Dispatch 13 (Oct. 13, 1998)
The night I left Ginas, I was kept awake by
thoughts of my own, not just of Gina, but of my own life and where it is. If Im less
than contemplative about my own life, it may be because its rare that I have
earth-shattering experiences worth poring over in my memory. Ive been in love (I
think) and I had adventures in high school and dorming it freshman year just like everyone
else. But nothing in my life (at least now) comes close to qualifying as a
"drama." I go to class, I doodle in the margins of my notepad when bored. I call
home maybe once a week between nine and ten unless its Thursday when I know my
parents are watching "ER"
The idea of massive change something coming in and
changing a life profoundly appeals enormously to me because it hasnt happened
to me yet. I chose my college methodically, weighing all of my options. I didnt
follow a lover across the country or win a jackpot scholarship or work my way through five
jobs to get here. Ill have student loans when I leave here, carrying the burden of
my education with me (financially and figuratively) through several years of shitty jobs,
A pregnancy, or even the near-miss of one, is such a huge
concept, I dont know that I can really relate, or even pretend to under the guise of
reporters observance. I just cant imagine having so much of your life hanging
in the balance in the space of a few days when either you are or you arent Something
So I stayed awake, wondering about the choices Ive
made and how safe they are in comparison to some of the girls I grew up with: those who
dropped our or stayed in school and got married before college and those who did a little
pot freshman year and now have names for each bong in their collection. What have I
resisted all this time? Falling into what? A boring existence? Maybe Ive failed in
spite of myself. Vigilance has let to abstinence: not of sex or of drugs, but of true
living. Living with consequences instead of avoiding the paths that might lead to them
entirely. Which is better?
I went to visit Gina the next morning, my joints aching
from a lack of sleep. Her roommate, at home for once, said shed gone to Harlingen for the weekend to see her family.
I wondered what might happen between Gina and Juan. Would
she even tell him? Was it over between them and if so, would he even know why?
By Monday, Id stopped thinking about it, and by
Tuesday, I was getting used to a Gina-less frame of mind when she called, asking me to
meet her next to the main library. I grabbed a bench and dug back into my copy of "Native Son," when she showed up, all
sunglasses and curls.
"Heather!" she said smiling brightly. She threw
up her arms as if she were doing the wave, then hugged me tightly.
"Hi, Gina. How was your trip?"
She sat next to me, slinging the strap of her backpack to
the corner of the benchs back. "Oh, it was good. I rested a lot. My grandmother
came and took care of me. Everyone thought I had the flu, but she said I had a bad
"A bad spirit?" I asked.
"Un mal espirito," she said. "Like
something bad that can infect you from the outside from someone."
"Like a curse?" I asked.
"It can be," she said. "But mostly it could
be envy or someone saying bad things about you. Maybe someone writing something bad about
She paused, as if for a response, and I had none to give.
Gina hasnt read a journal entry since the first time at the deli, and hasnt
asked. I met her eyes with my own, unashamed of anything thats been written here.
"So anyway," she went on, "she said some
things to me and performed a cleansing. She kind of lifted all of the bad energy
"So you feel better now?" I asked.
"Much better," she said. "Im in the
best mood today. I decided we have to take a trip."
Gina was smiling brightly at me, her eyes nearly glowing.
She was facing me, her hips twisting on the bench, and her arms cut the air as she spoke.
It had been the first time in a few weeks that Id seen her this animated.
"Where would we go?"
"A road trip, maybe?" she said. "Maybe
Dallas, or the Valley or just San Antonio for the day. Just to get out of Austin. What do
"When do you want to do this?" I asked.
"This weekend. Can you go?"
"Who would we go with?" I asked. I wasnt
sure if I wanted to go, so I kept asking questions, figuring one of them would eliminate
my ability to take a trip with Gina.
"Just us," she said. "Youre dying to
get to know me right? So lets take a trip. I dont feel like youre really
getting who I am."
"Really?" I said, a little bothered by her lack
"You just see me in these extreme moments, when we
plan it or when I call you. You still havent spent a whole day with me. You
dont even know what I look like when I wake up in the morning," Gina said.
"I know what you look like when youre been
throwing up all night."
Gina laughed. "Not the same thing," she said.
"Im more brown and less green when I wake up in the morning. So are you
I thought about my calendar. No exams for more than a
week. A paper due early next week that I was more than halfway through
needed to be read but that could be taken along
"When do we leave?"
"Saturday morning. Maybe just for a day," Gina
said. "Lets just get off this campus for a while. Im tired of seeing all
the same faces, arent you?
"I havent gotten to meet all thirty or forty or
however many thousands of students are here," I said. "At least I dont
know them all on first name."
"Its not people, its types of people.
Dont you know that?"
"Types of people," I said. "Like who?"
Gina looked around and watched people pass for a few
seconds. Then she nodded her head toward the library entrance. "See that girl?"
The girl in question was wearing an orange bowling shirt,
cut-offs and clunky black shoes that looked like low-top combat boots. Her hair, dyed
maroon, was cut into a severe bob that lay flat and slick against her scalp. She wore big,
black-framed glasses that covered half of her face.
"That is the ugliest thing Ive ever seen,"
Gina said. "And she does it on purpose."
"Dresses like that?" I asked.
"This is probably what it is," Gina said.
"She might be pretty, or maybe she just looks plain. But probably somebody, some guy,
told her she was ugly when she was younger and she believed it."
"So its a self-fulfilling prophecy," I
said. "She believes shes ugly so she dresses that way."
"Thats not all," Gina said. "It might
be that she was plain-looking and no one ever noticed her. But everyone sees her when she
dresses like that. It might make her look bad, but at least she gets noticed, right?"
"I guess," I said. I thought about the many mornings Ive put clothes back
into the closet before trying them on because I thought theyd be noticed. My theory
on clothes is that unless its been proven to look good on me, Id rather it be
as nondescript as possible.
"Theres so many girls like that here, that make
themselves look ugly to get noticed. Isnt that kind of sick?" Gina asked.
"You cant get noticed by being pretty so you disfigure yourself so people pay
"I wouldnt call it disfigurement," I said.
"She can always wear something nice if she wants, or put on a hat or whatever."
"I can understand if you dont want to be a
model or dress up all the time, but damn, that is so ugly," Gina said. She was
starting to giggle. "So ugly!"
I laughed in spite of myself, ashamed a little. A lot of
my friends, the girls I share late-night study pizzas with and go shopping with on those
rare occasions wear clunky shoes and dye their hair unnatural colors.
"So this weekend, right?" Gina said. "You
and me, well hit the road and wherever we go, lots of drinking."
I smiled back at Gina, who still
beamed at the world as if she owned it. "Ill try to keep up."