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Interview with Poppy Paquin (a character in Angela Crocker's THE FINDING OF POPPY CRIMSON PAQUIN

What did you have for dinner? Do you go out or eat in? Alone or in company?

When it comes to meals, I’ve learned to fend for myself. I’m never sure what Mom’s going to be up to and she doesn’t have much of an appetite. Usually I have a frozen meal or something, but tonight when I got off work, I grabbed a to-go package of California rolls, went up to my bedroom and watched the webcams at Yellowstone National Park while I ate. (I just couldn’t stomach another frozen meal.)

Before Kat left for college, we went to Bobo’s diner a lot (they have the best onion rings! And homemade strawberry pie!). I really miss those days.

Are you married? Are you in a serious relationship? Leaving your options open?

Married? NO! I’m eighteen and want to have adventures first. I’ve never been in a serious anything – during high school I kept my head down and just survived. I didn’t even go to prom (a dress was too expensive and it seemed a big deal over one night). There’s a guy at work I’m seriously crushing on, but he’s way out of my league. I didn’t even tell Kat about him. My words scramble and I get hot and nervous whenever he comes within ten feet of me, so yeah. It’s never gonna happen.

Do you own a house? Move around? Crash on couches?

I live with my mom Deidre in a tiny green bungalow in an old neighborhood on the bluffs near the Twin river. In less than a minute, I can hike up to the last street and see the sunset over the river. I always keep pepper spray in my bag, because the area is a bit sketchy in places. There’s probably a meth house at the corner of Main and Kimbrough. We’re stuck there, because the government bought the house for us as part of Dad’s job (no rent!). He’s gone most of the time, which sucks.

What’s your earliest memory? Good or bad? What would you change?

This is a tough question. I got really sick when I was twelve (for like three weeks), so sick I lost my memories from before that age (and my hair color). Sometimes it feels like my childhood never happened. Because of weird circumstances and bad luck, we don’t have pictures.

We do have an oil portrait of me and my dad hanging in our living room. When I look at it, sometimes I think I hear the echoes of lost memories buried deep in my brain. The artist painted us in front of an open window. In the background there are deep green pine forests and the sky is as blue as a robin’s egg. I look like I’m about seven years old and my hair is poppy red (my namesake) and Dad and I – we look happy. Like we’re in another world. I’d like to think that’s my earliest memory, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it really happened.

Who’s your best friend? How did you meet? Memory that makes you laugh?

Katherine Macmillan is my best friend. We met our freshmen year of Riverston High in the library – we were both looking for the same book – I think it was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. After that, we decided to start a two-person book club, meeting on Friday nights at this great little downtown cafe. She reads way more than me, and is a lot smarter (she’s studying to be a lawyer for nonprofits) but I always managed to find the time between work and studying to read for those Friday nights. She thinks it’s cool that I love geology and is probably the only one who really supports my dreams. Everyone needs someone like that.

So, the memory that makes me laugh is kinda horrifying. During Christmas one year I was over at Kat’s house, and you have to understand, Kat’s parents are loaded. I mean her mom wears jumpsuits, heels, and matching jewelry around the house. So, their living room is all professionally decorated, with a tree the size of my bedroom. It’s like one a.m. and Kat and I are goofing around and I’m sugar buzzing from the brownies we made. A great song comes on – I think it was The Promise by When In Rome – and I started dancing and somehow bumped into their Christmas tree and Boom! Crash!. Ornaments that probably costed more than my entire wardrobe went everywhere! Now Kat and I use the Christmas tree emoji year-round and it means something totally different to us.

Do you have a bad habit? Have you tried to break it…or not?

Especially now that Kat’s away at Vanderbilt, I’m starting to realize that I withdraw from others when I’m really struggling. I bury myself in geology, my interests, and my dreams, dealing with my most painful shit on my own, when I need others the most. I think some of this is because of family stuff (isn’t that just typical?).

How do you even begin to break a habit like that? I hope I find out.

Photo: Angela Crocker

You can learn more about Angela Crocker on her website, Follow Angela on Twitter, @angelacrocker_

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