ARI- As we know. Current. 2021.
DETECTIVE- Ari, Summer 2020.
CLUELESS- Ari in eighth grade.
JAMS- 80s Phase Ari.
HAIR PHASE- Pink haired Ari.
Our scene sets itself. A dim light. A long table, seats for the most recent six, stands out in the middle of the room. The night was cold, air whistling through the cracked window. The snowflakes outside fell softly, creating the perfect enclosure for our characters to meet again. ARI turned on the fireplace. She picked at her nails. The nerve was a bit surprising, even for herself. The clones would arrive soon.
A knock at the door. JAMS arrived first. A green and pink striped ribbon belted her baggy jeans, her hair in a fresh chop. She shook the hand of the girl in front of her. It was almost as if they hadn’t met.
JAMS: Ayo! You got a speaker?
She wasn’t the worst. She did have nice taste in music. CLUELESS rang the doorbell, her leg bouncing, combat boot thumping against the floor. She feared she was late, as someone else had arrived already.
CLUELESS: Why, hello there.
ARI: Hey. JAMS just arrived--
CLUELESS: Am I late?
ARI: *shakes head no*
CLUELESS smells like old books and rose petals and dried orange garlands. BALLERINA squeezed through the open door, spinning through the hallway.
She hadn’t been the weirdest of the guests. Though, the confidence that radiated from her was surprising, as we considered her one of the shyest ones. DETECTIVE entered unannounced and unnoticed. She made her way to the table as HAIR PHASE made her entrance.
HAIR PHASE: C’mon dude. Was my entrance music not queued up?
ARI: It wasn’t. Everyone else is inside.
As it seemed all had arrived, ARI led the five clones to the table in the dining room.
ARI: So. How have you guys all been?
Not a word. ARI seemed to forget that these people were not her friends. They were practically strangers. And she knew that they didn’t care to speak to strangers.
DETECTIVE hadn’t looked up from the table since she had arrived. It’s not so surprising. The dark circles painted themselves under her eyes, her hair hanging quite short after another impulsive trim. DETECTIVE had been the one to discover and conclude. That’s all she had existed for. A few months.
DETECTIVE: I’m doing okay.
It came out as a mumble, and it was quite hard to believe. But it did make sense. Her existence was during the Summer of Bummer.
ARI: What have you all been up to?
BALLERINA: Same old stuff. Dance.
DETECTIVE: Been listening to Elton John on repeat.
JAMS: Good music choice.
After a while, like clockwork, the clones began to warm up to each other. But that wasn’t always the greatest thing.
DETECTIVE: *sits back in chair* I think you’re the one that caused that.
CLUELESS: No, that was you. *furrows brows*
DETECTIVE: Highly doubt it.
CLUELESS: You’re the one who lost all of our friends.
DETECTIVE: You’re the one who didn’t--
The anxiety that had consumed part of our life was now the topic of discussion. The argument was passive, for all the right reasons. Both of them were right. DETECTIVE was too quick. She made too many moves on impulse. She had, as CLUELESS stated, lost all of our friends. But it was only because CLUELESS hadn’t done that. Her name stands as a descriptor, for all the things she couldn’t see and couldn’t hear.
ARI: Neither of you caused it. It was always there. You guys just made it worse.
ARI was on edge. Way to be honest. It was getting a bit stressful, to say the least. ARI was trying to keep it under control, but the arguments between the clones were getting too intense. It was impossible to argue with them. All were so similar, yet so different. They had all seen different things.
JAMS: I don’t know what you guys are talking about.
And that was the worst bit. Each clone only knew of their own existence, and those before them. They knew nothing of the future.
ARI: Good old mental health.
JAMS: That’ll get you.
ARI: Tell me about it. *sighs*
CLUELESS: You put her through the ringer. *points at JAMS*
JAMS: I thought it was a good decision.
ARI: It was--
CLUELESS: You quit dance.
BALLERINA: You what?! *shoots out of her seat*
JAMS: Don’t be so surprised. You wanted to. *folds arms*
BALLERINA: Only a little. But what about the benefits? What about the confidence that it gave you?
JAMS: Not a problem--
ARI: I’m often told I should tone it down a little.
Defeat. Somebody was wrong. The banter continues.
BALLERINA: So, without dance, what are you doing now?
ARI: Writing stuff, for the most part.
CLUELESS: Yeah, remember the poem you wrote?
BALLERINA: Yeah? We’re doing that now?
DETECTIVE: I hope. Great passive expression.
ARI: It’s not just for that.
BALLERINA: So what about college?
BALLERINA: I was under the impression that we would be majoring in dance but I now understand that that’s not the case--
CLUELESS: You know that’s a lie. We want to be a teacher--
ARI: Yeah. We’re still confused about that, obviously. Probably journalism.
JAMS: So we’re Andrea Zuckerman?
JAMS: Very cool.
BALLERINA: Who’s that?
CLUELESS: Catch up on your television.
And something as simple as that turned quickly into an argument. The clones, now arguing about which show was the best, began to turn against each other. Chaos. Could they agree on one thing? Never had ARI realized how different the group had been from each other.
ARI: I didn’t bring us here to fight, really.
JAMS: What are we here for?
ARI: I guess I don’t know. Discussion?
CLUELESS: Of what?
ARI: I don’t know. Life.
JAMS: We are the same person.
ARI: Each of us rose to face some kind of challenge.
CLUELESS: I think it is important to note that that challenge was likely caused by whoever we evolved from.
JAMS: Way to be direct.
ARI had taken quite enough of this. This whole night had been passive.
ARI: It’s not about being better than someone before you, because you aren’t.
BALLERINA: I’d like to say that I disagree with that statement.
ARI: I’m not better than you, well. I might be better looking than you--
BALLERINA: That’s fair.
ARI: You might be more attractive than the person before you. You might be nicer, you might have better jokes or better friends. But we’re still the same being. The same DNA. We branched from the same thing.
The clones were finally starting to get it, or maybe ARI was. ARI truly didn’t know why she had invited the clones over. Was it actually for discussion, or was there something that was missing? Did they all need a realization?
ARI: We’re all trying to get to the same thing. And we help build the path for each other. There shouldn’t be a reason to fight. Every one of us has a right to find new things and new people.
JAMS: And we each knew it was right about the things that we left behind.
DETECTIVE: Ditto to that.
CLUELESS: It’s about the evolution of our person?
ARI: Exactly. *pauses* So, we’ve fought.
ARI: We can now eat this bad pizza in peace.
CLUELESS: I’m really glad I wasn’t the first person to say that this food sucks.
And it was done. They’ve agreed. They won’t fight with each other—they will no longer fight themself. They’ve seen and they’ve heard. The evolution was recognizable, even to the stages. Now working in somewhat harmony, the clones felt the contentment that they secretly had wished for upon entry.
But what they didn’t wish for, as it usually occurs, they received as well. Fresh mind, a glimpse into the future, a new look at the forgotten past. The clones began to understand each other. They understood themselves. The clones finally understood her—the body that they all had occupied.
About the Author
Ari Collins (she/her) is a small-town teen writer and poet who loves soup, skirts, and sonnets. Her mind is swimming in a pool of poetry, journalism, art, Emily Dickinson, feminism, fashion, Edgar Allan Poe, and disposable cameras. She loves writing to inspire and express, but the majority of her published work has been more news related. Her work can be found on her school’s online news publication- eSomethin.com- or on her social media. When not writing, she can be found listening to Bikini Kill, re-reading Percy Shelley’s “The Daemon of the World,” or riding her bike in the wrong shoes. She thinks everyone should: read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, own a leather jacket, and wake up early to watch the sun rise.