She’s intriguing. I wish I knew more about her. She’s so dark. Everything about her is dark, right down to her toenails painted jet black. I can see them thru the glass. What an odd piece of jewelry, a toe ring, doesn’t that bother your feet. Can you krinkle your toes without it hurting, I wonder. Her turquoise jewelry looks like a sparkle against her dark skin and the silver like shimmer against a dark night.
Why did they call her? I haven’t seen her since I was 12. That summer was so much fun. I remember packing for our month long trek. It sucked! “Why did I have to go?” I yelled to my parents. I was 12, I could stay home alone, or at least at memere’s if I got scared.
“I don’t want to spend my whole summer in a tent!” I shrieked. But daddy has to sell some art, so we’ll go and keep him company. This would be only the second time I would be immersed in the culture. “Ok, I said, as long as I get to eat all the scone I want!” My parents just shook their heads. I could not wait to gorge myself on all that frybread goodness.
Our first stop would be Wiki. This was a big event. Dancers and drums from all over would attend. I always wanted to dance, but for some reason never did. I enjoyed going to powwows more when my aunt Libby was around. She knew how to dance, so she was always sure to drag me onto to the floor. I espcieally like the snake dance for some reason, as confusing as it was.
Our old van was stuffed to the gills with canvases and camping equipment. My brother and I just huddled on the bed in back, trying to avoid the shifting of the luggage.
Grand entry is always fun. The emcee always sounds like a grand characture of what an Indian is. From listening to him announce the drums and dancers, I envirsion that he looks like the mascot from the Cleveland Indians, minus the single feather, plus a big black felt cowboy hat.
My father would unpack the van and I would tag along. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, yet I had my bursh and canvas ready to go as the white tourists would walk by ooing and awing over the tableau that exhibited a Norval Morrisseau type feel.
My mother would find us and she would take my brother and I around to see what the other vendors had to offer, and of course stop for scone. That’s when I met her. Her hair tied into two neat braids on either side of her head. Her dress was simple, just a flower pattern and ribbons flowing from down her arms. Her moccasins came up to her knees, and a delicate flower was beaded with such care on the top of each foot. What I loved most was her shawl. The soft clang of the bells as she moved reminded me of Christmas. I was later told this was jingle dress.
She looked so much older than me. She stood in the center telling some story to a group of male admirers. “She is soooo cool” I thought to myself.
We carried on with our walk. My brother Kyle was running around barefoot in just his diaper and a t-shirt. His little mullet head covered with a cap. He would occasionally stop and bounce with the rhythmic beat of the drums. The white tourists would stop and point at the “little Indian girl” totally ignoring that he was dressed in blue, as they told my mother what beautifl children she had. Did I mention we look nothing like her? She is white with blue eyes and brown hair, and is barely 5’4”. We are a creamy coffee colour with eyes the colour of coal, and even though I was only 12, I was already taller than her.
We’d return to the booth to see if my dad had made any sales. My brother would get ansty so he and I would go to where the dancers hung out. That’s where we met. Kyle was thirsty so we went and got a snack, but he had started to wander when she came over to help me.
“I think you lost something”, she said as she held Kyle in her arms. “Oh, my god! How embarrassing, thank you, my mom would’ve killed me.” I said as I felt the redness of embarassement heat my cheeks.
“No big deal, my sister does it to me all the time. I’m Winona. You from here?”
“No, I’m from little current, my dad’s got a booth here”
“That’s cool, what’s he sell?”
“Art” I said, trying to make it sound cool.
“You dance?” she asked.
“No, not really” I said trying to hide my shame, I really like your shawl, it’s awesome”
“Thanks, my grandmother made it for me and my auntie made my dress” she said with pride.
“That’s neat. I just have some moccasins my dad picked up at some trading post” I confessed.
“ALL DANCERS…..ALL DANCERS……THIS IS LAST CALL FOR ALL DANCERS” echoed the PA system.
“I’d better get going” she said.
“Thanks again and good luck” I waved as she walked away.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, I thought. Good luck. What a dork I am. I watched as she walked away kidding with people as she walked over to the dancer lineup. I am such a loser. I wish I knew something about her dress or shawl instead of just commenting on how cute it was. I reached for Kyle’s hand and headed back to the booth.
That was years ago now. Now here she was discussing my condition with the doctor. Again I could feel the embarrassment of childhood, when someone found out your darkest secret. I had tried for so long to keep my illness a secret, but now here it was on display for the world to see.
I sit here on the floor of this fishbowl as “they” watch me from every angle, trying to figure out what I’ll do next, so they can run and write about it for one of their journals instead of trying to help me thru this hell.
I can hear the rhythm of the drum in my head. My body starts to rock back and forth to its beat. “Come to us….come to us….” The voices say. I sit there on the cold linoleum floor, staring out to space, wanting to ask for help, but I can’t. The voices won’t let me.
“Can I use the azur blue?” I ask my dad. “Sure, but you only need a little.” He says as I dip my spatula into the tub of paint. I wonder what the canvas will be this time. I sit next to my father, watching the broad strokes of his brush turning the white canvas into a village scene. The animals and people in his paintings are always traced in a heavy outline. Their every appendage reaching out to a pointed tip. It’s kind of like when I colour and outline everything in a thick line to bring out the lightness of what’s inside. But I’m sure that’s not what his reason is.
“Wow, that’s a really blue…something.” A voice says from behind me. Oh god, I think to myself, let the earth open up now and swallow me up. I turn around to see her there. Now out of her traditional clothes, just looking like a regular kid with terry cloth pink shorts and blue glittery t-shirt with I’m just a bill school house rock character on it. “Yeah, it’s the ocean” I say trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about, and this over here is Europe, where “they” came from” I say with a knowing nod. “Oh yeah” she says squinting to try and see something other than blue on the canvas. “So, a bunch of the other dancers are going to the lake to cook off, ya wanna come?” she asks. “Well, I am right in the middle of my masterpiece, but