that I didn’t like anything.
Well apart from copying people. But when I’m alone, I become literally clueless of what else to do. I end up copying the goldfish – opening and shutting my mouth and making over-dramatic popping noises (at this point Mum would come in, questioning my sanity).
I threw myself onto my bed and stared at the ceiling, inspecting the water stains that had soaked through from upstairs. I smirked to myself, realising that they formed letter shapes.
I made up some crazy story that it was some weird coded message left by people living here before us, and it opened a door into a secret room containing a heck load of money… or chocolate… or both. The thought of a room full of chocolate a money to potentially buy even more chocolate made my tummy rumble.
I frowned, rolling over to face my pillow, remarking to myself how extremely comfortable it was, pressing my nose against the pillow in such a way.
Man, I was interesting.
* * *
I may have mentioned earlier that I was one of those unusual people that didn’t really dislike anything. Well I take that back.
I didn’t really enjoy the concert that me and Lauren were raving for weeks about before. Probably because I didn’t really like getting splashed with the random cups of piss, chucked across the crowd. Or perhaps it was experiencing the occasional awkward groping from the random biker dude stood behind us. Or having to endure the squeaky, high-pitched teen stood next to me, trying and failing to scream the lyrics. The volume of his voice seemed to make up for the lack of tone and tune and I began to wonder whether or not he actually thought he was that good that everyone around him actually wanted to hear his voice drowning out the actual band.
“THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!” I somehow managed to hear Lauren scream over the insanity.
“I KNOW!” I screamed back. I guarantee from anyone else’s perspective, I was just one of the many other overly-ecstatic crowd members. Yet every once in a while I’d wrench my hand away from the crowd and check the time for the twentieth time. Perhaps I hoped that by doing that, the concert would finish faster.
The stench of booze and cigarettes and sweat clung in the air, but after and hour growing accustomed to the stench, I no longer had the urge to bring back up the greasy fish and chips we got from the dodgy chip van earlier. My mind had become so fazed by the screaming and the flashing lights, I began to wonder whether or not that guy at the fish and chip van had added something even more harmful than the excess amount of grease and salt. I mean, getting heart disease from what seemed like a life’s worth of salt and fat seemed bad as it was.
Every once in a while I’d scream, “WOOOO!” although it’s unlikely that my voice could actually be heard amongst the pandemonium.
The lead singer began to head band, flipping his long, straggly hair wildly until his face could no longer be spotted over the crazy, tangled mess. Lauren joined in; her frizzy, shoulder length hair now looked like a pretty impressive afro.
So of course I joined in too – something I knew I would regret weeks later, when I’d still be trying to get the knots out.
I stopped after a while, feeling more dizzy and light-headed than ever. It took me a while to realise that my feet were no longer touching the ground. I let out a little squeal; not only was there not enough room to breathe or move, there wasn’t even enough room to stand and I was literally gaining inches in height. I guess it would have been pretty cool if, you know, I wasn’t being squashed to a pulp.
The extra few inches of height allowed me to see the band a bit clearer, and if they weren’t insane earlier, they were now. One of them had tossed his guitar aside and leapt into the crowd. The others were either on the floor or stumbling across the stage, an instrument in one hand, a cup of beer in the other.
“OH MY GOSH!” Lauren shrieked. “MATT’S TAKING HIS TOP OFF!”
Sure enough, one of the band members had jumped up to struggle to pull up his shirt; displaying some very attractive sweat stains to the audience. After more struggling, he yanked his top, showing off his bony ribs and miniature six-pack.
“WE LOVE YOU MATT!” I screamed.
He flung his shirt in our direction and Lauren seized it, practically threatening the fat middle-aged woman next to her, who also seemed pretty determined to claim it as her own. We experienced a shove in our direction. I wasn’t too sure whether it was by accident.
We ended up being shoved further down the crowd due to the lady, pushing us accidently-on-purpose. Annoyingly we could no longer see the stage as well due to the fact the tallest freaking man of the year obscured our view and had no intention of moving.
Lauren continued to hurl occasional insults at the fat lady who was doing a pretty impressive job of not hearing her.
“COW!” she shrieked. “DO YOU HEAR ME?… IDIOT!”
I should probably not mention the words I said in addition. But when I was with Lauren, I had a tendency to swear, and besides, how was I to know that I should have brought sixteen-inch platforms with me?
When I had passed the slightly annoyed, slightly impatient stage and had entered the I-have-totally-had-it-with-all-you-idiots stage, I eventually shoved the tall dude aside with a surprising amount of force.
“Watch it!” he yelled over the noise, but aside from that he seemed really polite about it all. I curse Lauren under my breath for influencing me.
But my tiny amount of guilt was quickly forgotten about when I realised that I recognised a familiar face (well back of head, but you get what I mean).
You’ve probably sussed what a complete weirdo I am as it is, but I was about 87.9% sure that the back of head that I spotted belonged to that girl from my History class. You know - the one with the red pen and dark hair. I had compared her to a mouse when I first saw her because of the way her small little ears stuck out from underneath her hair. But seriously, I couldn’t have been any more wrong; you don’t exactly find timid little mice at a hard-core metal concert if you get what I mean. Me and Lauren were about the closest you can get to scene girls and Broadview, yet even here we looked a little out of place – like we were too little and girly to be here. But bizarrely, Ciara seemed to completely fit in with the crowd. I’d like to say it was because she looked completely at ease or that she looked like the hard-core friends that were with her, but really, I couldn’t tell whether or not she was feeling anything at all and besides, she looked completely different to her friends. (Well there’s only so much I can gather looking at the back of a head).
I realised that I was staring when she turned around and caught my gaze. So I waved at her. But she didn’t wave back.
I shrugged, deciding that it didn’t really bother me that much. But for the rest of the concert, I couldn’t help but sneak more glances in her direction, wondering what on earth bothered her about me enough for her not to want to wave back.
After the concert, we made a reluctant return to the dodgy chippy van, deciding that having a dangerously high amount of cholesterol was better than going home with rumbling tummies.
The chippy man added another cup load of salt before handing us the cheap, polystyrene plate, scattering half the chips all over the counter.
“You girls went to that metal concert I see?” He asked, noticing the over-sized band-members shirt Lauren was wearing. He raised an eyebrow, “a bit unusual for girls your age.”
“Not really,” Lauren frowned. “Loads of teens like metal nowadays.”
The man chuckled, “I wouldn’t know, I’ve long passed my crazy concert age.” He winked at Lauren before handing over the change.
Lauren grabbed the money, muttering just quietly enough for me to hear,”…yet he still flirts with girls like thirty years younger than him.”
As the concert had lasted longer than we originally expected, we were unfortunate enough to literally miss the bus at last minute (perhaps the fatty chips weren’t worth it after all) and so we were forced to wait at the bus stop for Dad. Being a typical October evening, it wasn’t something we were too pleased about and after ten minutes I was shivering and wishing I was smart enough to bring a coat.
The smell of piss was coming more sickening and prominent the longer we stayed there and whether it us from the concert earlier (although we had done a pretty impressive job of avoiding most of it) or the ominously damp bus stop seat a few metres away from us, the pair of us were becoming pretty desperate for the arrival of the Dad’s car.
Lauren leant against the scratched, plastic window of the bus stop, picking the peeling bits of paint off the window pane.
“It was a pretty good concert,” Lauren said eventually, “well until the end anyway,” she added, clearing referring the aggressive lady from earlier on, and of course our current situation.
I made an enthusiastic response. Then I paused for a moment.
“…I think I saw somebody from our school.”
Lauren raised an eyebrow in interest. “Really, who?”
“Ciara, I think.”
She frowned, “who?”
“You know, the dark-haired girl from our history class. The quiet one.”
“Oh her.” She snorted. “It probably wasn’t her. She doesn’t seem like the sort of person that would like metal music. Maybe it was just a look alike.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, but I felt unconvinced; it was bizarre to see her by such coincidence and I was 99.9% sure it was her after seeing her face.
…Although, she didn’t wave back when she saw me, so perhaps I had mistaken her for somebody else after all? I mean, apparently you’re supposed to look almost identical to at least one other person on the planet, maybe not precisely, but close enough to be your double. So perhaps we saw a Ciara doppelganger at the concert…who conveniently had the same haircut as her… and wore the same clothes…?
“Maybe she has a twin.” I thought out loud. I said it in a jokey sort of way, although in that moment I was actually considering it.
“Yeah,” Lauren laughed. “Well at least then she’d be a bit more interesting.”
I snorted, but at the same time, I bit my lip at her surprisingly catty remark.
A few minutes later, Dad arrived, beeping the horn of his car. But it took the two of us a while to realise he was there (by then our minds had practically gone numb along with our fingers and toes).
We jumped to our feet, desperate to escape the biting autumn breeze.
I couldn’t help but cringe at Lauren’s initial reaction to my father’s appearance. Eccentric would be an understatement when it comes to my father; together with his scuffled, unruly haircut that was borderline greasy, his overgrown stubble and his questionable fashion sense, it wouldn’t be unfair for me to label my father as “weird” and award him the Most Embarrassing Parent of the Year award.
“Alright girls?” Dad called from the car, completely oblivious to the fact that our lips were literally so frozen that it was an effort to talk. We made a zombie noise in response and clambered into the warm air conditioning of the car.
“How was the concert then girls?” He asked. “Any crazy fan girls? …Although there always are at those boy band concerts. Not that they are bands anyway, most of these teenage boy bands don’t even know how to strum a guitar.” He chuckled and I exchanged an amused glance with Lauren.
“He doesn’t know?” she mouthed.
I smirked in response.
“Coming to think of it, the first ever time I really reflected the complexity of our existence and the universe was at a concert…”
And since, in that moment I was copying Lauren and not Dad, I had the permission to zone out for the rest of the car journey.