Lori Ladd Brown



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.

© 2008 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 their communities.