She Used to be Mine
by Ryan Panek-Kravitz
I was nervous about the idea of taking a drama class for a random elective my senior year, but it was the only elective that still had space. I was a transfer student, whose mother house-hopped to escape the thoughts of my deadbeat father. I could never quite find my niche. First Orem, then Clemson, Lafayette, and now Chicago.
“Adams, you’re up,” Mr. Arnetto raised the papers that were in his hands. It was the end of monologue week. We were supposed to pick a monologue and recite it in front of the class.
The day before, a girl named Cameron had performed a monologue from Much Ado About Nothing. I was familiar with Shakespeare but I never really paid attention to the love stories. She recited Beatrice’s monologue, and she left everyone breathless—including me.
I stood up from my seat and rushed to the front of the classroom. Now that it was my turn, I looked out into the crowd of people.
“State your name and which monologue you have chosen for us today.” Mr. Arnetto said, like he was tired of muttering the same thing over and over again.
There was a list of plays that we could have chosen from. None of the monologues were longer than a couple of sentences. The hardest part of this assignment was to remember all the words, or not giving enough emotion to do the piece justice.
“My name is Matthew Adams, and I will be performing a monologue from Much Ado About Nothing.” My gaze fell on Cameron. She was sitting there, staring at me with wide eyes. My face flushed. Everyone was waiting on me. Afterwards, I thought I tripped over a few words and left a couple of pauses out. I was worried that I failed.
“You can sit now Mr. Adams.” Mr. Arnetto walked towards the front of the room. “Next week class, we will be reading about dialogues. I decided to pair you guys up for next week. So when I call your names, please greet each other before exiting class.”
“Matthew Adams?” Mr. Arnetto said.
I wondered what poor soul would paired with awkward me.
“You are with Cameron Madison.”
I was shocked. The girl who killed her monologue was my partner for the next assignment?
As he finished the names, Cameron made her way to me, almost bouncing.
“Hi,” she said. I drew my attention away from her low-cut cheer outfit when I noticed the shimmer of a dove necklace hanging between her breasts.
“Hello.” I said, embarrassed.
“I wanted to give you my number so we can talk about our dialogue choices. Maybe we can do one from Much Ado About Nothing, since we both did monologues from it.” Cameron reached for my notebook so she could write her number down.
“Thanks.” I stumbled around the words until the bell rang.
“Gotta go to Chemistry. Text me later yeah?” Cameron made her way to the door. She joined a group of girls who were laughing about something I couldn’t quite make out.
As she walked out, I smelled the faint scent of blueberries.
The weekend hit and Cameron had invited me to her house. When I walked in, a sudden air of warmth hit me, like I had just walked into a kitchen where fresh baked cookies laid on the kitchen counter.
“Feel free to make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.” Cameron said. She turned around and glided to the bathroom like she was figure skating.
I sat down on a plastic covered couch and twiddled my thumbs waiting for Cameron to make another entrance. Amongst the cleanliness of the house, I noticed all of the pictures in the room, a lot of them were of Cameron and her mother, but no father was present in any of them.
She returned, carrying a small tray of crackers and a pitcher of lemonade.
“Momma always taught me to show some hospitality when guests were present.” Cameron said playfully, placing the tray on the ornate table and setting a pair of coasters down to catch any perspiration that might have seeped down the glasses. I wondered if she would notice that my armpits could use one of those too. I hoped not.
“You’re too kind.” I grabbed one of the glasses and poured myself some lemonade. “Why isn’t your father in any of these pictures?” Fuck.
Cameron had placed the books on the table and she joined me at the shrine that was dedicated to her. “My dad left when I was little. He’s never been a part of my life. I remind her of him. He left her to follow his dreams, and I want to do the same thing.” The dove necklace started to make sense as Cameron played with it.
“Does she resent you?”
“No. Actually, she encourages it for me. She wants to see me spread my wings and fly. She told me that she would be front row at my first big sold out show.” Cameron said
“Sounds like you two have a strong relationship.” I made my way back to the table to sip on some of the lemonade.
Cameron nodded. “I’m all she has. However, she doesn’t want to hold me back because of that.”
I said opening the playbook, “Sorry, this is what we should be working on, not talking about family history.” I gazed through the pages, trying to look like I cared but I was more intrigued about Cameron than the play.
As we discussed the layout of our scene, Cameron gave me tips on how to say each line. She instructed me on voice, timing, and even pitch. She wanted our dialogue to be perfect. While I didn’t want to care, she made me care. I could see why her mother wanted her to pursue her dreams even if it meant leaving her behind. Cameron was born to be on the stage.
“I think this is good place to stop.” Cameron smiled. “You’re catching on fast Matt. Is this the first time you done anything drama related?”
“Yes.” I was a little embarrassed at what I admitted. Her passion was admirable and almost contagious. I was tempted to say I didn’t want to stop.
For a couple more days, we worked with each other before it was our turn to present in class. My legs quivered before Cameron whispered to me. “Don’t think Matt. Just let the words run out of you. Instinct will take over. You got this.”
Before we started, I took a deep breath and let go of all the anxiety, pent up in me. It withered away like the leaves on an autumn tree. Words came out and before I knew it, we were finished. We made our way back to our seats.
Cameron grasped my hand and whispered “Good job.”
That was the moment I fell in love with acting.
After school, I was walking to my car when Cameron caught up with me.
“Matt. Wait,” Cameron said.
I gawked for a moment, awestruck.
“You did such a good job in class today.” Cameron finally caught up and hugged me.
“I didn’t think so. You were the amazing one.” I said.
“Stop, flattery will get you everywhere.” Cameron said. She took a moment to brush her hair out of her face. “Well, did you want to get some food with me?”
“Absolutely.” I sounded desperate.
“Pizza?” Cameron made her way to the other side of the car.
“Is this a date?”
“Of course,” Cameron just opened the car door got in. That’s when I realized she was the freest person I had ever met.
We wound up at a pizzeria on Halsted and Monroe.
“So, what would you say is your spirit animal?” Cameron asked.
I had never thought about it. Not even once.
“I don’t know. Let me think for a second. Tell me what is yours?” I said. I lifted the slice of pizza to my mouth.
“Well, mine is a dove. They’re so free.”
The idea captivated me because being free was something I didn’t want anymore. I was tired of being uprooted and moved from place to place.
“Thinking about it, I guess I don’t have a spirit animal. I would say though, I feel like a baby sequoia tree.” I said.
“Because I’m newly planted, but I’m forming my roots.” I said.
After a long night of chatting, we wrapped up the date and I drove her home. We kissed when I walked her to the door. When I got home, she sent me a text to come spend lunch with her.
The next day, I walked into the lunchroom and caught a glimpse of Cameron.
“Hey Cameron.” I said, taking a seat next to her and gave her a light embrace.
“Matty. Hi.” Cameron dropped the spoon and grabbed the napkin to wipe the corner of her mouth. “So these are the people I wanted you to meet.”
As I looked around the table, there was an exchange of hellos from Karen, a girl in my physics class, a boy named Daniel who looked tall and brooding, and Elise who seemed like she was just too good to be sitting at the table.
After a few minutes of small talk, they started talking about college.
Daniel said in a very low and monotone voice, like he had no ability to show any emotion. “Didn’t you get into NYU Cameron?”
“I did, but just because I got into NYU doesn’t mean I am better than anyone here.” Cameron said, looking for my hand so she could grasp it.
“How bout you?” Karen paused. “Mickey?”
“Matt, you idiot.” Cameron squeezed my hand.
“Sorry. Matt. Where are you planning on going after graduation?” Karen said.
“I got into Columbia College of Arts. I really like the idea of just staying in one place for a while.” I said, feeling Cameron’s hand let go of mine, like I just said something unspeakable.
“New York is where it is at if you want to be an actor,” Daniel said. I could feel their piercing eyes, like if I stayed here in Chicago, I was never going to get anywhere in life.
“Don’t mind him, Matty,” Cameron said concerned, like she was not only ashamed of her friends but also realizing just how shut off I was becoming from the situation.
I stood from my seat. “I’ll see you later Cameron.” I said, disconnected from the conversation between the others.
After school, Cameron came up to my locker.
“Hey, you okay?” Cameron bit her lip and waited for me to give her a response.
“I’m alright. I just didn’t feel comfortable at lunch.” I said. I wanted to be honest with her; we were too new into our relationship to be giving mixed signals.
“Come with me. Lets chat.” Cameron took my hand and pushed my locker closed.
I followed. I knew I shouldn’t have thrown anything to blind faith, but I was willing to make this work no matter what.
Cameron led me to the theatre.
“So what did you think about my friends.” Cameron said.
“They seem really intense.” I said to her, looking around the theatre and not making eye contact with her.
“I’m sorry Matt. I told them to behave.” Cameron said. She grabbed my hand again.
“That was them behaving Cam?” I pulled my hand away.
“Do you want to know a secret?”
“What would that be?” I asked.
“You’re the first boy to ground me.” Cameron said.
“What do you mean?”
“Ever since my dad left, I have never had a guy in my life that I thought cared. Until now.” There was a single tear falling from her face.
“When my father left, I took it harder than my mother. He was the first person to break my trust in people flying out of my life.”
“We really are cut from the same tapestry.” I said, “You see, my dad left my mom when she decided that she didn’t want to live in Orem anymore. I was nine, and I cried for week Cameron. I couldn’t stand the thought.”
I had never told anyone this. I felt it was no one’s business but mine. Until I finally felt like I could tell this girl anything.
“Do you want to come over and watch a movie or something?” Cameron said to me, grabbing my hand and caressing it gently.
“Sure.” I said. I started to realize that no one understood our relationship, but they didn’t have to. We understood our relationship.
A couple months passed, it was now spring, everyone was getting ready to leave their homes and attend college.
“So, what do you think about moving to New York?” Cameron was sitting on the edge of my bed. The tiny two-bedroom apartment that I called home was cramped. My mother did well enough, but she wanted to live in the heart of the city. She always told me that she felt like herself in the city. I never paid that much mind.
“Why are you asking about this again?” I said, sitting on my bed Indian style trying to find the right movie to watch on Netflix.
“Well, I want to know. I have already made up my mind that NYU is going to be my home for the next couple years.” Cameron said, turning around and facing me.
“I know. I told you I plan on going to school here Cameron. We’ll make it work.” I said.
“Matt. Look at me.”
“I don’t want a long distance relationship. You either go with me, or I go alone.” She said.
“What do you mean Cameron?” The remote fell from my hand.
“You heard what I said Matt. I know you’re not deaf.” Cameron folded her arms.
I looked at her for a moment and thought about the next words I was going to say. “What is this really about Cameron?”
“I don’t want anyone holding me back. If I stay with you, I feel like I would be trapped.” Cameron said.
“How am I holding you back?” I said.
Cameron moved her body to face the T.V. “Can you just turn on the movie?”
We watched the movie and sat in silence for the rest of the night. I didn’t want to say anything. I was too scared to. I could never understand why Cameron couldn’t accept that I never wanted to leave this city. She had to accept I was the tree, rooted and strong. I had to understand that she was the bird that was nesting, unpredictable and free.
It was a week before college was about to begin. Cameron came over because she wanted to tell me something.
“Matt, I leave in a couple of days.”
“I told you already, we will make it work.”
“Do you not remember the conversation that we had?” Cameron said.
She was never the type to just let something go. If she had the opportunity she was going to take it. She wasn’t going to let anything stop her from being the absolute best, even a relationship with me. She told me that herself.
“But what about us Cam? Are you going to throw away our relationship just to go to college in New York?” I asked in desperation.
“I’m giving you the opportunity to come with me, Matt.”
She was cold, not just her voice or her body language. She wasn’t looking at me. She folded her arms and headed to the door.
“I can’t Cameron.” I said.
That night, she left. I had never felt my room in my mother’s apartment feel so empty. Even amongst my collection of vintage film noir posters, and piles of movies that brought joy to me, I felt like my whole world was shattered.
I was a mess. I dropped out of my shows; I stayed at home and cried myself into a state of depression. I deferred a year from the college I got into. I felt like I became a shell of myself. With the lightest tap I would crumble into a million tiny dust particles, ready to be scattered by the wind.
It wasn’t until I got a call from Columbia that I realized I had hit rock bottom. They tried to offer me a scholarship if I decided to cut my deferment short and attend next semester. I felt in my heart that I wanted to go, but my body couldn’t be bothered to move. How was I going to attend the school of my dreams when I wasn’t able to get myself out of my bed? My drive to better myself flew away with Cameron. I felt like I was trapped in my own body. I wanted to move on, but the sorrow I felt, scraped my skin like a crow scavenging for its meal.
Even though she broke my heart, she tried to remain friends with me. I was sure that she was with someone in New York already. Was it pity? The first time Cameron made contact with me after the break up was a postcard of Times Square. The back was inscribed, “Thank you.” I ripped the postcard into a million pieces.
After a while, I started to mend my own broken heart. With the help of my mother and some close friends, I realized that Cameron only did what was best for her. I thought that she used to be mine, but then I realized that she’d never truly belong to someone, because she only belongs to herself.
Slowly, I tried to get over the fact that I spent so much time trying to hold on to something that was never meant to last.
I continued to do small shows here and there. I was trying to piece my soul back together; that was the hardest task I’d been faced with. I took some time to find myself again. I began to forgive myself, but most importantly, I began to forgive Cameron.
I picked up one of those cheesy postcards of the Chicago skyline and wrote on the back, “I forgive you.” Asked her mother for her address, and then sent it out to her.
***Ryan Panek-Kravitz, 23, is a senior in the creative writing major at Arizona State University. Ryan has always been a timid writer who wasn’t too sure if his work would be able to hold up to other great literary writers. He writes frequently and focuses on stories of love, friendship, passion, and loss. This is his first piece being published in SickLitMagazine and is eternally grateful for the opportunity.***