A girl sits on a bench. Her long hair is draped over her face. Sometimes when she looks up her hair gets caught in her mouth. She pulls her hands onto her lap and loops her fingers together. She can’t remember her name. It is Joan. Like Joan of Arc. Strong and stubborn and confident. It doesn’t matter that Joan can’t remember. Her name does not define her.
Today the sky is blue with bits of white. Joan thinks that the clouds look like sheep. She likes sheep although she hasn’t seen one in a long time. Her dad had promised to take her to the country but he never did. He died last year. Joan doesn’t mourn him anymore. She says that if you hold onto death you die yourself. Joan’s dad was nice. He liked watching telly and drinking tea. He believed in people. He said that there was goodness inside of everyone. He said that if you gave them a chance, everybody would sparkle. He said that sparkling was inevitable.
Joan’s never had a boyfriend. She’s seventeen years old. She blushes easily. Sometimes when she is feeling excited she pushes lipstick over her lips and stares at herself in the mirror. She always wipes her lips before she goes out. Joan’s mum says make-up is for tramps. Sometimes Joan wonders if she’d enjoy being a tramp.
Joan sits on a bench and kicks her legs up and down. She holds her hair over her eyes and watches the sky. She likes the way birds swoop. She wonders what it would be like to be a bird. Joan believes in recairnation. She hopes she will come back as a bird.
‘That’s stupid,’ her mum tells her one night. ‘Why would you want to be a bird when you could be anything? Wouldn’t you wanna come back as someone rich and powerful?’
Joan’s mum has long black hair and talks with her hands. She makes Joan drink green tea every time she sees her. She says it will help Joan’s skin. Joan has acne scars running across both cheeks. Joan hates the taste of green tea but she drinks it anyway. She knows it’s important to keep her mum happy.
‘I like birds,’ Joan replies. Joan doesn’t talk a lot. She thinks talking is over rated. Sometimes she writes but she’s not very good at writing either. She likes to draw. She thinks that pictures are powerful. When Joan grows up she’d like to illustrate children’s books. Her mum doesn’t approve.
When Joan gets sick of looking at the sky she pulls her hair away from her face and looks down. She studies the pavement. The concrete is black. If she looks harder it becomes white. And then, after a while, it becomes black with white and then it becomes white with black. Joan’s favourite colour is black and she knows that black is technically a shade and not a colour but she doesn’t care about stuff like that. Joan thinks people try too hard to be smart.
There are hundreds of ants. They run quickly and slowly. Joan wonders if ants have memories. Joan looks up after a bit and stares straight ahead. There are cars on the road. Joan has never driven a car before. She wonders if she ever will. She thinks she’d like a purple car. With velvet seats. Loud speakers. She will play recorded poetry at high volumes. Joan wishes she could be a poet.
When the blue of the day starts to fade away Joan stands up. She puts her hands in her pockets and turns to face a building behind her. It is where she lives. Her mum says it’s for the best. Her mum says that sometimes people are unwell. She says it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But Joan’s not sick.
She stares at the building. Takes her hands out of her pockets and stretches them out in front of her. She thinks she has old people hands. She thinks they are wrinkled and ugly, with liver spots. Joan doesn’t think she’ll make it to forty. The nurses get angry when Joan says that. The nurses say Joan needs to try harder. The nurses say she needs to stop thinking. They bandage up her arms and tell her to be different. But Joan doesn’t want to be different. She just wants to sit on the bench and look at things.