What stirs between the entities of luck and misfortune? This is the story of a post-grad’s determination to live her dreams; Through tarnished mishaps, she must pick herself up and polish herself off—again and again.
Copper Lowe’s knees skidded against the gravel. She looked down at her two-shades-darker-than-pecan-tan knees, now, torn, bloodied and stinging. The cloud of playground dust dissolved, as Copper met the eyes of her girlhood tormentor and attacker: Verminica Johnson. Then, came the harshest words her 12-year-old self had ever heard: “I hate you, you stupid nobody.”
Copper gave her head a slight shaking to depart from the distant, 12-year-old memory. It was no wonder she had gotten enveloped in it; after all, her present, disheartening situation was a lot like that instance from her childhood, right down to the clothes she wore. Now, she took a look at the dried cerise paint that caked on her tattered jeans at the shins; splotches of the color were on her open, pastel blouse, while traces of granite lined her tank top underneath—a mess but an artistic mess.
Looking at the painting, an impression of a reddened fall dusk stared back at Copper. Tears glimmered in her eyes, as she faced, yet another lowly failure, another wasted effort. Echoes of, “It’s just not what we’re looking for,” swirled in her mind.
Getting through four years of art study in college, of course, had helped Copper piece together a thick skin against criticism and hard times; oh, they did. She, still, could not deny that words had a way of shredding her self-esteem, confidence, self-worth. There had been that one time in Art History 2113, where that professor had abruptly told her to just sit down in the middle of her less-than-stellar presentation; never mind that she was always punctual to Art Club meetings and classes. There, too, then, were moments of glee—that time she had taken that award for “Dependability” in her program, being the highest.
Being in the city, now, trying to establish herself, was another type of struggle. Ever since she had gotten there a month ago, it was as if the sour moments were relentless.
Letting out an exaggerated sigh, Copper turned around, lumps of sorrow fluctuating in her chest. She flicked the switch to light the narrowed hallway, kept to the right in order to evade a gaping hole in the dark hardwood floor, and swung the bedroom door open. A nap was needed—no, a nap was definitely deserved, at this freaking point. Removing her smeared blouse, she flung herself on the flimsy, too-small-for-a-twenty-something cot; she shut her eyes and drifted in to semi-consciousness. Then, that dreaded cell began to chirp. Dang.
The caller ID read, Big bro. She dryly answered the phone.
“I’m sleepin’—what’s up?”
“Off on your own and still spoiled.”
“How’s it going?”
“Like I said, crappy.”
“Find yourself a real job—not that café, struggling artist stuff. Easiest solution.”
“If I’d known you’d give me a hard time, I’d have stayed asleep and had my nightmare there.”
“Think about it. You got your degree; you can easily get a decent job. You can save the paint brush as a hobby.”
Annoyed and desperate to get her brother to hang up, Copper had to compromise. Under her breath, she muttered, “Alright, I’ll think about it. Okay?”
“Don’t forget. You’re never too old for a spanking.”
Her eyelids grew too weighted to remain open another millisecond, and she drifted off to sleep. She groggily woke to a piercing alarm; 3:15—shift starts in 45 minutes. She changed out of the dingy duds and in to her crisp uniform. She stared at herself in the full-length mirror that was crookedly propped against the mini closet: Size 12 thighs widened at her black slacks, a starchy white button-up clung to her midriff, and Copper spent the next eight minutes pinning, toying with, and re-pinning her unruly afro to fit underneath her cap.
Creeping around the hallway’s hole, again, Copper donned her shades, picked up her handbag and headed for the door. She was greeted by late summer air and a blazing sun that peeped through the the buildings on the other side of Third Street—there was a cacophony of traffic bustle.
Copper strode to the bus stop, side-eyeing the cluster of sidewalk strangers—obscured by the shade of her glasses. Maybe the fresh sunlight perked her sallowness because she felt a beam of optimism in her gut. Her shift would be short, and she’d return to work on another piece—and, who knows? That may be the one to get her in that neat little gallery on Perkins Avenue. With those thoughts, a towering male figure in a dark trench coat, collided with her side and tugged at her purse, riding her shoulder. The scuffle was nothing new to the urban onlookers, who parted and glanced down, as the two tussled and fell to the pavement; the man was determined to get the handbag, which still remained in Copper’s grasp. Agitated, the failing mugger gave Copper’s jaw a punch; shocked, she yelped and loose change—four pennies—chimed and sang, as they fell on the ground.
*This is Part I of “The Hollow Copper”; be sure to stay posted for the next installment, which will be published next week!