I dont know
if it was the whispers or the squeaking bedsprings, but something
made me open my eyes at exactly 12:13 a.m. Staring at the red digits,
I felt that where-am-I? you get when you wake up in the middle of the
night in a bed that isnt yours in a place that doesnt smell
like home. Musty, with a hint of ocean. Oh yeah. I remembered. Once I
figured out where I was, I knew the voices and squeaks had to be coming
from a certain bed across the room.
Or maybe what woke
me up was my little sister Emmy talking in her sleep. She does that a
lot at home, too.
What she said, just
as I was coming to, was Paul, which was weird, because I was
pretty sure that the person on the bed with the girl across the roomwho
could only be Beka because it was her bedwas a guy named Paul.
After Emmy said that,
they got quiet for what seemed like forever. Then Emmy said something
all mumbly, but with a very clear fried clams in the middle,
which I thought was pretty funny, and which let them know she was dreaming.
Slowly the bed springs started up again. The two people across the room
resumed their activity without realizing that they had, indeed, been discovered,
not by Emmy but by me.
I wasnt sure what I had discovered though, because I couldnt
see them from the position I lay in, and if I rolled over, my cot would
squeak too and theyd surely look my way and I didnt know if
I could pull off the fake sleep thing. So all I had to go on was what
I could hear.
He said: Here?"
She said: Yeah."
He said: Mmm. Cool.
She said: How about this?
He said, Thats great.
She said: Shhh! And giggled.
Paul works here,
at Farnsworth House, the place my father calls The Hippie Hotel because
its run by Pauls mother Sharon, a tie-dye-and-Birkenstock-wearing
woman whose gray hair is so long it almost reaches her butt. Dad took
usme, Emmy, and our brother Chrison this weird vacation. Its
called Together Time. The website promises Single
parents and their children an old-fashioned family vacation among other
families in a historic, rambling cottage-by-the-sea.
I think the idea is that if you get divorced kids together with other
divorced kids, they wont feel so bad about being divorced.
So far it hasnt
You should see the other families here. Aside from Sharon
and Paul, and my Dad and us, theres just one right now, made up
of Loraine Panetta, who talks and smokes all the time, her fifteen year-old
daughter Bekathe one on the bed with Pauland her six year-old
twins Sammi (a girl) and Sean (a boy).
Since Beka and I are so close in age, you might think, as I thought before
I met her, that there would be some friend potential. But there isnt.
Were different. Way different.
First of all, she lives in New York and goes to private school. I live
in the suburbs and go to a big public high school. Those two facts in
and of themselves should tell you a lot.
Beka is one of those New York private school girls whos taken so
many ballet lessons that she stands and walks with her feet permanently
turned out in second position. Shes punk, though, not princess.
Shes got the all-black wardrobe, the eyeliner, the jet-black dyed
hair. She smokes too, which every New York private school girlpunk
or princessdoes, and which probably helps her stay as skinny as
she is. She hates her mother, and flirts with all the guys in the house,
including my brother and my father, as well as Paul, even though Pauls
the only one she really wants.
Beka, Emmy, Sammi and I had been sleeping in the girls dormitorySharons
fancy name for an attic room with a bunch of mismatched twin beds, futons
and squeaky cotsfor three nights, but all Beka had said to me was
stuff like, Theres no eating allowed up here, you know.
As if she was the big rule follower. And, Excuse me, excuse me,
can I get by? In a way that implied I was too big to walk around,
which, while I admit to putting on a few pounds lately, is still a huge,
mean exaggeration. And, Brett Smith? You still listen to Brett Smith?
when she flipped through my CD carrier the first night without asking.
Okay. As youve probably gathered, I am not skinny. Aside
from that, I cant dance. I dont smoke. I cant even talk
tonever mind flirt withboys my age. And yes, I listen to Brett
I listen to Brett Smith even though she is now one of the top-selling
recording artists of all time. Even though some of her fans are as young
as eleven. Even though you cant go for a twenty-minute car ride
without hearing her on the radio, or watch TRL without seeing her latest
video. I listened to her before any of this happened, back when I was
twelve and my Uncle Steve bought me her debut CD to encourage me with
my piano. And Im not going to stop listening to her now, just because
all these other people know how good she is, now that shes no longer
got the cult thing going on, and now that shes rich. Besides, I
happen to know that she gives a lot of her money away to shelters for
runaway girls and arts programs in inner-city schools.
Beka prefers cutting-edge punk bands with cult followings. Shes
always trying to get my brother, Chris, to listen to some CD or other
of a band she knows from The Village or heard about through
her punk connections on the Internet.
I dont smoke. Not that Im such a goody-good or anything. Its
just that it makes me sick, literally. The first time I triedat
the beginning of eighth gradeI almost threw up, and the second time
I triedat the end of eighth gradeI did throw up. And so I
havent tried since.
Dancing I wish I could do, but I cant. This is not a low self-esteem
thing. I really cannot dance. To begin with, I dont have a dancers
body. At least not a skinny ballerina dancers body like Bekas.
Im not exactly fat. Though Ive been close over the last year
or so. Anyway its not just about size. My friend Zann dragged me
to one of her hip-hop classes, where there were lots of unskinny girls
who could really move. I just cant get the music to come out my
legs and feet.