Sunday, September 11, 2011

Character Interview: Wendy Williams, High School Student, former Goth, Emily Kane's Friend

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Wendy, and I’m originally from Baltimore, which was really cool. And then my parents decided like out of nowhere to sell everything and move out here. It was like sooo unfair. Now we live out in the boonies in this Bed and Breakfast they bought because it was their dream. And my brother and I have to work in it, you know, cleaning and arranging stuff, and talking to guests. It’s all really irritating. Sometimes I wish we never left Baltimore. I mean, we lived in this great neighborhood, and I had lots of friends and there was so much to do. And the food was so great there, Italian food, German food, Polish food, Chinese food. Out here nobody’s even heard of a canolli, or char siu bao, and the only place you ever see pepperoni is on a pizza. And forget about sausages. There’s no way you’ll find any of that stuff down here. I mean, they spell deli D-E-L-L-Y here! Sometimes I can get so angry just thinking about it.

It sounds like you’re pretty unhappy living in Warm Springs. Have you made new friends here?

Yeah, I’ve made friends here. When we first got here, I kinda found a few cool kids, you know, Goths. They knew how I felt, how phony everything was down here, and especially the people. Most of the kids just seem so phony, like they’re just pretending to be something to get approval. Well, I certainly didn’t want anyone’s approval. So I guess I really fit in with the Goths.

You don’t look like a Goth. Have things changed for you?

Yeah, I guess you could say that. I got tired of wearing a uniform and all the makeup and piercings and stuff. But I guess I just didn’t want to be a Goth anymore. It’s kinda hard to explain. I began to see that being phony isn’t the worst thing someone can be. If you’re not hurting anyone, after all, it’s not like it’s a crime. Okay, so I’m dodging a bit here, that’s what Emily would tell me. Here’s what I should say: it’s not easy to be anything but a phony. The Goths were phonies too, and so was I. Everyone tries to be something more than they are at the moment. I mean that’s a good thing, right? And there I was looking down on everybody else like I wasn’t just as big a phony.

Did you end up making new friends?

Yeah, and it was surprising how easy it was. I mean for like three years I hung out in this little group, always on the margins, never really taking part, thinking I was somehow better than the kids who participated in stuff. But just this past year I just stumbled into all these new friends. Some were loners, you know, a bit like me. Others were on the football team, of all things! I mean, there I was hanging with football players. You’d almost think I was a cheerleader!

So you aren’t a cheerleader, then?

No [she snorts], not hardly. But I guess these guys were not what you’d expect a football player to be like. Oh, what do I know about what they should be like! These guys are kinda cool, for phonies! That’s all I know. And, of course, Emily is the coolest one of them all.

You mentioned Emily before. Who is she?

Emily? She’s a senior at my school, and she is just a really cool person. And the amazing thing is I’ve kinda known who she is ever since I moved here. But there was like no way to get to know her back then. She was just such a loner. I’d see her in school all the time, but she was always by herself, kinda quiet, always working, or reading. It’s like there was just no way in with her. And then she lived with her dad on this huge estate outside of town. He worked as the chauffeur there. But she was so isolated out there. There was no way to just casually stop by, you know, with all the security. She must have been really lonely out there.

So what changed?

Who knows! One day last fall I saw her at a football game. I mean, Emily Kane at a football game! It was like a total first. And she was with Wayne Turley, of all people, you know this huge chubby kid. Well not so chubby anymore, since he lost all that weight, but still really big and tall. And she’s changed her whole appearance. I mean, she used to wear like this commando outfit all the time, boots and camo-cargo pants, sweatshirts and denim jackets. It was like she just didn’t want to be noticed, like she exuded this air that told you not to bother her. But there she is at a football game with Wayne, and she’s cut her hair and wearing these form-fitting clothes. I mean this girl looked hot. And she’s surrounded by all these kids talking to her, and she’s talking back, and laughing. I mean it’s like she’s suddenly been transformed into the most popular kid in school.

Once the game started, the crowd around her thinned out. I stood next to her and we started talking, and she was just so open and friendly, like we had known each other for years. It was amazing how easy it was just to talk to her. It was such a relief for me, after spending all those years just talking to Goths. I mean we were always so bitter and dismissive of everyone and everything. And here was Emily talking to me, totally cheerful and kind, like I wasn’t any different from her, like I hadn’t been disdaining everyone from afar all this time. Talking with her was like a revelation for me, you know, that you could just be that open with other people.

Are all of your new friends like Emily?

No. There is no one anywhere like Emily. She is really one of a kind. Bu the other guys are all friendly like her. In fact, I think she’s the common thread for all of us. I mean those guys all know her from the dojo, and I imagine they had similar experiences with her, you know, discovering how open and kind she is. My life is so different since I met those guys. I mean, it’s just so easy to be around other kids now, to say what you think, and just let other kids really get to know who you are. It’s not about being phony or not, but about just really sharing yourself with other people.

How does your family feel about your new friends?

I think they’re pretty much relieved. I’m pretty sure they were worried about all those Goths I used to hang around with. I know mom was always urging me to take a real interest in things at school, and just to have a cheerier view of people. And she was pretty disappointed in the way I dressed, all black and ghoulish. I hadn’t quite known how much it meant to her until we went clothes shopping at Christmas. I told her I wanted a new look, and we drove into Charlottesville, and she kinda went all out at all these stores. It’s like she got me a whole new wardrobe. I was a little embarrassed by it all, and maybe a little ashamed when I saw how happy she was. My dad and my brother teased me about my new look for awhile. But my mom, well I’ve never seen her happier. And she also kinda knows that it was mainly due to Emily. They all like my new friends. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Danny and Billy are on the team with my little brother. He’s always looked up to them, you know, because they’re the seniors on the team. And everybody likes Wayne, of course. It’s hard not to like the big guy. They like Emily too, though my mom is a little wary of her. She says she gets a strange vibe off her, whatever that might mean.

What do you think your mom is thinking about Emily?

I know exactly what she’s thinking. She’s thinking that Emily is somehow dangerous, and she’s not entirely wrong. Emily is dangerous, but not in the way she thinks. She can be like a magnet for danger sometimes. But she’s really the only safe place at moments like that. It’s hard to explain.

What exactly are you thinking of?

Okay, maybe if I tell you a story, you’ll understand. This happened right after we first talked, you know at that football game. She asked me not to tell anyone about this when it first happened. But I think she’s kinda changed her mind about that since then. So here goes.

At the game, she asks me if I want to go for a ride through the mountains down past Covington. Now I’m thinking that she means to drive over there in a car and have a picnic, and that it’s gonna be all boring and nature-y. But somehow I agree to go, ‘cause I’m just so curious about her, even though I’m ready to be bored out of my mind. Well, the next day she skids to a halt in my driveway on this motorcycle, and my jaw just totally drops. She tosses me a helmet and tells me to get a heavier jacket for the ride. This is definitely not what I was expecting. Anyway, I climb on the back and we zip out of the driveway, before my parents even know what to say. It turns out to be the most amazing ride through the mountains. I mean, up and down these logging trails in the mountains at top speed. At times we’re actually flying through the air. I think I screamed most of the way, and held on to Emily for dear life.

We did finally stop for a little picnic. She had brought some fruit and bread and cheese. And we talked about stuff. I tried to tease her about being suddenly so popular, and how all these new friends she suddenly had really didn’t know her. Anyway, she gives me this look, not angry or anything, but dark and deep. She’s part Japanese, you know, so she has these really dark eyes. But it’s more than that. You look into those eyes and sometimes it feels like you could fall right in. And at the bottom there’s this air of sympathy and generosity, but also this ferocity that you just catch a glimpse of occasionally.

So I’m kinda stunned by this look she gives me, and then she totally turns the tables on me, and makes me see how bogus the whole Goth thing really is. It was a relief, to tell the truth, for someone to come out and say it to me. But I was a little pissed, too. I mean, it was one thing for me to tell her a sharp truth about her friends. But I wasn’t expecting her to be able to see right through me like that.

I’m still confused. Is the danger your mom sensed something about riding too fast on a motorcycle?

Well, I’m pretty sure my mom would have freaked if she could have seen us on that dirt bike. But, no, that’s not what I’m thinking about. But just to finish that thought, you know, Goths think they’re not phonies like everyone else because they can tap into the dark side of life, to the death side. That’s why we…, I mean, they are always dressing like death. They’re kind of celebrating death, or at least they’re willingness to confront death. But, in fact, they know nothing about death. They’re hiding from it as much as anyone else. If you look into Emily’s eyes, I mean, if she really lets you see what’s down there, you’ll see something darker than any Goth has ever imagined in his worst nightmare. And yet, here’s the really cool part. She’s also just this wonderful, open, friendly person. I mean, she’s got both sides in her.

That is intriguing. But I still don’t think I understand what you mean by danger.

Well, I guess I have been stalling a bit. The rest of that day in the mountains got a little scary. It kinda creeps me out just to think about it. But here goes.

So, on our way home we stop at this gas station just outside of Covington. I go inside to use the bathroom, and maybe get us something to drink, while Emily gets some gas. Anyway, I’m prattling around in there looking for some iced tea, and I hear these angry voices coming from outside. I go to the window and see this big white SUV and this girl is yelling at this guy something about Emily. I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying, but she was pissed. And the whole time Emily is ignoring them, just going about her business.

Well, finally this guy has had enough and steps right up to Emily, really menacing her and hissing angrily at her. And then, all of a sudden he’s got this huge knife he’s waving in her face. I think my heart just about leapt out of my chest. I tried to run out there, but I couldn’t move my feet. I couldn’t even cry out, I was so terrified for her. And then, while I’m standing there, Emily (who’s totally calm through this whole thing) just grabs the guy by the wrist, gives his arm this little twist, and spins him around like he’s some sort of puppet. I can still hear him screaming in rage and pain as she made him stick himself in the ass with his own knife. There wasn’t much blood, but it sounded like it hurt like hell. He crumples to the ground just as two other guys, really big guys, tumble out of the SUV. One of them charges at Emily yelling something. But she just deflects him somehow, I have no idea how, and the next thing I know he’s flying through the air and lands on his back on the pavement groaning. The last guy, who’s the biggest of the lot, he gets ready to make a move and Emily just gives him this fierce look and points her finger at him. She says something I couldn’t quite make out, and he just cringes and slinks back to the SUV like some trained dog. The first guy finally pulls himself together, grabs his knife and charges one last time at Emily. She does this thing, it seemed like it was in slow motion, where she just swirls her arms around his, and the guy winds up flipping through the air and hits the side of the building… hard. I didn’t see him move after that.

Finally, the girl who started it all just gives out this scream of rage and frustration with her friends, and pulls this little gun out of her purse and tries to point it at Emily. Thank God it didn’t get that far! Emily slapped her hand away before she could do anything, and the gun went flying somewhere. Then she twists the girl’s arm until she’s kneeling face down against the pavement. She whispers something in the girl’s ear, and this look of abject terror flashes across her face. Then Emily waves me over to the bike and we ride off as if nothing unusual had happened. There, does that give you a better sense of what I mean by dangerous? 

Yeah, that sounds pretty scary. But Emily was calm through the whole thing?

She’s like totally unflappable. It’s really quite amazing. When we got back to the B&B, my mom finally got to meet her, and that’s when she said that stuff about a strange vibe. I mean, she was impressed by Emily. But I think somehow she sensed the darkness that seems to be pursuing her.

Did your mom have a chance to speak with her that day?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean she invited her to stay for dinner, and my dad had set up the hot tub. We made an evening of it, and they got to talk with her at length. Actually, there was one other, almost comical moment that evening. My mom persuades Emily to stay for dinner and the hot tub, but she needs to borrow a swimsuit for the hot tub. Well, my mom, I guess she’s like a bit of a hippie, you know, ‘cause she’s always teasing me about the old free-love stuff from the sixties and having a positive attitude about my body. Anyway, she got me this skimpy little two-piece suit that is completely humiliating. There is no way I’d ever wear it. I mean, I’m pretty slim, so it’s not about that. But that suit is like way too revealing. I like to wear an old one-piece suit I got last year, ‘cause I just don’t want to attract that much attention. Anyway, when we get down to my room to change, I start hinting that maybe there’s a problem with the suit and we should skip the hot tub. I show her the suit and without batting an eye she says “I’ll wear it.” Like she really didn’t care. It didn’t faze her in the least.

While we’re changing, I can’t help but notice Emily’s body. We’re about the same size and weight. But that’s where the similarity ends. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in that kind of shape. She’s not all muscular, or anything, but there is not a stray ounce of fat on that girl. She is just lean and strong. I understood right then how she was able to handle those guys at the gas station. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she is really beautiful, too, with her black hair and those eyes. But that’s not the first thought that springs to mind when you see her in a bikini. Well, who knows what guys would think! My parents were kinda stunned when we got out to the hot tub. So was my little brother.

My parents are impressed by her. She’s really independent and responsible. She lives on her own, and she’s a really good student. I think in general they approve of my new friend, even though my mom’s wary of her vibe. I mean, my mom insisted on having her over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Is Emily your best friend now?

In a way, yes. I mean she’s practically the only girl I hang out with these days. But the rest of the guys are friends too. I guess we’ve become a pretty close knit group. It’s odd how that happened in just a few months. I have come to really like those guys. Maybe I like Billy just a little more than the others—can we keep that between us? His dad is a dentist, so I guess he didn’t approve of my tongue stud and my nose ring, when I still had those. But I’ve gotten rid of all that stuff. I mean, the nose ring could get a bit gnarly when I had a cold. I think he’s gonna ask me to the prom. I wonder if Emily’s gonna go?

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