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An Evergreen Cradle
Rebecca did not care to take in yet what kind of an impact this move would hold on her life. Olivia would be in the fourth grade; she would have to try and connect together two strings of education and realize they were trying to teach her the same thing and then make yet another move to middle school, which would converge two schools, the other being more rowdy, she remembered hearing her mother regret to her aunt. Rebecca wanted to be selfless at the moment; she weighed the situations in two invisible hands, Olivia’s and hers. Rebecca would be finishing tenth grade, and she tried to ponder what they would be trying to read and interpret in the Honors English course, but it turned out not pondering, like tapping on a thick wooden door, slowly coaxing it to open and reveal to her an imaginary, believable truth; instead she was banging on the door, and she would hit it when her hand broke, when it started to bleed, or it was shoved into splinters. Her teacher, Mr. Joyce, was a stern but humorous man, picking favorites and then suddenly liking everybody, loving everybody homosexually. In a more prestigious school ‘such as this,’ she was expecting hell, like Russian instructors with thin metal rulers; but no, otherwise they’d probably have their backs hunched over in a single file of desks working on comma usage, she joked to herself temporarily.
God I hope we don’t do Brits.
This move had been in the making for about two years. Rebecca had taken to sort of socially planning it all out for herself. She suddenly started reading all sorts of books. She was seized by a fascination, but when it came to British literature she could only drift off. She could remember for one week her stumbling through an Aldous Huxley novel, and one minute she was reading it and the next, in the middle of a paragraph, of a sentence, of a word, possibly, she jumped off her bed and threw it at a corner, and it ricocheted around the corner there till it came to the floor and settled to a discomforted position with it split open to the ground like a comic banana peel.
Her mother’s e-mail pen pal was a therapist and she and her had begun their own personal communicational friendship. She therefore was not a therapist but a social worker. She tried to act intellectual, and the two typed to each other with the same attitude, but Rebecca felt like it was just this social worker following along her attempts, that she was being played at, so eventually she just dropped it all and started talking with Olivia. Olivia was very tomboyish, very much like her; perhaps it was some gene from a great-great lesbian relative. She would try to censor herself and they would discuss femininity sometimes. Olivia was not very childish; she gave little care about where babies came from, she did not give many persistent arguments, and she never read from children’s books or the large office textbooks with glasses. There was something that they all had to intake, and it would all be very queer, and very questionable for them.
Now she was slumped into the new café-brown, carpet-textured loveseat that had just replaced their worn-in olive sectional. The room was long and uncomfortably huge, and the walls were all white, though the lack of light coming through the eight windows all covered with silk sheer curtains lacked the light and so the walls had different shades of gray. She had a feeling her body was being stretched and that her vital organs were slowly separating uncomfortably from one another. Her parents’ bed would come in here, but whether that would make a difference she did not want to know now. She looked at their TV not yet plugged in. It was an ‘old kind,’ as in not shiny and flat-screened, without HD. It was geometrically square and was a slightly grayish black, not a jet black, but black. It would have to go; and jet-black would not make it any better. Now a song played in her head. It was a Dvorak; she had heard it a week ago on Music Choice and had put it on her iPod, which she had left at home. She forgot what it was called—serenade, a serenade, that’s what it was called. She did not understand composers’ habits for these common musical names for pieces. She remembered typing in ‘Concerto’ into iTunes, and the top search had been a Bach piece, and the thirty-second sample had sounded wonderful for its simplicity and also sad for its simplicity, even more so when she bought it; it was slow and downcast and only at the last note was there any happiness. The song was in her head. She was frustrated, and perhaps she was saved when her mother came in, standing behind another new couch. “We’re going,” she said in assurance, her eyes wide open and giving a short, bobble-headed spasm of small nods. She did not smile. Rebecca knew the look. No s***, here it is, let’s go; they were being set up for the reality, by each other and something else.
The vice principal was dressed only in moderate fashion. She was dressed in a sort of suit with very earthy colors, and she wore shockingly red gemstone cufflinks for her white shirt underneath. Her earrings were simple silver rings; Rebecca detested silver for jewelry because she thought it to be heterosexually agreeable, so stable, sterile, ‘sterile ‘n stale’ she entitled the phrase to her own usage. The woman was in her forties and wrinkles formed at her mouth. Her shoulders hunched and her elbows were her support as her hands came together into one converged, clenched fist. “Now we have been notified of your inconvenience in making your transferal from school to school,” She started out as she turned to Rebecca. “Due to some dispute between policies, by the time your first class starts, you’ll have been without two weeks of schooling.”
“We do plan to take care of that,” said Rebecca’s mother, reaching out her hand and touching it on the edge of the desk. “I’m sure it will not make much of a big deal,” the vice principal replied, now turning back to face them both, “but our teachers here are more than willing to work around their schedules should this problem become…”
“—A big problem?” Rebecca added obviousness to her voice; perhaps it was nothing, perhaps she wanted to make herself heard. There was a pause hanging between them. Rebecca picked it up. “Do we get to meet the teachers?” “Any time after school a time may be arranged. I believe you were already given your schedule?” “Uh, no, I kind of—” “Yes we did, I’m sure they will be very helpful to us. I’ll show you later, honey, okay?” She had leaned in to Rebecca to say that. Her vernacular did not include ‘honey’ except when she was on business.
“I can’t believe they’ve taken out all the honors courses!” The eight-and-a-half by twelve, thin piece of paper was held in Rebecca’s clenching fist.
It was only a moment of unfounded fury. After that she was standing, waiting for the anger to return, but instead she was simply feeling sullen with her head hanging over the paper that was held high by her hand, her elbow and upper section of her arm not having moved. Her mother stood there in the kitchen eying her. There was no use arguing it. She’d take a few qualifying exams over the next summer or spring breaks and she would be in. She sighed and started walking out. “I’ll make lunch soon,” her mother called. “Sure thing.”
As Rebecca walked out her mother looked after her, and afterward she too sighed. And then the cordless phone conveniently next to her rang and it was a courtesy call from the movers stating that there was an accident with a truck that went under a bridge—trucks weren’t allowed under many bridges in Long Island—and that they would have to somehow get onto the expressway and they would not be there until late in the evening. She said something back and then hit the red button, and a moment later she realized she had no idea what had happened.
Olivia was playing with her green-tinted Build-A-Bear stuffed bear. They had both agreed politically that Build-A-Bear held a much higher morale than the other cosmopolitan doll factories—save Beanie Babies—with having to give some slightly-guided, self-devoted manual labor. They had named it Aquarius because the neon-green color reminded them of a murky green public pond. This pond was in a community just in Long Island. That was where both pairs of grandparents had lived; only now with each grandfather dead the two grandmothers, with a new relationship blooming out of nowhere, joined and lived together in the father’s mother’s house, slightly bigger and more spacious, very spacious for an old house. This town was the only possible weekly taste that they could receive of Long Island, though it was a poor sample for their thoughts now that they were living farther in east. This pond, however, was preserved, conserved, whatever was left of it; this pond would eventually evaporate and a ditch would exist until it was industrially or environmentally filled in; there had been one time when the whole town pitched in to refill it with water, but the day after the people were stricken with shame: even though it was crystal clear water added, the dilution seemed to have ruined the pond; its meaning, with the concentration of its murkiness, had seemed to become just as vague, and it would take some time before it could all be forgotten and ecologically and communally start all over again.
Rebecca came into the room; it was with a thick-woven violet carpet. Mother had ordered another bed; the three had all sat together to choose it on the Internet; Olivia and Rebecca were in full shrugging approval, and it would arrive with the TV, couches, tables, chairs, and the other beds. Rebecca approached Olivia. “I think maybe we should give him a ribbon,” Olivia said. “Do you think we should get one of those little kits with the play brushes?” “He wouldn’t really need it.” “I don’t know, I think he’d like it.”
Rebecca smiled and sat down with her in the empty room. There was a closet that had a dark wooden door wide open, and its shadows were protruded. There was nothing in the room but them and the door, and they decided they’d have a good time making fun of he large room with nothing. They acted out for a time, and soon they ran out of ideas and their imagination sunk down to unmistakable reality. “You know,” Rebecca approached carefully, “right now we’re just…waiting. And when it comes, it’s gonna be pretty weird.” “Yeah, but I’ll make friends.” “You know that might be hard.” “Well we don’t know that.” “Yeah, but just remember that for now.” “Okay. But if it gets really hard, I’ll just give them a hard time.” “We can do that.” “Yeah.”
They sat together for a while in a circle, the three of them conversing with themselves and each other. It was as if it were telekinesis.