“They don’t really care about us … “
Carrie shook her head and tried – just for a second – to imagine she and Lin, two slightly off-beat high school girls, handing out signed copies at one of those comic conventions she had read about.
Right here, right now, sitting as they were at her desk in Carrie’s half of the two-room suburban Cleveland apartment, it felt like a really long way to San Diego or New York.
“You just have to believe in it – ” Lin retorted, giving Carrie that determined, slightly unsettling look.
“Okaay!” Carrie snapped and picked up the pencil, starting for the third time on a character sketch. Yup, there was a really long way to San Diego Comic-Con.
They had been here all afternoon, Lin having called suddenly saying she had to come over because she had a new idea. This usually meant Lin had had a new row with her mum. Julia Christakis (who had now become Julia Stephen again) still wavered on whether to go back to England or not, apparently having a stroke of guilty conscience after Lin’s dad had died. At least every second week or so. The other weeks she had made up her mind to go to the UK.
And Lin actually wanted her mother to leave – or so she said. Then I can ‘do whatever the hell I want!’
One of the crazy things she had talked and talked about wanting to do since they first came together was a real comic book – or graphic novel, as Lin insisted on calling it. Like Carrie, Lin had some comics but mostly the ‘elite’ stuff – European albums and such.
Carrie for her part wasn’t that choosy, having grown up with reading her step-brother‘s X-Men comics, more out of necessity than choice. Often she had felt there was no other way to make time pass in that lonely house back when her mum and Calum lived together. And being chased around by your ‘classmates’ daily in school didn’t exactly invite you to longer excursions in the village or elsewhere.
But now she was far away from that life and it had seemed like an attractive beginning on another life – and, well, just … a cool idea! When she ‘accidentally’ had mentioned, and then shown, her new friend her “dabblings” into drawing. Two seconds later Lin had suggested that they do a comic book together.
Carrie had of course pulled the brakes – for two seconds more. ‘A comic book? Are you out of your mind? … … … Oh, hell – why not?’
And Lin had had just the idea for a story: love, horror, weirdness – all rolled into one.
Carrie threw down her pen again. “Crapcrapcrap -! ” she moaned “ – even if I were good enough to be the new Colleen Doran in 10 years or so … who would publish this? Some oddball sci-fi-story that it’s just you and me who digs.”
“We’ll worry about that when it’s finished,” Lin said in a low tone, but firmly.
“No, we’ll not – because it’s not gonna be working wonders for our rather strained reps at school if anyone – especially Eric Markham – or Denise’s clique – finds out about this! It’s definitely not ‘in fashion’ … ”
Lin knitted her brow. “Hey, since when did we care about fashion?”
“Look – ” Carrie pulled back the single desk chair and dropped down on the creaking bed-turned-into-couch “ – nobody is ever going to read this. Even if we printed it ourselves and paid them money to do it. It’s not gonna be pro.”
“It’ll be close enough, Carrie – you’re good.”
“No, I’m not.”
“It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it -” Lin drove on, firmness in her voice up a notch. “What matters is creating it!”
“That’s ridiculous,” Carrie shot back. “If no one reads what you’ve made, then it doesn’t matter at all.”
Lin looked down. “It matters to us … ”
For a moment there was only the sub-current of a beat from Carrie’s worn loudspeakers, then Lin looked up again and Carrie looked at her and they stared at each other like it was a western stand-off.
“Okay,” Carrie said, crossing her arms, “why?”
Lin inhaled deeply. “Because …. that’s the first reason you create something. That’s the first reason I write, for example. I know I’m not, like Virginia Woolf, yet, but I’ll get better. And even if I don’t … or worse: Even if I do get better but I still don’t get published – I would still be writing. I would do it – for my sake. Because it is my … passion.”
She looked away briefly as if she had just said something dirty. Carrie threw up her arms in what appeared to be exasperation, but she didn’t say anything to back it up.
“I like to draw, too – very much – but … ” Carrie then tried but stopped herself again. Lin just couldn’t get it through her thick skull. And she had been stupid to even go along with this …
“ … And you like this idea for a story,” Lin then said quietly. “You said so yourself.”
” … I love it.”
“Then we should do this!” Lin exclaimed. “We’re already weird, so we might as well be weirder!”
“But it makes no sense – “ Carrie protested, but with slumped shoulders – “I’m not going to be a comic book artist, ever. It will … take too much time.”
“What are you going to be then?”
“I dunno … I figured I’d go to law school or something.”
Lin smiled faintly. “Yeah, and I want to throw myself into English lit. Suicidal, isn’t it?”
“Because your mum’s an Eng-lit professor an’ all?”
Lin looked down again, and this time Carrie knew why.
“Yeah,” she then said and looked up at Carrie once more, “ – but that doesn’t matter, for sure. Just because my mum can be … bitchy … doesn’t mean that everything she’s read is flawed. Virginia Woolf certainly isn’t!”
Carrie sighed and cast a quick glance out the room’s only window. It was supposed to be spring in Cleveland, but this Saturday was so thick with grey clouds and occasional bursts of cold, clammy rain that it might as well be autumn – either somebody had beamed her Deborah Sawyer’s apartment back to Scotland.
Carrie heard Lin tap the CD player, and then MJ sprang to life – out into some street in Rio again.
Lin got up from the borrowed living-room chair, dropped down on the bed couch beside Carrie. “Sometimes,” she said, “you just have to do it. I know that sounds like a commercial but – ”
“It does,” Carrie said, still looking out at the clouds, “ – and I was just becoming afraid that you were about to say that we should do this, even if we knew it would be a failure … ‘like, Boldly they rode and well … Into the mouth of Hell ’ or shit like that.”
Lin shook her head. “I never could understand Mrs. Lane’s Tennyson worship. Correction: Dead-white-males-war-story-worship. Do you think she was a man in her previous life?”
They snickered. But the inevitable decision was still there …
Carrie had slumped down onto the couch, so she was half lying down now. Lin, for her part, sat straight up … expectantly.
“Promise me,” Carrie then said, “we do this because we have to because it’s right. Not because we’re pissed that nobody’s going to read it.”
“I promise,” Lin said. And turned off the CD player.
Last edited on April 27 2021