Story fragment: sitting in the apple tree and shouting at the world

Editing. This quoted part was added to the story beginning of this week.

The apple tree plays a recurring role in the story. It is where she would be playing as a kid, imagining she was Captain Europe.

The scene below is one of the key scenes in the chapter and I was almost there.  But it did not hit it yet. Why would I care about her “Fuck you!” at the end of that scene? For real?

This morning I added the part about the drones. I cut the quoted reprimand from her primary school teacher: “Why are you doing this, Isabelle?” into a poem-like structure. (The original is further down below, under “More backgrounds”.)

Why are you doing this, Isabelle?
Do you understand how important it is to do things right?
Each thing you do ends up as a note in your record
And that record goes with you the rest of your life.
If you continue to behave like this,
You will never find a proper job,
Because people do not want people
Who are difficult.

[Edit:] The way the default style-sheets treat paragraphs, adding white spaces, kills the rhythm and so I clustered the parts that belong together.

And I added some things (in black) to the part below.

I wondered how they were doing. My classmates.

And I opened a new view, collected their profiles on social sites.

Married. Children. Fat.
Studying. Back home.
Celebrating mediocrity.

One of my classmates from primary school: “I think women who go for a career are selfish. To be there for my children and take care of the home is maybe the most important thing in my life. It think it is the best expression of my own femininity.”

I laughed.

Three elements are key here. First: the idea that you have to be pretty and slender to be successful. Second: the endorsement of conformity / that conformity is good. Third: the idea that men are providers and women caretakers. For her, these three ideas represent a part of a bigger prison, a system of lies and oppression she has always been part of: like a bad-fitting suit that really hurts. Still she is not able to escape from it.

With these edits, the end of the scene, when she shouts: “Fuck you!”  finally hit home for me.

Sitting in the apple tree and shouting at the world

[From “Dreams” chapter 4, midway – some editing still to be done]

In the morning I ate the breakfast my mother had left on the kitchen sink. Then I went outside.

The apple tree was still there, still grand, only two branches removed by my father in the past three years, to prevent the rot to touch the core of the tree. I climbed it, climbed up to the top where the branches were still strong enough to hold me. It was July and still too early for anything that even resembled apples.

I took out my lenses.
I tried something I had contemplated a few weeks ago.
I stared at the sky.
I looked hard, giving my mind time to adjust. And then I saw them.

White, fist-sized globules floating in the air. They were spread like birds over the sky, frozen in time. Drones floating in place. Separated by hundreds of meters of distance.

Who am I?

I inserted my lenses again, making sure I did not contaminate them with my dirty fingers.

What do I want?

The sky was empty again, apart for the clouds and the crows further away.

Where do I want to be?

I looked out over the village, followed the river that led up to the town not that far away.

My teacher at secondary school.

Be real.
Stop pretending.

I see a lot of bravado but nothing to back it up.
I see a lot of fake-ness that will make you look just like anybody else.

–Stop pretending.

I looked down, passed branches, passed leafs, saw the grass below. Then I looked forward again to the houses.

I know what people have told you in the past.
I have seen your school records.
You are an awesome girl.

I wondered how they were doing. My classmates.

If you become like the other girls you will build a very dull and boring life. With whatever you do, you will reach your limit at 25.

And I opened a new view, collected their profiles on social sites.

Married. Children. Fat.
Studying. Back home.
Celebrating mediocracy.

One of my classmates from primary school: “I think women who go for a career are selfish. To be there for my children is the most awesome thing in my life. It might be the best expression of my femininity.”

I laughed.

After that it is just waiting for your kids to grow up, your careerline to flatten out and waiting for your own death.

–Stop pretending.

I inhaled.

I exhaled.

Back to when I was ten.

Why are you doing this, Isabelle?
Do you understand how important it is to do things right?
Each thing you do ends up as a note in your record
And that record goes with you the rest of your life.
If you continue to behave like this,
You will never find a proper job,
Because people do not want people who are difficult.

I inhaled.

Captain Europe. Me, age four, in my red cape, sitting in this same tree.

We must save Europe.

–Financial independence.

I inhaled. Screamed as loud as I could: “Fuck you!”

I heaved. Screamed again: “Fuck you!”

And again.

End of scene.

More backgrounds

I know what people have told you in the past

The quotes starting with: “I know what people have told you in the past” are from this scene close to the end of chapter 2. Note that these are still roughs waiting for a final edit:

It was when autumn changed the light and made the yellow and orange leaves of the trees in the square of San Pompidou glow with gold. It was after school. It was close to the end of the year. It was the last semester I would receive any classes form her.

“I am happy to see you here,” she said.

I gestured to clarify that our conversation would be recorded, and she nodded, not caring at all.

She looked like she wanted to tell me something.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Stop pretending you are something else,” she said with that straight forwardness, that blank expression of hers.

I sat back and let her words sink in. She was one of the few people in this retarded place I respected. One of the few people who had more to tell than the prescribed content. One of the few I could actually have conversations with.

If she would not have been so old, she might have been one of the few friends I had in this place.

She lit a cigarette, offered one to me as well.

“I know what people have told you in the past. I have seen your school records. And it infuriates me. You are an awesome girl. If you become like the other girls, if you become what people want you to become, you will deny your smarts and you will build a very dull and boring life. With whatever you do, you will reach your limit at 25. After that it is just waiting for your kids to grow up, your careerline to flatten out and waiting for your own death.”

She blew smoke over the empty square.

Fuck everything everyone has ever told you. Except maybe your parents. Take risks. Leave this piss-ass village. Go to Paris. Travel Europe.”

She pointed at me with her cigarette between her fingers, not being satisfied with me just recording.

“Write that down: Take risks, go to Paris, travel Europe. Add Berlin, London, New York and Amsterdam. Here is why: you are different. You are a creative. And you are moving in the wrong direction. In another time you would have been a painter or a writer. In this time you are either an employee of Disney or sued for copyright infringement. Both will kill you. ”

By the way, that teacher comes back in the end of the novel. With a wonderful loving piece, touching some of her backgrounds, I was really happy with when written.

Why are you doing this, Isabelle?

The one where she is asked: “Why are you doing this, Isabelle?” is from this part in chapter 1:

It started quite innocent. That one day, at religion class, I told my teacher that it was impossible that the Dinosaurs where there in Paradise, because Dinosaurs were long dead before humans walked the earth. I also told her that the Tyrannosaurus Rex could have never lied down next to the lion and the zebra because he – one: would have eaten them and – two: (repeating myself) was already extinct long before either evolved from simpler mammals.

I told her about the hippocampus, which was a tiny proto-horse with fingers still visible where the horse and the zebra had hooves.

Naturally it was just a matter of speaking. Sure the Tyrannosaurus Rex would not lie down next to the zebra and the lion, but he surely had roamed the garden of Eden.

I insisted that this could not be.

I pointed out the articles I read, the movies I had seen and she refused to let me show them.

I ended up in the teacher’s room again, my teacher entering later. And that is when she told me.

“Why are you doing this, Isabelle? Do you understand how important it is to do things right? Each thing you do ends up as a note in your record and that record goes with you the rest of your life. If you continue to behave like this, you will never find a proper job, because people do not want people who are difficult.”

I stared at my feet and thought of the food banks. Of the poor neighborhoods and the poor kids in my class. I did not need a reminder to know she was hinting at this as well.

“Your father and mother should know,” she said. “Your father lost his job as an engineer in the distillery. A good job. And now he waits people in a café in Paris. Traveling hours every day to make sure you can eat.”

I stared at my hands.

“Do you understand what happens when nobody wants to hire you? You will be jobless. You will be dependent on others to pay for you.”

She sighed.

“Listen, there are several ways to be successful and become financially independent,” she said.

We had discussed that in sociology a week before.

“Do you remember how?”

I nodded.

“Look good, be on time, be prepared…” I hesitated. “Be persistent. Finish your school. Apply for the best job. Or start your own company.”

“In both you are dependent on other people,” she said. “Meaning?”

“Build a social network,” I remembered.

“Your personal records are public. Including your school records and the notes I and other teachers make,” she said. “So when someone wants to hire you, they will look at your records. They will look at your profile. They will see if you are a problem or not. Right now, you are becoming a problem and you hardly have any friends, meaning what?”

“That people will not hire me,” I said softly.

“Or?”

“That people will not invest in me when I want to start my own company.”

“Indeed.” She had said. “Right now you can still correct that. You still have that age where it is normal that you are rebellious from time to time. But that time is soon over. Before you leave primary school, you better show that you can work together, cooperate, that you are not a problem.”

There you have it.

End of post.

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