Marina Muhlfriedel is a Los Angeles native who has written professionally in a broad range of mediums. Her career was launched by simultaneously serving as the Entertainment Editor of ‘TEEN Magazine, and as a songwriter and keyboardist first in the early female punk/pop band, Backstage Pass, and soon after, in the 80’s band, Vivabeat. Since veering into the film industry, she has written and doctored both produced and un-produced screenplays, all the while continuing to publish magazine, newspaper, and online articles, and work as a copywriter and book editor. Muhlfriedel’s first love however, has always been prose. She is dedicated to writing short stories and long form that project her unique sense of the magical interconnectedness of life. She has a degree in journalism from U.S.C. and has taught both creative writing and screenwriting in the U.S. and the U.K. and is currently working on her first novel.
On the day the Pope rolled into town, my mother shoved her spiked red heels to the back of a closet and dug her finest amethyst rosary from the bottom of her jewel box.The movie theater swapped the week’s martial arts and romantic fare for special screenings of the “Ten Commandments” and “Ben Hur”.Dusty streets were swept spotless and decorated with flags and ribbons. The seven bars along the main street locked their doors and the drunks who normally loitered outside were put on a bus and carried to the next village.
The day the Pope rolled into town was precisely a month before my 16th birthday.It was the day on which I had long planned to forsake being a mere child and, with a magical possibility, finally become a woman.
Since I was small, Fat Auntie had taught me that everyone is given the gift of two magical possibilities to do with as they please in the course of their lives.“They may be utilized while one is still a child, when one is very old, or anywhere in between,” she often explained.
“Magical possibilities,” she would say with great authority, “are not genie wishes. They are the urging of life in a specific direction, when we truly need it to be so.”She would gaze deeply into my eyes, raise her thick uneven brows and warn that as soon as magic is committed to, it becomes part of you and may not, for any reason, be compromised. Launched in a trajectory, the initiator is solely and entirely accountable for all it might bring into the world. Such was the issue of my virginity.
On the morning of the day that the Pope rolled into town, Fat Auntie knocked on my door.I quickly hid the turquoise candlesticks beneath my bed and pulled on a thin slip as she let herself in.
“The Pope is nearly here,” she said.“Dress now; your mother and father want to leave for the square.” She looked at me, then cocked her head.She sniffed the air for magic, but couldn’t quite find it.Her glance ricocheted from wall to wall, but nothing betrayed me.
As she left, I pulled a flowing yellow gown over my head, slipped into white dancing shoes and stopped at the door before leaving, communing one final time as a girl with my private chamber.I skipped out into a world that was focused that day, only on the Pope.
It looked like Easter.Neighbors poured from every doorway dressed in their finest, carrying rosaries, flowers and babies.Some held pets: dogs, cats, birds and ferrets. My parents, brothers, auntie and I made our way to Main Street and joined the exuberant crowd on the side of the road.People had come from all over the mountain and there were so many, I could hardly see.The heat from their close bodies intensified the blazing sun.I shut my eyes for a second or two and let their chatter and sway hold and carry me. All I could see in the darkness behind my eyelids was the shared flame of The Boy and my candles.
I opened my eyes and slipped away from my family, edging to the back of the noisy crowd.I looked for a step in a stairwell, anywhere for a bit more air and a better view. I could see my mother look around for me and I moved faster to get away. I knew she wouldn’t risk missing the Pope by searching for me.Auntie kept her gaze ahead of her.I thought that perhaps she sensed my escape and decided not to interfere.
I squeezed between the people and buildings, desperate to find a place to stand where I wouldn’t feel like I was being crushed.The next street I came to still had people flowing down it, but I was able make my way in the opposite direction, up the small hill that I figured I could look out from.Slowly, I walked backwards, keeping my eyes on the street, not wanting to miss the Pope’s big ride into the square.
Then I heard it — the small, airy scroll of a wooden flute.I didn’t need to turn around.It was the teasing, defiant melody that The Boy always played.He was there and I was backing my way towards him, drawn in, note-by-note.