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Ramblings of a Lonesome Child

Flash Fiction, Camila Islas

Mama wanted to visit the New Museum down at Bowery. Father wanted a pretzel from a

streetcar, the ones that have dubious pictures of food sold at extremely cheap prices.

When Higgs came to the Big Apple for his eleventh birthday, he told me his brother ate

a hotdog from a stand outside the Empire State and ended up in the hospital. He said his

brother was in so much pain, he imagined that’s how it felt to go into labor. I laughed,

then reflected, quite a misogynistic comment, but I did laugh. Then I imagined myself

hitting Higgs’ brother in the testicles with my knee, and in a very low voice say “not even

this compares to a woman’s pain at childbirth.” I amused myself with this scenario

because I have never really liked Higgs’ brother, but Higgs is nice and quiet and smart.

He checked Dracula from the high school section of the library for me. I think he likes

me. He will never admit it to my face, let’s hope. I have to remember to buy something

for him at the museum gift shop. He likes museums, just like I do. It is one of the things

we bonded over the very first day of fourth grade. Teacher sat us together and said we

should just ask each other questions to get to know our classmates. I noticed an ear

keychain hanging from Higgs’ pencil case, with Van Gogh’s signature on the lobe.

“That’s funny,” I said as I stroked the ear with my thumb. We cackled and talked about

art and literature and dark humor. Higgs’ favorite book is The Little Prince. I knew then

and there we would be friends for a long time. We talked about my parents wanting to

take a trip to Manhattan for their anniversary, and I asked him what museums he went to

and which ones I should prioritize. Of course I knew the MET and the MOMA had to

be on the top of the list, but I was interested in lesser known exhibitions. Higgs

recommended the Whitney and the New Museum, and when I told Mama about my list

of attractions– which did not include gone-bad pretzels or horse-ridden promenades

around Central Park–, she agreed to the New Museum because there was a Colescott

exhibition. We both like Colescott. Father thinks he is just color and plagiarism. Mama

doesn’t argue about it, but I disagree, of course. We have never really connected, Father

and I. Once, he told me I was “just too damn analytical” in a mocking voice. I think he

meant I was smarter than him and he doesn't like that. I think he also meant that I am

not a sentimental child, and given his hypersensibility, the control I possess over my

emotional faculties upsets him. He has outbursts of everything, be that anger, grief, or

joy, and there’s me on the other side of the spectrum, who cackles sometimes or allows a

tear or two to run down my cheeks but that’s about it. I think it makes him uneasy, like I

could become a high functioning sociopath. I can’t, obviously, because I don’t like blood

and I don’t have the emotional ability to harvest remorse or desire in a way that calls for

criminal action. I also do not have many friends, so who would I kill? Higgs? He is cool

and goes to the restricted areas of the library for me, I’m keeping him. A stranger? Too

much effort, and I have books to read and artworks to see. Cannot waste my time. But I

could see the disgust in his face as we pranced throughout the Colescott floor, while

Mama marveled herself finding details in the paintings and laughing at the satirical milieu

of it all. Father stood at the center of each room, turning on his feet, sighing at us. How

could you two enjoy this? I translated. I left him behind, he tired me. In the neighboring

room, I saw Colescott’s unfinished recreation of La Danse by Matisse. He titled it Beauty is

in the Eye of the Beholder. Colescott himself is in the painting, glancing back at a woman

half-dressed. I could see her butt. I imagined him painting the woman’s behind, having a

few laughs but concentrating on the creases of the skin. Who said you can’t have both

fun and skill while drawing a butt? But as I walked backwards from the artwork, a

profound numbness filled me. Suddenly, I felt formless, faceless, like a Matisse.

Moreover, like a Colescott rendition of Matisse. Unfinished, a frame within a frame.

Lonesome was the first word that came to mind. Higgs would’ve agreed with me, of my

aloneness. He pointed it out to me once at lunch. He was drinking pear juice, I was

having berry mix. We were discussing the myriad of possible interpretations of Alice in

Wonderland, which we had to read the first two chapters for English class, but we read it

whole. As I explained that I believed Alice’s journey to wonderland was an allegorical

illustration of womanhood and the dangers society offers, Higgs stared at me. I said

“What?” quite abruptly. He sipped his juice until it emptied but kept drinking, making an

annoying noise as he inhaled. He clasped his hands. “I am your only friend,” he began

introspectively, “and I think we both see each other more as intellectual equals than

friends, don’t we?” I was appalled because he was right. I nodded. “Are you lonesome?” I

raised my shoulders. “I am. I think you are too. Because we are too smart for our age.” I

nodded again, not looking him in the eye. “Remember when Ms. Lang said that to us? It

was after the art project where everyone painted with their fingers and you and I...” I

interrupted, “... recreated Warhol’s Campbell Soup with oil painting and we had thought

about recreating a Klimt yet we had to limit ourselves with Warhol because Ms. Lang

didn’t want the other kids to feel bad and I told you that shouldn’t be our problem and

you said we should just comply,” I rambled. “She did say our technique was exquisite.” I

lifted my hands in the air, “Of course it was.” We stood in silence for a while. “Why are

you so smart?” I hadn’t thought about it. My parents are pretty smart, but even they were

both amazed and horrified when I asked them for O’Hara’s poetry anthology. I still don’t

know what shocked them, Frank’s kind of funny. “I’m not sure,” I replied quietly. “Do

you think we will always be smarter or will the rest catch up with us, perhaps by middle

school?” Higgs grinned. “I’m not sure. We will always be different, though.” He cackled,

I cackled. Being lonesome is not that bad, not if it is because you exasperate your

teachers, and Higgs knows this too. I know he does. “Have you ever watched Moonrise

Kingdom?” He unwrapped a red Lindt chocolate for me and a blue one for himself. “Wes

Anderson? Sure. I loved it.” I took a bite. “I think we are like Suzy and Sam,” he didn’t

look me in the eye as he said this. “I won’t marry you,” I replied, a little too rudely. Higgs

opened his bag to take something out, looked back at me and smiled. “We’ll see.” He

handed me a copy of Frankenstein and left. Maybe I like him back. Maybe lonesome

children belong together. Maybe he is the only one that gets me and that’s fine. He is nice

and quiet and smart, after all. I shouldn’t overthink it, but I am just too damn analytical.


Camila Islas is a twenty-year-old Mexican/Venezuelan writer in the making, studying English Literature in the Creative Writing Track at New York University. Her work spans over a variety of genres including fiction, experimental fiction, memoir, and poetry, written both in English and Spanish. She is passionate about literature, art in all its forms, music, film, theatre, and history. Some artists that inspire her work are Sylvia Plath, Julio Cortázar, Annie Dillard, and Wes Anderson.

Find her on Instagram @amilaislaas or check out her website


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