Now it’s dark out. Mom is sitting on my bed. We are going through the last pile of clothes and have filled three trash bags of leftover stuff to donate to charity, including some old stuffed animals, books, dolls, and toys. She says she’s hitting Keith’s room next.
“How about this,” Mom says, holding up a brown halter with pink lace trim.
“Keep. I bought that at the beginning of the school year and only wore it once!”
“It’s been in the dirty laundry forever. Funny how that stuff piles up.”
“Never again,” I say, amazed at how many cool clothes I have that I forgot about. It’s like having a whole new wardrobe.
“This?” Mom asks. A black tank with spaghetti straps.
“It goes under the brown one. There’s a white one, too, somewhere. I wear them all together.”
“Well, no wonder you have so many clothes if you wear three shirts at once!” Mom laughs. This is fun, I think, hanging out with Mom and talking about clothes. I laugh too.
Mom holds up a pink and black splotched Green Day shirt from the concert I went to with Jimmy. My throat clutches.
“Keep,” I whisper. Mom looks at me strangely. “Billy Joe is so cute!” I add, to lighten things up.
“Who?” Mom asks.
I point to the dark-haired band member on the front of the shirt.
“He’s wearing eyeliner like Kara’s,” she says and she shrugs and puts the folded shirt in the drawer that’s been pulled onto the bed. It’s nearly full.
“Everything in this drawer is a keeper. But your dad is having a big yard sale Saturday. He put an ad in the paper. You should try to sell some of your old clothes. Then the Salvation Army is coming on Monday and you can give the rest to charity. You may make some money and clear some room in here.”
“Okay. I’ll set up a little table. I have some jewelry and vintage stuff I could add.”
“I’ll let your dad know he has some competition.”
I’m actually excited about the prospect of hanging out in the front yard all day selling my stuff, making money. I can work on my tan too. Mom gets up and starts to go.
“Mom,” I say, stopping her. “I broke up with Jimmy.”
“You told me, earlier this week. Remember?”
“No, I mean I really did it, today.”
Mom sits back down. “How’d it go?”
“It was rough. He called me a couple of names. But I told him I had really loved him and so that’s how I ended it, no matter what he said.”
“I’m sorry,” Mom says, touching my arm. “It’s hard to have a broken heart.” She puts her arm around me and I lean my head against her.
“Men.” I say.
Mom laughs. “Want to get some ice cream?”
I shake my head quickly. “I think I’ll stay here and figure out how much to sell my stuff for.”
“Okay, I’ll warn your dad,” Mom releases me and leaves. So Dad didn’t tell her, I think. I can really move on from this without hashing out the whole de-virginity thing. I’m grateful. I return the drawer to the dresser and I’m about to open the nearest bag when I catch The Granddaughter faintly shimmering into the corner of the room. She looks pale somehow, like a memory of herself.
“Hi!” I say, like I’m seeing an old friend. “So much has happened since I last spoke to you . . .”
“I am aware of it, yes,” The Granddaughter says weakly. “You have cut the thread of emotion that attached you to Jimmy Becker. That is good news for your future relatives.”
“Is that how it works?” I ask, wondering at this information. “That there’s an invisible thread that attaches you to someone, and when your relationship is over, it’s gone? Because that’s exactly how it felt, like it snapped.”
“The thread of human attachment is always present, even between people who have a relationship but have never met, such as yourself with my mother, for example.”
“Your mother?” I say, blanking out. Somehow The Granddaughter always seemed like some science-experiment spawn, and I’d always thought of her as being hatched in a fish nursery or something. Her sweet smile gives away the fact that she knows what I’m thinking, as always.
“I was birthed the way all humans have been birthed throughout the ages. We do have other ways of creating humans, but in my lifespace natural childbirth is still the most popular way of being born.”
“Other ways? You mean cloning and stuff like that?” I ask, loving that I get to know the inside scoop of future millennia.
“Stuff like that, yes,” The Granddaughter says vaguely, trying out my slang. “Things that would be outside your comprehension in this lifespace.”
I love it when she uses that word.
“Humans have changed much since your lifespace, Jessie. Especially those no longer living on Earth. And part of that change is due to you and the choices you’ll make in the next few years of your living.”
“What if I had gotten pregnant and had Jimmy Becker’s child?” I muse out loud.
“We would not be speaking together now.”
“And same thing if I’d killed myself, you would never have been born.”
Wow, I think. Every action we make as humans on earth affects some future action. It’s a hard thing to get my head around that concept and it makes me feel both small and huge at the same time. I’m this little tiny dot on the universal radar, just another human living her life, and yet everything I do will affect those who come after me. Crazy.
“I have a gift for you,” The Granddaughter says. “It is not an object . . .” She’s reading my mind cuz I was just thinking how cool it would be to get some present from the future, like some jewelry or something– “but it is something that will help you live your life.” She reaches toward me and holds my hands in hers and a thick buzzing sensation fills my body, my hands go white-hot and have that funky glow-in-the-dark mark on them that they had when she touched me on the arm when I first met her. I feel something get dumped into me, something I can’t describe but it reminds me of reading a book, how as you read each page you get more information. And then I realize, she is giving me information. She’s sending me knowledge. She lets go and my knees feel weak and I sit down on my bed, woozy.
“What is it?” I ask when I can speak again.
“It is . . . awareness.”
“It is a gift for you to know when you are on the right life path. This gift will help you stay focused. It will be there to guide you, since I will no longer be able to guide you. Soon I will leave you but this essence of myself will stay behind.”
“How does it work?”
“When you are on the right path, certain things will happen that will be markers for that path. You may call it coincidence, but in my lifespace we know it to be a guiding force.”
“Is it like . . . a God thing or something?”
“It is your purpose and your destiny. Both of those qualities have been connected to the idea of God before. You may call it whatever you wish. It is the way the future, as you call it, is molded.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” I say, wishing I could figure out exactly what the gift is.
“You will understand. You will feel something similar to my presence at first when the gift is working. Trust your instincts, Jessie. Do what your inner voice says is correct.” Her words remind me of Obi-Wan telling Luke to use the force.
“I’m not sure. . .” I say and Mom is standing there in the doorway, looking around the room just as The Granddaughter vanishes. She drops a large box on the ground by the laundry basket.
“What are you not sure about, Jess? If you’re not sure, sell it. You probably won’t need it.”
Mom is talking garage sales and I’m talking about the fate of the world to an invisible being.
“It’s . . . stuffy in here or something.” Mom walks right through The Granddaughter’s still-bluish space and heads for the window and opens it. “I brought some things from the garage to see if you want to sell any of them. I know, that’s crazy, I should have had you come down and look but you should see what your dad has done out there, it looks like a thrift shop . . .”
She pushes the big box toward me and pulls out my old dance shoes, my roller skates, and an old mini-trampoline from my two month “workout” period. I’m still confused about what The Granddaughter was trying to say when Mom looks at me.
“You okay?” she asks, putting her hand on my forehead. It’s as if we’ve both forgotten that she hasn’t really touched me in nearly a year until just a couple weeks ago. “You look . . . different. Glowy. I don’t know.”
“I’m just confused,” I say honestly.
“It’s hard to decide what to keep and get rid of,” Mom says. “Maybe you need a break. Want to take a walk or watch some TV or something?”
“Walk,” I say, thinking the fresh air might do my muddled brain some good.
At the yard sale people from every walk of life show up. I’m sitting in an old lawn chair and my clothes are selling well, mostly because of the sign we put on Sunset that points arrows toward our house (my idea). The cool and fashionable from Hollywood that stroll our way aren’t disappointed, especially when they see my vintage collection from when I was in seventh grade and thought that the forties was the best decade ever. I’m so over that now, though. I’m raking in the dough selling my thrift shop boutique clothes.
Dad has tools for sale, and he’s doing pretty well himself selling off his cheaper tools since he inherited his dad’s good tools a few years ago when Grandpa died. All the men in the neighborhood crowd around Dad’s workshop, gleaming hammers and screwdrivers oiled to a shine and displayed like jewels on the old card table. They discuss things like drywall and nailgun technique. Boring.
I notice another element, those who live just near us; the dog walking people with the new gangly puppy, the old guy, Mr. Finney, from down the street where I used to meet Jimmy, the lady across the street who is always spying out her curtains at our comings and goings. They aren’t shopping our yard sale. They are here to look at the Suicide Girl, to get a glimpse of our street’s craziest person. Mom seems oblivious but I can tell by the way they are looking over at me out of the sides of their eyes. I smile and say hi as pleasantly as I can, but I feel uncomfortable in a way I can’t explain. It makes me think about what The Granddaughter said about paying attention to my inner voice, and right now my inner voice is telling me that I don’t want to get attention for the bad or crazy shit that I do. It’s embarrassing to be that person. I always thought I thrived on being wild and different but now I’m not so sure. Calm and centered seems like as good a plan as any.
We’re wrapping up at three and I’m putting what’s left of my junk in a bag for charity. Kara shows up. I look over at my dad.
“Can I talk to Kara while I put my stuff away?” I ask. Dad seems shocked that I’m asking permission, but he recovers quickly and says “I suppose, but then you’re inside finishing your homework.” He sounds like such a dad I’m actually kind of proud of him.
Kara helps me clean up and I give her a couple outfits that are left over (she still likes the forties). Soon we are alone sitting in the garage waving off the latecomers.
“You seem like you’re doing really well,” she comments, picking at her black ripped tights.
“I am. But I’m nervous about going back to school on Monday.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“And I have a Michael appointment, so I have that to deal with too.”
“I thought you were only going there once a month now?”
“Mom’s insisting. One more.”
“Michael probably misses you.”
“He probably thinks I need him.”
Mom doesn’t agree; that’s why she arranged for me to see Michael once more after my first day back at school. I think of The Granddaughter’s gift and realize for the first time how much it will help me in my whole life, not just at this hard and messed up time of my lifespace, as she calls it. I mean, mostly it’s adults who see shrinks. The Granddaughter’s gift could help me avoid the expense of psychotherapy forever. Cool.
“I’d be afraid to leave my therapist,” Kara admits. “I mean, I count on Marsha. I’m used to talking things out with her.”
“That’s how I felt about Michael but now I sort of think that I’ve been over-analyzing every detail of my life and not really living my life, you know what I mean?”
Kara considers this. “I guess, but I’d still be afraid. You’re so brave, Jessie.”
I laugh at this. Brave is what I thought I was. I thought I tried to kill myself because I was brave enough to test the edge, but now I realize that I was actually the world’s biggest coward. I remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer telling her little sister Dawn, “the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it,” and now I totally get what she meant. Living life is way harder than chickening out and offing yourself. Of course Buffy said those words right before she sacrificed her own life to save the world (again). What else are you going to say before you take the swan dive to Goodbye Forever?
“I have a lot of homework to make up, Kara,” I say. “I was wondering if you wanted to start studying together after school sometimes. Maybe get a mocha and hit the books.”
“Study?” Kara stares at me blankly. Somehow in our drama about ourselves and our shrinks and our hospitals school fell out of the top ten things we need to think about, for both of us. School for me was all about Jimmy and just getting through the day with my head held high in defiance for anyone who had a problem with what I tried to do.
“School’s going to be kind of hard for me, since Jimmy and I broke up.”
“You really broke up with Jimmy?”
“For good, this time. And now going back there will be awkward. It might help if I knew we could get our homework done together. Jimmy’s friends used to do his homework for him and I’d just call him for the answers. Now I have to study for real.”
“Well, sorry about Jimmy,” Kara says. “Weird I never met him. At least you never, you know . . . did the nasty with him.”
We both let that sink in and then Kara uses some of the tact taught to her by her many shrinks.
“And how did that make you feel?”
We both crack up.