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GROWING PAINS - Christine Alexander

I wanted to be an Eva Joia Girl. They were chic, bitchy-looking, blonde brooding beauties. Blank-faced and sure, dark blue-eyed and alluring. The clothes they modeled were something like Benetton for preteens: berets, plaid on plaid, fingerless gloves, popped collars on preppy jackets. You wouldn’t want to be friends with those girls, you couldn’t imagine it. Yet you somehow could imagine that you were one of them, that you could be anyway, if only you had that exact outfit, stood that way, stared at the camera like that, maybe makeup would help. You know what was easier? Kelly Bundy, fishnet tights, hitching up your skirt and arching your back imagining the big breasts you would certainly someday have.

Miranda and me papering our bedroom walls with pages from Teen Beat and Bop and Tiger Beat, boys boys boys, or grown men in her case, Don Johnson who had to have been in his thirties at the time, Miranda’s favorite. I liked Kirk Cameron the best. He was the prettiest, and there was something in that good-boy grin on which I could imprint my unformed desires. I never thought about Kirk Cameron when I looked at the porno playing cards I stole from my stepfather’s bottom drawer, and I never thought about those cards when I looked at Kirk Cameron. I was ten, but old enough to get under the covers with Miranda, kissing and touching each other’s flat chests, snaking out of our bikini bottoms in the pool at her Nana’s retirement complex, squirming around, a knee pressed between her legs or mine, making such a scene, but no one said anything or did anything to stop us.

We weren’t Eva Joia girls, or I wasn’t anyway. There was something about my face, something asymmetrical. My sexy-serious expression looked too sad, a photographer once told me so. Some guy in an over-furnished basement apartment in the city where my mother took me for headshots. His name was Jack Snack and he mustn’t have had a lot of experience with children, even though Daphne from Kameo Kids had sent us to him. He said to me, “You look like Superman just died,” and why on earth would such a thing make me sad? But I didn’t know how to correct my face. There was nothing going on behind my eyes aside from nerves and doubt and something like hope that my face would do the right thing on its own.

I looked like a boy in those photos, with my hair pulled back, my features all too close together, a beauty mark just beginning to bloom in the Marilyn spot giving the impression of a faint mustache. I booked one audition which I bombed, unable to summon a personality, unable to smile, copying the prim little blonde girl ahead of me when asked who my favorite singer was. I couldn’t think of anyone at all, even though I had lots of favorite singers. I uttered a long “Ummm…” and then I just sounded like a liar, someone who had never heard the name “Janet Jackson” until the moment it lilted out of the blonde’s coiled mouth.

Still, they let me stay for the next part during which we were handed a pair of sunglasses and told to do whatever we wanted with them. We were lined up, three at a time, in front of the people from Ore Ida or whomever was casting the commercial for Ore Ida curly fries. I couldn’t see the other kid in the lineup, but the blonde twirled and bit down on the stem of the sunglasses in a come-hither fashion. I put the sunglasses on and slid them ever so slightly down the bridge of my nose and gave what I assume was a morose look, a terrified little smile an afterthought, remembering I was supposed to seem like I was having fun—just cooling out and having some laughs with a pair of shades, as children are wont to do. My mother wasn’t mad at me, but she was furious at Ore Ida, making a show of turning her nose up when we passed by their tater tots and hash browns and pot pies in the freezer section at Cerretani’s, her wooden Dr. Scholl’s slapping hard down the aisle.

My mother continues to boycott Ore Ida. And I’ve lost Miranda to the wine-mom world of cursive platitudes, LuLaRoe, peewee soccer and a faceless, bulbous husband wearing sandals and a visor. This guy!

I still think Kirk Cameron looks good, even though he’s one of those hellfire Christians. I wonder if he and his wife make chaste and tender love, candles lit, Bible propped up and open to a particularly bizarre and threatening passage. I’m sure he has repressed his baser urges, held them down with such force they’re bound to spring up and torment him. I bet he could be a lot of fun; I’d show him those porno playing cards, the joker featuring a girl stuffing two huge hairy dicks in her mouth. And I’d let him fuck me with animal ferocity, do the nastiest things, anything he wanted. It would be my finest performance because I’d really mean it, every arch, every hitch, every bitten lip. I bet he’d cry afterwards, shamed and contrite or glory-be worshipful. I picture him down on his knees. Blank-faced and blonde, I’d simply stand and regard him.


Christine Alexander is an MFA candidate at Lesley University. Her work has appeared in The Penmen Review, Barren Magazine, High Shelf Press, and Passengers Journal. She lives in Gloucester, MA.


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