What Mary Wants When Mary Wants Everything
Mary is 13 and skinny as a bean pole. She
lives in White River Junction, not up the hill on Taft’s Flats
in Tannard Village Apartments, or worse, the Haven Family
Shelter. No longer, there. Now, she lives in the Junction with
her mother and little sister in a duplex apartment at the far
end of Main Street, near where the blacktop comes to an end, and
the roadbed turns to hardpack dirt and gravel. The very end of
Main Street, where it becomes River Road, and the two-story
duplex Row Houses, lined up, mostly tidy, like shoe boxes placed
side by side, peter out, and old trailers appear, set in here
and there among the scrub trees. The end of Main Street, but
still, not River Road, and not Taft’s Flats—and that’s what’s
important to Mary.
From Mary’s house, she walks downtown in 15
minutes. Now, April, mid-afternoon, the street is wet with snow
run-off. Stubborn patches of snow and ice still cling to the
sidewalk. Mary shouldn’t be wearing her sneakers, let alone her
denim shorts, but the day is warm and spring has taken hold of
her. There’s high color in her cheeks; she’s warm inside.
She’s walking Main Street in canvas high top sneakers, denim
shorts, and a short pink winter parka. She’s tied a navy blue
bandana over her hair. In her mind’s eye, she holds a picture
of exactly what she wants to look like, in her walking:
Upbeat. Smart. An individual. The Mary she wants the world to
see, the world behind the windows, behind the doors, the world
she feels is always watching her. She holds another image of
herself: The awful self. The one that’s out of focus, that’s
nothing much, a smudge where the walking downtown should be.
On Taft’s Flats, in the shelter and later in
the Tannard Apartment complex, there were self-esteem
improvement programs for Mary.
Downtown is the café, Nutter’s, and the used
clothing store, Revolution. Across the street, there’s a little
park with two black iron benches for sitting, and a few pigeons
to feed. A bakery that sells little pizzas at lunchtime. And,
around the corner, at the other end of Main Street, the Media
Center with artists’ studios upstairs, their doors sometimes
open, and downstairs, paintings and photos in all sizes hanging
on the walls and an expensive restaurant. Some nights there’s
music there, a poetry reading at Nutter’s café, or Revolution is
showing a local Indy movie at the back of the store.
Mary stayed in bed until late this morning,
near to noon. She stayed under the covers long after her little
sister went downstairs for breakfast and TV, long after her
mother gave up telling her to get out of bed, she was wasting a
beautiful day. Even after she was fully awake, and half-wanted
to get up and get the day going, she stayed, eyes closed, under
the covers. She had a scene in her mind, and she was playing it
through, sometimes with more detail, sometimes with less—rushing
ahead, stretching the scene, like a little play, out into the
future. In her mind’s eye she is walking, walking, but going no
where, staying in place. The world swirls around her. She is
happy, nodding, waving. The faces of people she recognize draw
near and smile back at her.
In her bedroom, the sun shone bright as it
could for noon-time April, coloring Mary’s mind-play warm
buttery yellow, sealing her to it.
She wants to belong to this little park, this
Main Street the way that rich kids in Hanover, the next town
over, belong to their Main Street. The way they belong to the
wooden benches in front of the Hanover Bookstore, always grouped
around, hanging out. She wants to belong the way that kids
belong who leave and go to college and come back, and find more
kids are hanging out just like you used to do. And leave again,
for other Main Streets, maybe far away, maybe coming back older,
a big success, but like this is home.
She wants to belong like people in the Media
Center belong. To belong like the artist who left the studio
door open; a rack of paint tubes, clean brushes, rags on an old
chair. Belong in the way that woman belonged, the one who
stopped downstairs, to look at the paintings on the walls,
looking at this one, but not that one, then this one, then this
one, before walking into the restaurant for lunch. Belong in
the way that people who have house keys, and cars, and meet
friends for lunch on Main Street belong.
Where you live is important, Mary knows. No
family shelter, where you’re out of bed by 6:30AM and the yellow
sun cannot seal you in your dreams. No welfare apartment
complex. No special program. No at-risk, pre-teen, adolescent
girl raised by a single mother program. No.
It’s April, the day is
warm, and Mary is on Main Street.
Lori Ladd Brown
Lori Ladd Brown
did her masters in Arts and Liberal
Studies at Dartmouth. She is an adjunct at Community College of
Vermont and Granite State College in NH where she teaches writing,
literature, and critical thinking courses. In the Doctor of Arts
program at Franklin Pierce University, she is studying creative
economies and the leaders who nurture creativity within and beyond