the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Simone Routledge ’23
Simone read the following prose at Adam White’s Friday Nights at Westminster author visit this winter trimester. Adam White is the author of the national best-selling novel “The Midcoast,” published in 2022.
She studies. All she literally ever does is study.
Our bedroom windows have looked into one another's since she moved in at 8 and I at 9. They did so before, of course, but since neither one of us had been there to look through them we didn’t care. She moved in first, sometime around the last week of May. Then my family followed, right before the last week of June. After it had gotten dark we would point flashlights right in our eyes and make faces at each other. My monkey was her favorite and I liked her hippo and frog. Through the open night space between our houses and the silence between us, I always felt her closer than she actually was. My eyes would sting at least 5 minutes after we both went to bed and saw bright yellow halos pulsating through our shut eyes. It is the summer that makes my skin crawl with warmth and familiarity. A specific nostalgia and form of sadness veil over the memory, so deep it makes me nauseous. We will never get back there.
Yet there you are! An ugly chunk of your pretty hair is sticking out of your held-back tie. I can't see the rest of it, but usually you wear it all swept to one side, wavy, windblown and golden brown. You don't even look like you're thinking. You’re just writing something on a page quicker than your hand can keep up. I’m starting to get angry at you, ya know. Why can’t you just pretend I exist? That we used to exist? We still could!
My eyes drift from the glowing perimeter of her window to the backyard. My backyard, our backyard, I never really knew what to call it. Our dads worked together all summer over iced lemonade in the day for our sake while we ran around tossing bean bags with Lune jumping after them – a sloppy smile at the end of her snout. Or shooting water guns into her dripping jowls while our sharp, prepubescent laughter rung through the air. Then they’d switch to a cool beer at night, which our dads thought they hid so well but we would always sneak a few sips. “It tastes like piss.” She would say with a scrunched nose and vague southern accent. And went back to loudly imbibing a few more chugs. Then why are you still drinking it? I’d smirk to myself. But I could never say so out loud, hoping I’d get to see that acute twist of your lips at least once more. Though that ‘one more’ never exactly sufficed. Each time she did it I felt a need to keep it somehow, to save her in that form forever. One random 3 pm I just said it. I like when you scrunch your face like that. And then she stopped doing it. I don’t get why. In the background our dads worked on this magnificent treehouse right in the middle of the divide between our two backyards, uniting them into one. A messy, clumpy tree gobbled up the segregation of our two families, yet on either side there were still all these holes where the posts of a fence were meant to be put up. I remember she asked once if above the fence where the platform of the tree house stood sturdily, if one side was her family’s and the other belonged to mine. Before either of our dads or I could answer, she scurried up the ladder and laid right in the middle of the platform, sprawled out as if consciousness of manners ceased to ever spill from Pandora's box. Her Texan dad hooted and chuckled while my dad let out one of his more distinguished hum laughs. If anyone could end a war, it would be her. But only in this form.
My eyes shoot back from the yard to her window as she stands up to grab something. A different notebook, it looks like math from the content on her unsmiling mouth and the pace of her hand, scribbling so close to the page it would stain half her palm with lead dust. Her phone is a little out of reach on her desk but I know that she has no reason to reach for it.
She always had a hard time making friends with other girls so she would just hang out with me and my friends. We would bike the long neighborhood streets, raw knees and elbows as orange as the red fire ants we colonized. All wounds were healed by our macho biker gang ego. Even now, at the specific time right before a kid is meant to return home for dinner and the sky turns a certain shade of grey, the streets seem to stretch out a little too long and I feel a familiar displacement, a homesickness. The flickering sidewalk lamps disorient a child's imaginative eyes and duckish peddling feet. Falling was ok. A padded helmet meant protection. Imagine today, walking about in the world with a helmet. Loser.
LOSER! I scream in the hallway as she floats past. Not at her, I’d never call her that. But my friends give her a hard time, I never say anything. It's not even worth it, she’s so boring now. Then they’d all make fun of me too. Then I’d have no one, cuz she doesn’t even know I dream of the person who used to be my best friend in the entire world.
I can’t even tell you how many of these I’ve written. My school counselor told me to start with a dream I’d had in the night and then ‘let my mind wander.’ I have no idea what she’s talkin about but I usually just write about the boy next door. I can see him, standing so still, looking out his window at our yard. He looks lost. I wonder what he’s thinking about. I think he thinks I'm annoying. When we were still kids I heard him say that once to one of our friends. But they were technically his friends by law. Bro code. Whatever. So I started being a little quieter, less hickish, stopped movin my face in all sorts of the weird ways I used to. Sometimes I actually wonder if he wasn’t talkin about me. What if he was just saying his mom was annoying, forcin him to do chores again or pick up the dog's crap. I miss Lune. We still have one big yard, when we moved here my dad told me “We ain’t building a fence, we’re building a bridge.” He always says stuff like that. I still see Lune and give her treats and good pets and attention now and again, but I miss when the three of us would play. I miss us. And I think you miss me.
Lune suddenly runs around the backyard barking furiously. Both the kids bound down the stairs and into the yard with the facade of concern for Lune but the actual desire and excitement of such a real excuse to see one another. The three meet at the base of that tangled tree and there is an old, ratty-tug toy peeking over the edge of the platform. Lune cocks her head, taunting the two teenagers to climb up and grab it for her. A toy he hasn't touched in years, so why now Lune? She used to violently shake her head and thrust that little rope all over the yard – had she thrown it that high up just so they could retrieve it? The two climb up the ladder, each rung too close together now for their growing legs. They stand at the top and peer over at Lune. She’s nowhere in sight. The boy thinks he sees her tail bend around the corner of his house. The girl laughs. She must’ve seen it too.
“Looks like a setup.” She says “Stupid Lune.” With a smile
They shuffle closer together. It is windy, early winter. There has already been a first snow and its powder lingers in unsuspecting places above but there is no longer a sea of white. Wait till the end of December. A slight tuft of wind loosens a pile above and it descends down in a light flurry.
“I’m glad they never built walls or a roof.” The boy says sarcastically
The girl genuinely agrees by laying down and arching her head to the side where one of the supposed walls would have gone and peers over the edge. They aren’t too high off the ground, but the fear of falling still scares them both.
“Hey,” she says, leaving an 8 month pregnant pause.
“What?” He eagerly anticipates her next words. What could she possibly say right now? It could be anything.
“I’m Lune’s mom. You told me that once and I’ve always liked it. And you’re obviously her dad, so we should spend time together more. Ya know, as a family.” She pauses again. “It's just that I know what it's like to be a child of divorce, and I wouldn't want that for our Lune.” She smiles with her whole face but not a single muscle or indication of her expression would suggest it to a stranger. But he understands. Divorce? Divorce from what. What were they before that they are now separated? It doesn't matter. She wants to reunite. And so do I.
“Ya, I’d like that.” He says. He lays back, next to her in a similar position and they peer over the edge and the flickering street lamps in the distance.
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