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Salinger and Stuffs
Auden’s window is always open. It’s because his mom insists that his bedroom is always a mess, and she thinks the only way to at least make it smell okay is to ‘air out the room’.
His window happens to be parallel to one in my house’s never-occupied guest bedroom. It’s empty even now, even with Winnie bunking over for high school. She sleeps in my room. As I am a spoiled little only child and she is used to the cramped lifestyle of China, it’s more than big enough for the both of us. We’re in there now, going off on another homework marathon.
Once, when we were in elementary school, Auden was over to help me with my homework. We got distracted, and one thing led to another, all of which lead to him figuring out that the windows were just close enough that we could slide from one house to the other. It was risky at the time, but as we’ve gotten taller, the commute has become easier.
Today seemed to be a good day to see how tall I’d gotten. Winnie was sitting at her desk, and I was on my bed, ignoring the homework spread around me. I glanced at her, wondering if she was actually still concentrated on her work. My concentration was a complete fraud – I can’t work for that long. No one can work for that long, except maybe a robot. There’s only so long that Salinger and his anti-society novel can captivate a teen. I turned my head towards the recessed lighting in my ceiling and closed my eyes. Along with the fact that my laptop was warming my legs, it was really easy to imagine that I was not, in fact, in my room, but on a magazine covershoot. With hot lights flashing in my eyes and set people running around with lint rollers and stuff.
“Leah?” Winnie’s voice cut through my head. I rolled my head to the side, the only indication that I was listening, and she asked, “If you are not using the laptop, may I use it for my schoolwork?”
I sighed. I was using my laptop. I was reading through celebrity interviews so I could memorize the questions and answer them in my head. But that wasn’t what she’d meant. Reluctantly, I pushed the laptop of my lap and handed it to her. “Sure.” I stood up. “I’m going somewhere. To get something. Yeah,” I said, “back in a few”.
I went downstairs to the guest bedroom and pulled the bug screen off the window. Cranked open the window as far as possible. Stepped up. And out.
My landing wasn’t exactly pretty. I stepped through the window (thank the Lord on high), but ended up hitting my head on his window frame. I lost my footing, and fell onto his bed, off his bed, and onto his floor.
“Nice,” Auden commented, not glancing up from his homework. “What’s up?”
“You know, I bet Winnie could make a better entrance than that.” I sighed, then rolled over so my head was leaning against his bed and my feet were splayed out in front of me, resting on top of a pile of who knows what.
“You want to go back and get her to try?” He asked.
“Nah. I’ll just be distracting her from her precious homework.”
“You know, you’re Asian too. Shouldn’t you have the same attitude?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Racist much?” Auden didn’t respond. I sighed again. “I do think homework is important, but I’m not a freaking robot. I can’t concentrate for that long.”
He stopped doing his homework and sat down in front of me. “Something wrong?”
I considered it for a bit, absentmindedly running my fingers through his carpet. “Did you know Winnie likes to write?”
He gave me his ‘and-I-care-why?’ look. “Okay?”
“And she writes in English.”
“Good for her. Why do I care about this, again?”
“Because I’m saying it. Just let me vent. She writes faster than me. Her stories are better crafted than mine.”
“Well… I’m sure hers have a ton of grammatical errors.”
“She does. And do you know what I do?” I pause. “I do nothing.”
“Because you’re a really nice person and don’t want to hurt her feelings?” He says.
“No!” I wail. “It’s because I’m jealous that the one thing that I’m supposed to be better at her in, I don’t seem to be better than her! In!” I start banging my head on his bed. “And I’m not helping her improve her English! I feel smug when I notice any errors. What type of older cousin am I?” Auden leans over and places his hand behind my head, so when my head goes back I hit his palm and not the rough springs in his mattress.
“Well, at least you’re not a robot.” At this, I still my head. Auden puts his hand down and looks at me.
“What’s wrong with being a robot?” I ask.
Now it’s Auden’s turn to sigh. “What do you want me to say?”
“Do you think I’m better than her at anything?”
“Fishing for compliments, huh?” He takes a while to think about it. “You skate better than her.”
“That’s it? That’s all you could think of? Something I was taught, something at which I’m halfway decent only because of opportune circumstance? That’s worse than the time someone tried to compliment me and ended up saying that I smiled nice. First of all, that’s grammatically incorrect, and second, duh I smile nice. Everyone smiles nice. That’s practically the sole purpose of smiles. To look nice.”
Auden blinks a couple times. “You know what? You’re just stressed. I bet Ms. Martin,” He says, referring to his old English teacher and my current one, “is giving you too much homework. It’s the Salinger, isn’t it? She making you copy his writing style? That was the worst. ‘Those lousy crumby stiffs. Hot-shot phonies. It killed me’.” He says in an English accent. I point out that Salinger is an American author. “So touchy. Don’t make a stink over it. Drives me crazy, when swanky girls make a stink when all I’m doing is horsing around.”
“See? Not that bad. I got to give you the ax, I have a track meet later and I need to get my homework done. Make sure to quote me in your masterpiece!”
“Sure, okay,” I make a face and copy Jennifer Lawrence’s expression in a gif Auden had showed me a few weeks before and hadn’t stopped imitating since.
I guess it can’t be that bad. If Auden, of all people, can shove thirteen ‘Holden words’ into seven sentences, I sure can. And worst comes to worst, I hand Winnie the list of Holden words and have her do it. When imitating Holden, grammar doesn’t really matter anyway.
San Francisco, California
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