Posts Tagged fiction
The main floor was quiet and she made her way up the grand staircase to the research section. She recognized the same librarian from when she used to visit as a child. He had helped her decide which series to read as a child, before the Internet. Now she had no reason or desire to speak to him. She walked swiftly passed his desk to the archives.
She threw her backpack on one of the long tables and rounded the corner to the computer area meant for research. She pushed the button to turn on the monitor and braced herself for the pornographic imagery she was sure would pop up. None did, so she began. She typed and waited. Twenty-two results came in regarding the healing temple she first heard of through Jase. She skimmed through and selected the newest book from the 1980’s about the subject. She scribbled down the catalog number and roamed the aisles until she found the section. It was apparent that no one had taken any books from these shelves in years. Who had time to read about healing temples? Who even believed in them? She found it ironic that the subject for one of Jase’s thesis papers was now what she was counting on to save herself from the broken heart she had from him.
Briefly before moving back, she had considered swallowing a handful of pills. Got as far as buying the bottle from the corner pharmacy across the street from the apartment she shared with Jase. She counted out twenty-five and let them run through her fingers. She lined them up in one straight line. She spelled her name with them. She made the outline of a fish with them. She thought of how ridiculous she was being, scooped them and dropped them back into the bottle.
Her mother came outside dressed in a cerulean sundress. Her white blond hair was in a French twist and she looked ten years younger with her eyes lined in silver.
“How is Gertrude?”
“She fine. She has a boyfriend.”
“Oh, that’s nice. What does he do?”
“I really don’t know,” Ala lied.
“All right. Well, dad and I are going out. I’ll see you later.”
Her mother looked at her for an extra second, and then stepped back inside, sliding the door closed behind her. A veil of depression swept over Ala as she thought of how her parents were going out while she was hanging upside down on this swing, wasting the best years of her life.
She stood up and stretched, then looked at her watch. 9:15pm. The library would be open for another hour. She got her backpack from her room and locked the front door behind her. The sun was setting as she walked down the rolling hill to the library, remembering that she would have to do her research there because since her wallet was missing, she wouldn’t have her library card available to check out books.
Because she was very frightened of doing anything that could actually have lasting affects on her success, she stopped trying to get their attention the wrong way. For a while, her relationship with her parents meandered on. She often felt that they had wished they had more children so they wouldn’t be so bored with just her. Ala began college and they received in the mail a list of suggested items she needed for her first year in the dorms. Her mother took her shopping at all of the department stores and bought the best sheets and towels she could find. Her father packed up all of her books and CDs. They strapped everything into the station wagon and drove her four hundred miles away to her new adventure. She sat in the back seat with headphones on, trying to sleep, but unable to get over her fear of leaving.
The goodbyes were quick and her father handed her a credit card to use for emergencies only. She watched them walk back to the car through her window, squinting hard to try and make out whether or not they were crying. She decided they weren’t and started to unpack. She would call on Sundays from the pay phone in the hallway and come home every holiday. When she started to forget to call, her parents never mentioned it. They picked up the conversation wherever it had left off.
She felt engrained in this house. As if she stepped out of the cocoon of the walls, went to Boston, returned and slid herself back in the nook she lived in. She realized that this was a sign that she was clinging to her adolescence, and did not want to grow up and have to leave again. The move and the relationship had burned her. She wanted to reset and pretend it never happened. She wanted to sleep in this house until the day she was married and then have her husband take her away from her father. She wanted to the simplicity of tradition.
It seemed that as a child, her parents had wanted her to wait until marriage to have sex. She was expected to attend church every week. She completed her First Communion and Confirmation. She received no lower than a B in every class every year and never received a “Congratulations”. It was expected that her performance would be advanced.
When high school came, she rebelled in every obvious way she could think of. Her mother would cry at the kitchen table and her father would ground her. Soon they became passé on the matter and she tried to think of more ways to rile them, with little success. They assumed she was damaged—most likely already cutting class, using drugs, and probably even having sex. Having no other children to compare Ala to, they would talk to friends at dinner parties, lamenting on her misbehavior and lack of respect. Their friends would reply that Ala was lovely; simply charming, and they were lucky that she was the only child they had to deal with when they returned home. Everyone would then go around the table sharing horror stories they faced raising teenagers. Arrests, expulsion from school, loitering, very noticeable signs of drug use. What they had on their hands with Ala was nothing, they were assured.
“Any word from him?”
“No. And it’s fine with me.”
“Any word from anyone else?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I’m working on it.”
“Well, I can fix you up if you’d like.”
No thanks. No offense, but I like single men who have earned some kind of degree.”
“You’re a snob. ”
“I am not. Do you honestly see yourself marrying or having children with any of these dozens of men?”
“Ala, sometimes sex can just be sex. You don’t have to plan out your registry and house blueprints with every guy you screw.”
“Oh please. You know I don’t do that. All I mean is I don’t see the point in hurting myself more. Having sex with men that I know I can’t have won’t do me any good.
“Again, what has anything you done in any relationship done you any good?” Gertrude’s hand went down on Ala’s again. They both broke into a drunken laugh and Ala began opening the chilled wine.
After Gertrude left, Ala laid on the swinging wicker loveseat her parents had brought back from Jamaica with them. Apparently the trip had done wonders for their dwindling marriage and they talked about retiring there. She swung the seat back and forth by pushing away from the deck with her palm. She loved the quiet of this house. The rare creaks were so familiar and she could always tell which room the specific tick tocks were coming from.
The two girls sat under the pergola eating the warm chicken salad, Ala had made that afternoon, with great haste and picking at some cheese biscuits from the market. They had opened a third bottle of prossecco, taken from the case in the basement, and would probably move to wine after this bottle was empty.
“I’m serious. I thought it was going to get stuck inside me,” Gertrude said, her eyes rolling back with her laughter. Ala covered her mouth to try to stop the spray of bubbles from shooting out.
“I mean it. It was the biggest I had ever seen. Ever been with.”
“It could never get stuck. You’re so dramatic.”
“How do you know it couldn’t?”
They sat close together, foreheads almost touching, just as they had at eleven years old when sharing secrets and gossiping.
Lately, Gertrude had taken up sleeping with every maintenance man who came through her parent’s doors. A major renovation was underway at the large estate they had recently purchased. She was now sleeping with Rashid from New York City. He was married with two daughters and was working there over the summer as part of a group of traveling laborers. Ala could sympathize with Gertrude’s boredom with working for an arts association since college, but this in her opinion, was reckless.
“He parked his truck outside of Knopp’s and we did it in the back, you know, in the pick up part.”
“So, you not only had sex in the truck, but outside of the pharmacy at three in the morning?”
“You don’t understand. It was the best experience I’ve ever had.”
“I think you need to get out of this town.”
“I don’t think it did you any good.” As soon as it escaped her lips, Gerturde slammed her hand on top of Ala’s to alleviate any pain she may have caused. Ala nodded.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Gertrude sat back in the wicker chair, crumbling a biscuit between her fingers and slowly eating it.
“You’re saying living in the city right now isn’t possible.”
“It’s not part of my plans, no.”
“Well, here,” He said, taking an envelope out of his breast pocket and holding it in front of her. “All the information is in here. I would go through it with you, but I’m late for a lunch meeting.”
She took the packet and nodded.
“I’ll read it over.”
“Great,” he said, gesturing to the hallway. “Let me know if you have any questions.”
She walked down the steps, wondering if she had overacted and seemed ungrateful at his offer.
The sky had grayed during the short visit with Emmanuel and Ala was cold without a sweater. He lifted a day coat over his shoulders, folded his sunglasses and put them in his pocket.
“Would you like a ride home?”
“No, I’ll be all right. Thanks.”
They parted and went opposite ways down the block. Ala suddenly became very aware of the envelope in her hands. She wanted to rip it open right there and see what Emmanuel could possibly be thinking with his proposal. She realized he could still see her and knew she would have to wait until she got home. It was as if having to urinate or scratch an itch. She almost couldn’t control her curiosity.
She walked through the front door and heard clamoring in the kitchen.
“Ala? Is that you?”
“Yes,” she said, heading in to talk to her mother. Now the envelope would have to wait. She had wanted to ask where her parents had been all night and all today, but all she cared about was reading what was inside of the envelope.
“Are you still having Gertrude over for dinner?”
Ala had completely forgotten. Gertrude was her best friend, out of everyone she knew, who she still hadn’t seen sconce moving back. She couldn’t cancel. She rushed up the stairs and locked the letter in her nightstand drawer. She had to start cooking, so the letter would have to wait.