Chapter 130: The Uneventful MeetingAlexandraErin on December 18, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 4: The Reinvention of Mackenzie Blaise, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Mackenzie Comes To An Ironic Ending
Amazingly enough, no cupcakes were set on fire and things were more or less fine. I mean, the ones that I did were noticeably different from the ones Chessa did, but it didn’t seem to matter… it certainly didn’t affect the taste.
Which was a good thing… in spite of our semi-nefarious scheme to increase the leftovers, I felt the need to eat some of the less evenly frosted ones myself.
Not that I was wholly alone there, since “unevenly” meant that some of the cupcakes had more frosting than others, and some people seemed to view the cake as merely an inefficient means of transferring frosting to their mouths, which made my efforts an upgrade over the standard issue.
Also, I’d been less choosy about how I applied the candy sprinkles and things, opting for quantity over presentation.
As far as the efficiency of transferring frosting from point to point went, I was not impressed with the advantages of a squeeze bag over a simple butter knife. Frosting should come in a tub, or a tube. Definitely something with a t-u-b.
Chessa had laughed when I said that, by the way, which made me glad that I had, even though it was kind of a knock against her methods.
The election part of the meeting turned out to be pretty uneventful. Even with more than two people in the running for each opening, we avoided any ties. I only cast ballots for the student senators, and only then because the candidates were there and each made a two minute speech. I didn’t recognize the names of anyone who was running for any of the other student government offices and I didn’t feel comfortable voting essentially at random.
Although my senate votes weren’t particularly well-informed, either… it’s not like one person said they were going to do their best to represent the interests of the students and another said they were in favor of flooding the hallways and watching us drown. With nothing more to go on than a two minute speech about how hard they’ll try to earn our trust, it was hard to do more than vote for the person with the less annoying voice.
Of course, the real lesson I’d learned the year before was how little a single student senator actually mattered. Like, I’m sure the student government was important in the aggregate, but I wasn’t too concerned that my one vote, even if it was hideously miscast, would bring about the end of days.
After all, it’s not like the student senate had the power to flood the hallways, even if one really charismatic senator was in favor of it.
And since no one I voted for won, it was a moot point, anyway.
Not that it was entirely a popularity contest, but it seemed like most of the people who felt really strongly one way or another were the friends of the candidates. Maybe I was instinctively drawn to the ones with fewer friends or less obvious and vocal support.
There was excitement when the new senators were announced, but I think it cut down on the drama that most of the things being voted for weren’t going to be tallied and determined right then and there. We had our floor’s senators for the year, but all the higher offices would be determined later once the ballots from all the students were counted. Apparently the results were going to be published in The Gazetteer on Monday.
“Okay, now that’s over and done with,” Chessa said. “And that pretty much concludes the, uh, serious business portion of the semester, as far as these meetings go. If anyone wants to stay and help me clean up…”
A few people did, at least as far as rounding up stray bits of ballot paper and cupcake wrappers. My actual cleaning skills were few, but I figured that wetting a paper towel and wiping down the tables with a paper plate to catch the crumbs was even less likely to result in a fire than decorating cupcakes was.
Everyone else drifted away when they felt like they’d fulfilled their obligation to pitch in. I stayed because I was more interested in hanging out.
“I’m really glad you came tonight,” Chessa said when we were not quite alone, but everybody who was left in the lounge area had scattered back towards the TVs. “You’re not what I expected at all.”
“What did you expect?” I asked, cringing on the inside… and hoping I wasn’t cringing visibly on the outside as well.
“That you’d be quiet, keep to yourself… that’s what people say you’re like, and since we’ve been back… well, to be honest that hasn’t been that long… but since we’ve been back, that’s pretty much been my impression of you,” she said. “You’re one of those people who goes straight into her room and stays there. Which, there’s nothing wrong with. I mean, it would be a boring floor to be an RA for if everyone did that, but it’s not something you’ll catch me complaining about.”
“Really? That’s my reputation?” I said, both a little amused and surprised. I’d been expecting worse.
“Well… it’s a reputation that you have,” she said. “Mostly I heard that from people who were responding to other people talking about how wild and crazy you are. But it always seemed like those other people were talking about one time they got a glimpse of you, or things they’d heard about you. People who’ve actually had class with you or hung out on the top floor of Harlowe said you just keep your head down and try to stay out of people’s way.”
“I think that’s… pretty accurate,” I said. “Like I said, going out and meeting people doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a lot better at talking to people one on one than I am being in a group, especially with people I don’t know.”
“Yeah, I guess you did kind of sit there quietly during the meeting,” she said. “I was worried you weren’t having a good time.”
“It wasn’t like an uproariously great time,” I said. “But… I wasn’t having a bad time. Like, I still don’t know anyone’s names and I probably couldn’t pick their faces out if you showed me a group of a hundred random students that included four or five of them… but I didn’t totally feel like an outsider or wonder if I really belonged there, which is progress.”
“You’re very… candid,” Chessa said.
“You’re easy to talk to,” I said.
“Well, easy to tell things to,” I said.
“Mostly, people tell me what to do,” she said.
“I thought you were good at volunteering.”
“It becomes a habit,” she said. “Basically, it’s how I maintain some control over my life. You know? If my choice is to get stuck with a job or take the initiative to stick myself with it, I guess I’d rather do the sticking, you know?”
“That’s not really control, though,” I said. “And choosing to go along with something because you feel better about it that way isn’t the same as wanting to do it.”
“I know that,” she said. “And I think I’d probably say no if it really mattered… I just… this is pretty much always the way I’ve been, and I think it’s probably too late to start changing.”
“Why?” I asked. “You can’t be more than twenty at the most.”
“Yeah, but I’ve read that by the time you’re into the double digits, some of the things in your brain are just… set,” she said. “Like languages. If you grow up speaking a language, it’s always going to come more naturally to you than if you learn it as a teenager or an adult.”
“Yeah, but for all that… there are people our age who are learning new languages,” I said. “It might not come naturally or easily, but they are doing it. And when you think about it, learning how to tell people ‘no’ is kind of like learning a new language… it’s a new vocabulary, a new way of communicating with each other. When I came here last year, I had absolutely no idea how to communicate my desires or my boundaries… or even really how to interrogate myself about them.”
“Interrogate yourself,” Chessa said, laughing. “If I hadn’t already known you were a college sophomore… you’re going to wind up in grad school if you keep talking like that.”
“Yeah, but in the hardest of hard arcana, not the personalities,” I said. “But it really is a… don’t laugh… it’s a dialogue you have to have with yourself. How can you tell someone else what you want or don’t want when they put you on the spot, if you’ve never had that conversation with yourself?”
“So are you fluent in that?” she said.
“I know enough to ask where the bathroom is and what time the coach arrives,” I said. “For all that I’m talking about this now like I’m some kind of expert, it’s not something that’s kind of come to me piecemeal over the past year. Amaranth had some good advice… sometimes her advice was better than her example, but we were both kind of figuring some things out as we went. But my point is… or was, eleven tangents ago… that we’re nowhere near too old to change.”
“I guess I can understand that,” she said. “I mean, that’s pretty much why I became an RA… it’s not like I had some great burning calling to advise residents, or anything. I just… I didn’t feel like I was doing anything. Not in the sense of keeping busy, or being useful… though I do like to be useful. I mean, in the sense of doing something. Being something. Being someone. Like people come to college to find themselves, and I wasn’t finding anything.”
“You know, I heard a crazy rumor that people come here to learn things,” I said.
“Well, yeah… but if it’s just about the classes, we could… just take classes,” she said. “This whole taking four years of being pseudo-on-your-own with regularly scheduled breaks and care packages from mom and stuff, it’s supposed to give us time to find out who we’re going to be when we grow up.”
“Or time to decide that,” I said. “I mean… well, when you first saw me, you said you thought I might have been me but weren’t sure. Maybe I’m reading too much into that since you didn’t really know me, but you have met me…”
“Well, you do look different than when you checked in,” she said. “I figured maybe you just hadn’t got around to unpacking everything until this week, though.”
“Nope,” I said. “I was never packed… I didn’t come here with much to begin with, and I’ve never actually left. I just got some new things. I decided it was time for a change. I mean, not just my clothes… and not me, like who I am in my core, but… how I relate to the world? I guess?”
I’d sounded more confident at the beginning of the sentence than I did at the end. That was part of the problem with figuring things out as you went.
Chessa didn’t seem put off by my lack of certainty, though… if only because she felt less certain.
“And you just… did it?” she asked.
“More like, I’m just doing it,” I said. “It’s… still ongoing. But I must be doing something right, because you’re the second person who almost didn’t recognize me. I mean, not that that’s the goal, to be unrecognizable. But making people look twice? Well, not literally. I used to get sick to my stomach when people look once. But my point is, the change has got to be noticeable if people are noticing.”
“I didn’t know you, though,” she said.
“No, but you’ve seen me,” I said. “You would have recognized the old me… if you didn’t have that image in your head, you wouldn’t have doubted who you were seeing.”
“It’s not a huge change,” she said. “Like I said, I would have guessed you were just going from living out of a suitcase to living out of a dresser. Or since we’re in college, I guess it would be from living out of the pile of clothes by the side of the bed.”
“I, uh, still pretty much do that,” I said. “It’s just a nicer pile… and a much nicer bed. Although I probably shouldn’t be telling my RA that we took the bed out of the dorm.”
“Oh my Khersis, how?” she asked.
“Through the window,” I said. She sounded so shocked, it was almost impossible not to tease her.
“No, seriously… I don’t think they’d even fit through the door without being disassembled first,” she said. “You didn’t take it apart, did you?”
“No,” I said. “Seriously, it hasn’t actually gone anywhere… it’s this thing that Amaranth can do. It’s one hundred percent safe and we can put it back at any time without any damage.”
“Did… did she do that in that room they use for gaming?”
“Probably,” I said.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “I did a doubletake the first time I did my rounds and saw that they’d somehow emptied out the furniture, but the door was wide open and everybody was acting like it was no big deal, and I just thought… well, there’s no smoke or fumes coming out and nobody’s lying on the floor bleeding, and if they busted up all their furniture they’ll have to pay for it when they go to check out at the end of the year. Like, I didn’t want to look the other way, but I felt like I was the only one who didn’t know what I would be looking the other way from. I’ve been trying to figure out how to even bring it up with anyone. I thought I’d have a quiet word with the person who’s actually assigned to that room, but I haven’t been able to find her.”
“With Hazel, you have to look hard, or know what you’re looking for,” I said. “She’s… congenitally unobtrusive.”
“Anyway, as long as Amaranth isn’t going around offering it as a service to anyone, I can’t really see it as an issue,” she said. “I mean, people always do things like disassemble their desks and stack them under their beds, or drag in things from the lounges, or drag things from their rooms to the lounges… we were told that rounding up stray dorm furniture at the end of the year is just something we should expect to have to do, even though it shouldn’t happen. So I can’t see how just… temporarily displacing, or whatever… stuff would be a big deal. I mean, there are seniors who have their furniture on the ceiling or have added a pocket dimension to their closets to make them walk-in. So I don’t have an issue with it. But if someone makes it an issue, I’ll pretty much have to do tell you to put everything back and you’ll pretty much have to do it.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “I really don’t want to get you in trouble over it.”
“If no one’s bleeding and nothing’s on fire… sorry, bad example… nothing’s broken, it’s hard to get into serious trouble,” she said. “Like, we’re pretty toothless, but just right up until the point that someone seriously challenges us. Because the tiny amount of power we have to enforce discipline depends on other students believing that we have more power than we do.”
“They actually told you that in training?”
“Not in words, no,” she said. “But I was paying attention. Though some of it didn’t quite come together until I was actually interacting with residents.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
“So, have you reached your final form, then?” she asked.
“I mean, with the wardrobe changes,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I might start keeping things in the dresser and hamper more often, but then what will I keep the floor under? Seriously, though, I’m probably not done getting new things because I still don’t own a lot of clothes and I’m going to be back into crumpled t-shirt territory before too long… but I think this is pretty much it, in terms of style. I don’t think I’m going to dye my hair or get any tattoos or visible piercings or anything like that.”
“Pretend I just said ‘piercings’,” I said.
“Since you cleaned the tables, I’ll pretend you didn’t say anything at all,” she said.
“Anyway… my point is, I think I’ve found my style, but I don’t think I’m done changing,” I said. “Partly because of the fluency thing… who I’m becoming is going to have to work hard to catch up with who I’ve been so far… and partly because I’m still learning. It doesn’t make sense to declare myself finished when I’m only on my second year of college and just sticking my toes into the adult world. I mean, if my brain’s going to be trying to set things down in stone anyway, then it really doesn’t need my help.”
“You really make a lot of sense.”
“I’m glad,” I said. “Because I’m mostly thinking out loud here… and it makes sense to me, which is kind of worrying because I could be biased. It’s nice to have outside confirmation.”
Chessa laughed at that. I realized that hanging out with Nicki had been good practice for me… going outside of my comfort zone and figuring out to talk to someone outside the group that had formed around me in the first few weeks of my freshman year made me a lot more comfortable about talking to someone else new.
“Doesn’t it seem kind of discouraging, though?” she asked. “I mean, to undertake something and basically decide that you’ll never be done with it?”
“Not really,” I said. “Because, like, if I did finish… then what? Live the rest of my life without living, without growing? That’s what sounds discouraging to me. To be completely honest, I would be perfectly happy if the reinvention of Mackenzie Blaise never ends.”
This chapter of Tales of MU has been brought to you by the generosity of:
Elrac of Oberrad
Corrections Submitted By: ., Alex, Anne, Mad Nige, MsGamgee89 Thank you! Credit goes to the first person to report a typo or error.