Authors: Maria E. Andreu
Copyright © 2014 by Maria E. Andreu
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Cover images: Bicycle scene © Thinkstock/Oleg Podzorov;
Girl © Shutterstock/Andrei Aleshyn
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We made it.
For Andreanna and Zachary, my A through Z,
my beginning and my end.
ou’re a menace to pedestrians everywhere. I hope you know that,” I say, looking back at the old lady whose toes Chelsea just narrowly missed crunching.
Chelsea laughs, tosses back her head, and waves her right hand at me in cheerful dismissal. I notice two things. One is the delicate charm bracelet that jingles on her right wrist, with its little bejeweled soccer ball charm her dad got her the other day, just because. The second is that her hands still look so much like the way they did that first day in kindergarten, all thin fingers, delicate, pale, long. I wonder if generation after generation of living in big houses and having everything makes people prettier somehow, maybe a good nutrition, superior genes thing.
I put down the visor to check out my eyeliner. Chelsea’s cousin Siobhan and I make eye contact for a split second. She looks away first, but by a short moment. Awkward. I check her out for an instant longer.
You can see the family connection between her and Chelsea: same snub nose, same skin that looks like a few layers have gotten rubbed off and it’s just not thick enough to hold in all her veins and guts and stuff. On Chelsea, it’s angel pink. On Siobhan, it’s blotchy. Chelsea’s perfectly athletic supermodel height has also not made it across the cousin lines. Siobhan is short and stubby, and seems a little irritated by the ticket she’s drawn in the genetic lottery.
Siobhan says, “Anyway, so then it turns out it’s not just regular twin sheets, as if it’s not bad enough I have to sleep on a twin bed, which I haven’t done since . . . I don’t think I’ve ever done, actually . . . it’s not just a regular twin, it’s, like, some freakishly long twin, so all the sheets my mom picked up at the mall don’t even fit. So we had to go exchange them to get this special college length, and they had
cute in that weird size. Nothing.” She stops to let the true horror of that fact sink in. No. Cute. Sheets. She may just need to rethink this whole college thing with a catastrophe like that looming.
I think—not for the first time—that Siobhan needs more bad things to happen in her life. Not that I’m wishing her ill, exactly, but I think she needs something to put her life in perspective. If not personal hardship, maybe a trip to Malawi might even do the trick.
“And, I don’t know, I mean, I guess I’ll have to wait and see until I meet them, but my roommates sound like weirdos.”
Chelsea seems to actually like her cousin. This baffles me. She asks, with real concern in her voice, “Why do you think so?”
“I mean, one is from, like, Alaska. Some kind of hunting bizarro chick, maybe? Who knows? And the other one . . . Margarita Perez or something. Some Spanish kid, from, like, the Bronx. Who will probably be selling drugs right out of our dorm room. Either way it sounds like they’ll both be packing heat.”
Chelsea glances over at me for about three nanoseconds, then away. That look tells me that she doesn’t want me to make a thing of it. “Oh, Siobhan. You
M.T. is Spanish.”
You can tell that if she once knew, she has long since forgotten, like all other unpleasant facts in her life.
“But you don’t look Spanish,” says Siobhan.
I fight back the urge to say, “What does ‘Spanish’ look like?”
I guess I don’t look like what most people think of when they think of Spanish, if they think of it at all. I’m pale white and I’ve got blondish hair, which I sometimes help along with a little lemon juice. Which eventually turns it into a split-ends mess, but, oh well. Because, yeah, some people who speak Spanish are also white. When people try to guess my nationality (and you’d be surprised how often that is), I get everything—Greek, Italian, Russian, Croatian. I am like the blot test of heritage. Ukrainians see Ukrainian. Poles see Polish. Italians invariably see Italian.
“Yeah,” Siobhan says, recovering, but not well. “I mean, I don’t mean, I mean, you’re like . . . what, like . . . a genius, right? Rooming with you would be fine, right? It actually has nothing to do with, like, where anyone’s from, like, originally. Just, the Bronx, you know?”
“No, I get it,” I say. I don’t get it, but I don’t want to keep watching her turn this alarming shade of red, either, and I don’t care enough to start something over it. I’m not proud enough of the whole “Spanish” thing to take up the fights of “my” people. I kind of hate it, actually.
Siobhan looks relieved that she averted a Racial Incident, the kind she’s heard about on some MTV reality show. I turn back to the road and try to focus on the fun side of the afternoon.
Despite the fact that Chelsea is a terrible driver, I love hanging out in her car. And not just because it’s a BMW 3 Series in a beautiful pewter, with a sunroof I could play with all day. It’s more that adventures always seem cooler when they’re moving. We are in the next town over from Willow Falls, a town that actually has a decent strip. A lot of kids drive up and down between the diner on one end and the Ann Taylor store at the other end, so we almost always run into someone we know. Sometimes we park and walk it, but today we cruise, listening to bad music on the radio and keeping cool in the AC.
Siobhan goes back to safer ground: the college thing. “Yeah, anyway, so it’s a good school. They have so many great classes in my major. I think it was those internships that really paid off, you know? That and the SAT classes. It was nice to get into an Ivy, but I think a smaller school is just a better environment for me, you know? And plus, when I went on the visit, everyone seemed so friendly.”
War and Peace
of college decisions, this one. She made it months ago, but she’s still reliving it, like she’s got college decision post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Finally, it seems like Siobhan may be getting the clue that she is only talking about herself, so she changes the subject to include other topics, like what
think about her new college.
“I mean, you should definitely come up and check it out,” she says, looking at Chelsea. “You could have a great time there, and they have a great sports program. You should talk to some of the coaches.”
It’s weirdly quiet for a second.