It All Comes Down to This by Charlotte Lee
I threw out my mother’s stuffed rabbit. The one she developed an attachment to after she saw it on a wooden shelf in our country cottage, after realizing we had left it there all winter long. I remember when she saw it, slid its floppy body off the shelf and began brushing its fur as if the snow had somehow fallen through the roof and onto its back. She slept with it every night from then on. Sometimes I could hear her whispering to it, apologizing for leaving it all alone in our creaky wooden cottage, asking it if it saw any ghosts or spiders. Okay she didn’t actually do that, but it felt like she could one day - unless I stopped it.
She awoke one morning to the sound of my voice asking, “What do you like about it so much?” Her arms were clutched around the toy as her lashes lifted upwards. I looked into her moist mahogany eyes, floating in a transient lake of slumber. She looked into mine. “Don’t call it, it”, she admonished.
I came home that day to the sight of the rabbit sitting on the living room couch. Its squat stature seemed so human, as if it was scolding me for calling it, “it.”
I should have said that I was busy. But instead, I told her I was free to come to her birthday party. My mother thought I would be keeping Grandpa company. She thought I’d be holding his hand. Knowing my mother, she was probably picturing me sitting beside him, gently stroking his palms with my thumbs and whispering short stories into his ears. But I was out, out slurping soda out of bendy straws and swiping icing off the birthday cake every time I walked by, secretly licking it off my fingers. It was good, and please believe me, my hands were clean and I only sneezed once that morning and it was into the crook of my arm-I swear.
Seventeen finger-fulls of icing later, I watched as my friends piggy-backed each other through the apartment, and as Molly’s worn down ballet flats slipped off her feet as she hopped onto Jill’s back. I watched Sarah’s braid unravel as she ran down the stairs. I squeezed my own braids, sliding them through my fists in hopes that the ribbons would untie. I wanted them to unravel on their own, to stop spooning the backs of my ears. Then I watched the birthday host’s mom laugh as she reached for her daughters hand.
…Grandpa’s hands were still when I entered his room. I knelt down beside him, looked into his face and counted the wrinkles that stemmed off the edges of his eyes. A distraught expression seemed permanently glued to his face. I placed my hands on his cheeks and slowly pulled them downwards. The concave bags beneath his eyes released his tears. He grabbed my wrists and moved my hands down his face, pressing one of my fingers into the groove above his lip. He inhaled deeply, then smiled, “Rainbow Sprinkles”.
Your birthday fell on the second day of school in seventh grade…pretty horrible timing considering you were new and hadn’t made any friends yet. It started because my mom told me to be nice to you…oh who am I kidding it started because I fell in love with you for the same reason any other 12 year old girl would fall in love with you…your beauty. But that was only at first glance. You ended up meaning so much more to me. So anyway, it was your birthday and I made you a card. It didn’t say anything remarkable, but it sure served the purpose of making your gray bottom locker at the end of the hallway stand out. I remember sealing the tape to the metal and hiding behind a door until you arrived at your locker. I can almost see you kneeling down reading it. You were tall and wore jeans and black boots.
The first week of seventh grade was coming to a close and I had managed to go beyond making the small talk I was capable of, by listing every single “couple” in the grade. I remember how it felt when you asked me to go in depth about each one…Of course I wasn’t exactly in the loop so I didn’t really have much else to say. I invited you over after school on Friday. You didn’t have a bus I.D. so I snuck you onto my bus when the driver wasn’t looking. I remember when the driver got on and proceeded to walk down the aisle to check everyone’s I.D.’s. I threw my jacket over your head and pushed your face onto my lap. When he started the engine and you realized he hadn’t caught you, you giggled; it was the first time I heard you laugh. It was the first time I had ever loved a person’s laugh that much. The first thing we did when we got to my home was to go through my mother’s makeup cabinet. I am not quite sure the reason, but I do remember letting you draw on my face with eyeliner. I think I let you because it made you laugh.
My grandmother’s house is lit with Christmas lights in the middle of June. Sophia does exactly as my grandmother demands and vacuums the carpet even though it is immaculate. Sophia starts to speak through her thick polish accent, “Why Christmas lights?” My grandmother furrows her brow and frigidly motions for Sophia to continue cleaning. The windowsills in my grandmothers home are lined with picture-less frames. Sophia does as my grandmother demands and fixes them so that they look neat and presentable. Sophia starts to speak through her thick polish accent, “Why no pictures?” My grandmother scratches her nose and shoos Sophia away from her. Sophia asks for a glass of water and reaches for one of the porcelain cups on the first shelf of the kitchen. My grandmother politely takes the cup out of Sophia’s hand and hands her a plastic one. “These cups aren’t for drinking,” My grandmother instructs, as she places the porcelain back on the shelf. Sophia has finished dusting the shelves, washing the windows, and cleaning the carpet and so she ponders over the things my grandmother keenly keeps to herself, the lights, the frames and the glasses.
Gum is stuck beneath each shelf of my bookcase. Pencil shavings line the cracks of my floorboards. Checker pieces, chapsticks, bottle caps, Halloween masks, and pieces of chipped paint greet me when I awake. My debris fills every inch of my room, benevolently covering the stains on my rug. Lego blocks pierce friend’s feet when they step inside. Wads of hair from my comb ball at the edges of the linty rug that my mom threatens to throw out. But amidst the jungle of nothings, stands my desk, wearing a white, slightly graphite stained gown, patiently waiting for my hands to press down on it and create. This is not about the mess. It is about my desk, a sanctuary, the place I pray to paper with my deft fingers as I cut off its corners and stain it with color. Is it charcoal church? Color cathedral? I guess you could say I am episcopaperan. I love the color blue…maybe I am blueddist. I have made a commitment.