Ever-busy hands deaccelerating to a subliminal standstill, the mind, flustered but still claiming clear, permitting the timeless fog to descend, the hum of the generator, building, and other life fading dissipating, the apparition of the bouncing ball of wonder hears the unspoken encore and forms herself before the audience of one.
The mandarin-orange-slice-with-a-bite-taken table, a little more well known to one than the other, separated the clearly felt, though impossible, two. At each spot was a perfectly fitting and amazingly bijou chair. Sagaciously surveying the room from behind the elder was the beloved green chalkboard, invisibly engraved upon it thousands of lesson plans, welcome backs, Merry Christmases, flowers, turkeys, trees, scribbles, and do not erases. The dust created was thick with layers from use and of time. To the left was placed what once was a seemingly constant, but now ever-changing, tack board. A window hung to its side, and below the window sat a rock of a freezer, out of its element but morphing naturally into its environment. To the left yet again, and behind the youth, a set of drawers and a storage cabinet of sorts contently awaited the use of their services, though they already held and hid so much. A filing cabinet, utilized and off-limits, was attached to the left-most corner. New additions to the room, invisible since the arrival of the youth, acceptingly dwindled into nonexistence. All these were crystallized by memory, the reflective walls of time brightening, sharpening, and tweaking.
Her audience sat slightly surprised, though she was the one who had summoned the other. A faint smile graced her lips after just a moment, but, like all, perfection was not an attribute attained. The younger, on the other side, waited for no such reflection, her mischievous lips curving into both an innocent and sly smile. Long-stranded and never-cut light brown hair belonging to her knew no bounds, but was, at the moment, content to rest on the little girl’s back having been lovingly brushed by other hands. Two miniature braids had been created at the girl’s cheeks, and both had been pulled back and rubber banded together into a wreath. Bright brown eyes shone with vivacious fun and an unquestioned axiom. Ears boasting effrontery beyond belief somehow knew precisely what the elder wished to say.
“Where are you now and where have you been?”
“Well, I am here now.”
A crinkling nose and even larger smile served to unintentionally disclose the tease in her words. Interest was fast to fade and actions free, so the little girl spun on her heel in order to search the never-ending supply of paper the elder had filled today. Hands reaching for reliable markers, mind noting to pick up more, she plopped in one of the seats and began to describe the view in her imagination’s mind. The other, entranced by the younger, nearly forgot her own artwork until a glance downward was chanced. With a small start and a side glance, hands reached once more to obtain a marker. Taking another look at her work, the Bible verse of the week, she saw the roaring beast domesticated, but rearing to take flight each moment the reigns loosen.
Quiet came as the coloring continued.
SNAP. The marker interjected as the cap was replaced, a rumble a it was thrown back to its own, a sigh, satisfied, sorrowful, sounded. Drawings were made and set aside and chalk snatched.
“Today we are going to learn about fraction,” she stated preeminently facing full-on the audience of one.
“What if I wish to learn about Joseph?”
“No! Today we are learning about fractions. So . . .”
“Does anyone remember what happened to Joseph? Did he wear anything special? Did he like the rainbow a lot? – That’s awesome, Leo, but you’re going to have to wait to tell your story until after class. He wore a special coat, right? His father gave it to him because he was his father’s favourite. Yes, Ben? Umm, ‘de’ is not ‘the’ in spanish, Ben. It’s of. Can you tell me what his brothers did, Ben? Awesome job! High-five for you. You can have a high-five, too, Leo, but you have to answer a question first . . . What happened next?”
“ . . . if you add them all up, you get . . . fifty-four over four.”
An accomplished nod was directed at the board and the chalk discarded. Bored and curious eyes spotted the table and conspired with the mind. In ten seconds flat, she lay on her stomach, head on hands, chairs askew, table blocking light, concealing her wondering. Peace pervaded. Minds meandered. Times merged.
The thumping of eager feet interrupted, but the irritation turned to excitement as two others, not of the girl, swung thru the door and skidded into the room. Laughter proceeded to decorate the air as a tree is decked in garland. The youth took great pleasure in joining hands with her two friends and in bounding out the door, through the hall, around the corner, and into the entrance area. The elder gained lingering satisfaction by gathering her materials; straightening the consistent classroom; and listening to the echoes of children. Soon, the elder too was in the entrance area, the habitual gathering place after service.
“My weekend was fine, thank you. How did yours go? – Did you finish your pies? – Yes, I did hear Pastor talk about throwing Austin out of the boat. – Well, see, you have to understand that he would only drown in theory, and, well, we never go to that part anyway. What are you planning on doing this week?”
Barefoot, hair down, voice unchecked, the youth molded her hands into her sister’s.
A count-off was not necessary.
Both began spinning, spiraling in a circle that could not decide its diameter. Breathless laughter, exhausted grins, aching feet, a collapse came and upon the floor lay a puddle of quivering sister, shaking with the tsunami of exultation from their simple act.
The elder smiled.
Off again, they were, the little girl was. The kitchen ladies with the extra snacks after the Bible study knew their hunger; the men, obstacles on what seemed a racetrack in the fellowship hall, knew their energy. In the playroom lay scattered about toys that knew her hands (and feet, and mouth, and various other parts). The corners cleaned a spot free of dust; the doors worried over their seemingly fragile knobs. The floor could spot her feet when barely the heel was peeking out of the shoe.
The elder re-tied her tennis.
Classrooms, cluttered but functional, fretted over what odds and ends would be lost to her today. The altar cast a wary eye whenever she traipsed by. The piano treated her to sweet stolen notes; the pews pretended to aid in hide-and-seek, but were better when protection was intended. Even the storage room was her abode when she did not wish to be befriended.
The elder organized her papers.
Off to the side, in the coat room, both ventured to journey. Twirling her younger cousin around, singing her nursery rhymes, seeing none in the room when many were there, she knew and she loved that once more not a whit did she care. Back in the entrance area, back to the time, back to the apparition and truth combined, one gazed at herself to see what she had thought would last for eternity.
Now how amazing this little girl could still exist! This particle of the past, this hope to be fulfilled, she still stood, though the juxtaposition of her revealed that the elder had failed to preserve in perfect perfection. Longing to sustain the already jaded memory overwhelmed her, and the little one began to morph. Upon her frolicsome grin came a depressing pity, and gloves proclaiming delicate and untouchable clothed her hands. The vigorous youth was transferred to a glass cage consisting of futile pinning.
Quite suddenly, when one realises that such a wish is already dead when bombarded with time, the abstract noun and human construct that haunts our actions, the glass cage turns to face outward, and its sides become razor-sharp. The diamond yearns to cut, the rose to prick. Insensible hatred blossoms with its poisonous petals.
Tide after tide of the distinct emotions pounced upon the elder. Like a projector flicking unreasonably fast through a presentation, the youth’s image and self followed the elder’s mind. Love, pity, hate, over and over again afflicted her.
Then, for just a moment, the youth broke free and became . . . someone, someone she couldn’t control, someone she did not recognize but knew intimately. Before even one more change could occur, the youth took stole three steps forward into the other.
The generator hums; the building shifts; life goes on.
Standing in the middle of the room, clutching her papers and fingering raw emotions, the girl lets her eyes rest where the youth once stood. Slowly, at its own pace, a smile, content, creeps upon her face. A large breath in is undertaken. A last look around is given. A key is put back on its hook. A car starts; four wheels roll; the place is left, but it no longer matters.
Now she knows where she always resides.