I am a clean slate, a blank canvas,
Shed my identity, I just can’t stand this.
I am fresh today,
More than I can say for yesterday.
Yet I’m still digging just to find,
My old skeleton of the days when I had a spine.
And I won’t stop, I won’t quit,
Until the shoes that I wear make a perfect fit.
I was stripped of myself and slapped on a label,
So I’m heading back to the days where my breathing was stable.
Maybe this way I can be myself,
Instead of an unread book collecting dust on a shelf.
I will open my eyes to the world,
Let them open theirs to mine; show them that I’m more than just a nameless girl.
Because I won a few battles, but I lost the war.
Like a scarred solider, I just can’t take anymore.
If blind eyes still cry,
Do broken wings still fly?
If honest lips still lie,
Do tired legs still try?
If poisoned minds still ask why,
Do tired lungs still sigh?
If deaf ears still reply,
Do lost souls still die?
The clock blinks 5:33 as my thumb drums against the cold steering wheel. Right on time. The gym is only 10 minutes down the road and practice doesn’t begin until 6 o’clock. By the time all of the girls pile in, we won’t get going until at least quarter after 6 anyways. I stare at the empty passenger seat beside me, the seat where Shannon would usually sit. The tan leather seat, coated in rips and crumbs of potato chips, lacks the company that my little sister would usually provide on these weekly commutes.
My eyes fixate on the abundance of crumbs that lay comfortably on the seat. I guess she left her mark on that seat, claimed her territory with each and every tiny piece of chip left behind. The sight of the crumbs infuriate me. In fact I want to call her now and add this to the to tab of reasons why I’m mad at her. Who does she think she is? First she blows off practice, even though she promised she’d come and help me out. Then she has the nerve to destroy my car. Eighteen year old girls just have no respect for anything.
Track 4 on my CD comes to an end and I’m left alone with my thoughts. My irrational, pathetic thoughts. I don’t care about the damn chips. My hand strikes the crumbs and I watch them morph into a small display of fireworks before they hit the floor. I really don’t give a shit about the crumbs.
Why couldn’t she just come with me? She knows I hate making this long drive by myself. Not to mention, we only have 8 girls today. We really could use another body in practice. It’s not like she has anything better to do. My cheeks feel warm, as I relive the argument we just had moments ago.
“I shouldn’t have to beg you, Shannon,” I yelled, jabbing her with stabs of guilt, ” you’re my sister and I need a favor.”
“I don’t feel well! What don’t you understand? It’s your team, not mine!” I can still see her squinted eyes as she swung back at me with her words. There was no getting her to come today. Nothing I could say to get her in that car. Nothing I could do to get her in that seat.
I place my foot on the break as my car slowly approaches the stop light. My impatient finger skips to track 7 and I begin singing the words before the music even begins. The grey streets appear have a hint of white chalk, a sign that winter is on its way out but not in any rush.
5:39 flashes a vibrant green across my dashboard. My eyes peer into the rear view mirror and I am greeted with a flash of horror. Instinctively I turn the wheel to the left but cannot take escape the two yellow lights plowing into me. A jolt of pain stings my face like a thousand bee stings. The sound of crashing of metal is too close to be on the radio and in that moment, I know it’s because I am the show.
All at once my mind stops, my vision close behind. A blanket of warmth covers my face for just a second until I can no longer feel my limbs. Silence absorbs me as if someone has their hands cupped around both of my ears.
Just like that, the world stops for only a second. When it resumes, it’s spinning and loud. I return to consciousness but am greeted by chaos. An unfamiliar face is just inches from mine, holding hers as if she was trying to catch every loose tear that fell from her swollen eyes.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry,” she says between sobs. I try to tell her it’s okay but my mind is still busy trying to piece together the horrific details. I am soothing her, telling her it is alright. Another woman comes rushing to my door and speaks to me more clearly. The car window is gone, pieces of it lay in my lap. My hands shake their way to my face and I feel a damp, heavy liquid. My shirt is covered in blood and I feel a new warmth run down my face. This time, from my eyes.
When the fire fighter arrives to where my window once sat, he tells me not to move. He is speaking in slow motion. I look to my right, to see Shannon’s idol seat crushed beside. No crumbs, no Shannon. That seat is gone.
“Mam, can you hear me?” The man says to me, indicating that I follow his finger with my eyes.
“Yes,” my voices rattles. He asks me if I can feel my legs. With every response he motions to his partners and suddenly a team of fire fighters are at my door. When I look down, I find that my white t shirt is now speckled with colors of red. My throat tightens and I begin to feel my body begin to unthaw from the numbness.
“You are very lucky,” the fire fighter says behind his mask. My response does not immediately come but I finally manage to say, “we’ll I don’t feel very lucky.”
The firefighter lifts his mask so I could see the soft brown scruff that is spread across his face. His expression is warm when he leans his head through the vacant window.
“You’re lucky you’re alive, don’t move your head. We have to take you into the ambulance, ” he reaches across my body and unbuckles my seat belt, “you’re even luckier that no one else was in this car with you. They wouldn’t be as lucky. ”
My eyelids are not strong enough to keep the parade of tears from falling down my cheeks. My mind forgets about the sheets of metal tossed across the road. I forget about the woman crying out her apology and the increasing throb in my nose. My mind drifts to the seat where Shannon sat.
“Did you finish, sweetie?” asks the soft voice. The word “finish” crackles in her voice like a stick over a catching flame.
“Kind of,” the young girl answers, raising her eyebrows with exhaustion. She places the frayed loose leaf paper on the cluttered kitchen table, “you can’t read it until I leave though.”
The sun hits the shiny silver staple that bundles the loose leaf paper together. The young girl stares up into her grandmother’s eyes, “I’ll go grab the rest of the groceries.”
As Kayla exits through the screen door, her grandmother returns to the kitchen, leaving the bundle of papers alone in the dining room.
A loud clank slams and Kayla comes into the kitchen, dressed in torn jeans and plastic bags for bracelets. She releases the bags from her wrists and they plop onto the floor at once.
“Thank you, hunnie,” the soft voice says, “now when can I read your story?”
“We’ll it’s not finished yet, Nanny,” Kayla says.
“Oh? Then what’s on the table?” her hand stretches out and she points into the dining room.
“A rough draft, I guess,” Kayla begins removing the items from the grocery bags and Nanny follows. “Before I can write you a story, I just need you to help me with something first. Where does the bread go?” A devilish smile slides across Kayla’s face. Nanny takes the loaf of bread from Kayla and places it in a drawer.
“But I thought you said you’d write me a story,” disappointment hangs from Nanny’s words like an old ornament on a Christmas tree.
“I know,” Kayla crinkles a plastic bag and tosses it into the trash can, “and I will!”
Kayla grabs her car keys and hugs Nanny goodbye.
One by one, each of the items inside the plastic grocery bags find their way to a cupboard, cabinet, or a drawer.
Nanny slowly walks into the dining room and sits down beside the bundle of paper. The staple, glistening as the sun beams down upon it. She slides into the smooth wooden chair, with five others surrounding the table. Her hands reach for her glasses and she puts them to her face. Finally, she slides the bundle of papers to her and begins to read:
You asked me to write you a story and that I will. I could write you a million different kinds, about anything really. But I’d rather write your story. In order for me to do that, I need your help. As soon as you finish this packet, I’ll be able to finish the story I’ve always wanted to write.
Your grand daughter,
Nanny’s shoulders stiffen as she folds back the top sheet of paper, covering the staple, but revealing the second sheet. Nanny continued to read:
I knew you would be too anxious and flip to the next page right away. You cannot keep reading this packet until tomorrow. Failure to comply will result in no story!
Your grand daughter,
A small chuckle builds up inside of Nanny. She pats the bundle of papers shut, and breathes a disappointed sigh.
The next morning, Nanny wakes with curlers in her hair, as she usually does. She fumbles around the kitchen and puts together a small breakfast. Cheerios and a banana.
In a matter of minutes, she finds herself back at the dining room table, staring down the bundle of papers. She rereads the first two pages and quickly flips to the next.
The third page of the loose leaf is covered in scribbles of blue ink. Her eyes follow the words, one after one, taking them in. Nanny rereads the words, over and over until they are memorized. The last words on page three instruct her to not turn the page until tomorrow. One page, one day. She remains at the table but her mind wanders away.
The next several mornings were similar to the mornings of page three. Nanny awakes, makes breakfast, and reads the assigned page from the bundle.
Somewhere between page three and page twenty Nanny finds herself waking up each morning eager to read her assigned page.
On the day of page 22, the phone rings, awaking a silent house. Nanny jumps up from the rocking recliner and answers the phone.
“Hi Nanny!” the young and lively voice says.
“Hello honey! Oh I had a feeling it would be one of you,” Nanny says with a laugh.
“Are you ready? We are almost on our way'” Kayla says back.
“Oh I’m all ready to go I hope,” Nannie replies. A few minutes later, an old blue Cadillac pulls into the driveway. Nanny quickly rushes out to the car, waving the entire time.
“Your garden looks great, mom!” says the voice from behind the wheel. Nanny smiles to herself and accepts the compliment.
Moments later, the Cadillac pulls into an old boat yard. Nannie follows the lead of the excited group and suddenly they are floating smoothly on a pontoon boat.
“Are you sure he knows how to drive this thing?” Nanny asks. Kayla and her mom look at each other. The youngest of the group, Sheila, shrugs her shoulders and says, “I’ll drive!”
Kayla pushes her back into her seat and says, “no you have your own job to do.”
Within seconds, Sheila begins unraveling a long rope connected to a large yellow tube. The boat comes to a halt. Sheila drops the tube into the water and her body quickly follows.
“Guess She is going first,” Kayla says while pushing the tube and Sheila’s body away from the boat. Suddenly the engine of the boat reignites.
The boat rips through the water, fiercely tossing Sheila and the tube from side to side. Finally Sheila loses her grip and plunges into the cool lake water.
“Who’s next?” says the deep voice from behind the wheel. Everyone takes their turn on the tube except Nanny.
Kayla approaches Nanny with a smile and hands her a life jacket. As Nanny dips down into the water she gives a wave and yells, “page twenty one!”
The following morning Nanny wakes up tired yet her desire to read the next page never lags. She sits at the dining room table and flips to page twenty three.
The words are scribbled in thick black marker, “pack your bags, pages 23 through 28 are being spent on the west coast.”
Nanny quickly stands up, flustered. She dials a familiar phone number until Kayla’s voice answers. Nanny drills Kayla with a thousand questions and then one more.
“Could you drive me to the airport?”
On the way to the airport, Kayla passes her cell phone to Nanny and tells her there is someone that wants to speak with her.
“Hey mom! Just want to let ya know as soon as you get off the plane, I’ll be there!” Says the deep, warm voice on the phone. Nanny asks a million questions but the voice on the other end answers none.
As the end of page twenty eight ends, Kayla waits at the air port. The parade of people funnel from the gate and Kayla spots Nanny in a Hawaiian shirt with her arms in the air. Her smile is hard to miss.
On the ride home, Nanny tells Kayla about page twenty three through twenty seven.
“Well what about day twenty eight?” Kayla asks.
Nanny smiles at the question. She tucks her curly, gray hair behind her ear and reveals a shiny silver stud. She says, “I thought I would just show you instead.”
“You got your ears pierced?” Kayla squeals.
Only a few sheets of loose leaf remain inside the bundle, yet the staple still in place. Page twenty nine read the words, “Drive a car.”
Nanny’s hands meet her head and she begins to pace. She dials the phone until Kayla answers.
“I don’t know about this one Kayla. It’s not safe,” Nanny’s words, stained with fear.
“Trust me, you’ll be fine. There’s only two more pages left,” she tries to persuade.
“Well, I will try,” Nanny says, her words unconvincing. “What time will you pick me up?”
“Oh I’m not,” Kayla says. A horn honks from outside and Nanny hangs up the phone. Outside is a car that she recognizes; a long, tan Sable.
“Oh, I just don’t know about this, Dolores,” Nanny says as they wait in line at The Checkpoint.
“It’ll be a hoot! I’m just as nervous as you,” says Nanny’s best friend from church. They stand in line, single file, until it is their turn to hop into the speedy to carts. Nanny places the helmet over her tight curls and lowers herself into the car. She chooses the green race car with the number 29 on the side.
The man on the side of the track fastens her seat belt and steps off to the side. Before Nanny can blink twice, the colored light ahead trickles from red to green. The man slashes the checkered flag across his body and the cars take off.
Suddenly Nanny’s grip tightens and car #29 is speeding around the track, following the body of the road and flying along side the cars.
The race comes to a halt and Nanny raises her hands in excitement. Dolores pulls up next to Nanny and they both begin to laugh.
On day 30, the last page of the bundle, Nanny is restless and excited. The previous pages lay folded over, yet still held together by the shining silver staple.
Nanny slides into the wooden dining room chair. Like she’s done for the past twenty nine days, she anxiously begins to read her assigned page.
“Day 30: Do something you’ve always wanted to do.”
Nanny closes the bundle of papers and flattens them with the palm of her hand. She stares out the window and runs her finger top over the smooth, silver staple. Moments pass, and she dials the phone. On the first ring, Kayla quickly answers.
“Hi Kayla, it’s Nanny,” says the soft voice.
“Yes, I had a feeling it was you. So what are you going to do today?”
“Oh I don’t know just yet,” Nanny’s smile reaches Kayla through the phone, “that’s not why I’m calling though.”
Kayla’s words are delayed. She finally says, “Oh, okay. Well why are you calling?”
“I was just calling to tell you that I don’t want you to write me a story anymore.”
“What? Why?” Kayla says defensively.
“Well, I think I’ll do something I’ve always wanted to do,” Nanny pauses, ” I think I’ll write my own.”