This is a work of fiction.
I make myself a fancy lunch because I don’t know what else to do, and I’ve just gone into the bathroom when the phone rings.
I hurry and make it to the phone by about the twelfth ring.
It’s Amanda, my best friend in the whole wide world.
“I was starting to think you were never gonna answer.”
“Sorry, I was in the bathroom. What’s up?”
“Everything! I’m so excited! I got in!”
“Of course you got in. You’re the smartest person I know.”
“Thanks. I’m so nervous. I can’t believe it!”
I smile. I’m sure she applied months ago, and finally got the courage to open the letter today.
“Hey, now, there’s no need for that, we’ll be in at least one class together. I registered for English at a time I know you’ll approve of. Want to guess when?”
“Um, er, what?”
“English class. Guess what time I picked?”
“Six in the morning?”
“No silly! Guess again.”
“Closer, but no cigar.”
“Um, I’m not going to be in that class.”
“What?” I’ve been lying on the sofa but sit upright and press the phone harder against my ear. “It’s at 2:30 in the afternoon. I chose that time specifically so we could be in the same class. I checked, and there’s still a few seats left, but you’d better register soon.”
There’s a long pause, and then Amanda says, “I’m not going to college.”
“But you got in, of course you’re going.”
“I mean I’m not going to, like, regular college.”
“Are you going to irregular college?”
She laughs, but it doesn’t sound funny.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and I’m going to cooking school.”
“What? Cooking school? But we’ve been talking about college ever since we were kids. Oh, I get it. Ha ha, I fell for it. Good one.”
I laugh, but she doesn’t.
She says, “I’m being serious.”
“But you’ve got a Ph.D. in you, I know it. Did somebody talk crap about you? Give me their address and I’ll put the fear—”
“No. Nobody said anything. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and I’ve decided I really want to go to cooking school. There are far too many Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s in my family, and I want something different. I’m gonna miss you, but we can still talk on the phone. Please be happy for me.”
“Well, we’ll still see each other on weekends, I mean, I won’t be studying 24/7, and I guess cooks don’t have to study.”
I realize I sound kind of mean, but how can she throw away her brain like that? But she’s right, I should try to be happy for her, and I am, I really am, but it’s hard. Cooking school. What a waste of a mind.
“Of course cooks have to study, you idiot. And I’m not going to be here. I mean, I have to move. The cooking school’s in—”
The phone beeps. Aunt Bev allows call waiting, but only because it’s either that, or a second line for me to talk to Amanda on.
“Sorry, I’m getting another call.” I hope she interprets “sorry” as an apology for my comment about cooks, even though I don’t think I meant it to be.
I press the button.
“Hello,” I say.
“Am I speaking to Alexis Freemont?”
“Yes.” I don’t recognize the woman’s voice, but Aunt Bev would love her. She’s crisp, clear, a touch stern, and probably close to her in age.
“I’m afraid your Aunt Bev isn’t well, and was taken to the hospital this morning with chest pain.”
To the hospital? Was taken? Chest pain? Aunt Bev would never allow anything like that.
“Are you sure?”
“Unless you have more than one Aunt Bev, yes.”
She sounds irritated now, like she doesn’t have time for me, even though she’s talking about Aunt Bev being sick.
“You’d better hurry.” She says the name of the hospital and some other stuff, and hangs up before I can get a pen.
I click the line button but Amanda’s gone.
Should I call her back? No, that lady said I’d better hurry.
I’m coming, Aunt Bev.
She gave me a car when I turned sixteen. It was painted gray, but it was new and had a radio I could turn up as loud as I wanted when Aunt Bev wasn’t with me. She had a different, much older gray car with a not-very-good radio that she kept tuned to classical music at a miserly volume level.
As I drive, I still can’t believe Aunt Bev is at the hospital. To my knowledge, she’s only ever been in a hospital twice.
The first time was when she was born, and the second time was when I was.
I don’t know anything about her birth, but I’ll tell you about mine while I try not to run red lights.
My mom went into labor on a Monday morning in January. It was so cold, she really didn’t want to leave her warm house, but nature said otherwise, so she asked my dad to drive her to the hospital because she thought the baby was coming.
I was stuck. There was no yanking me out, neither by force nor by forceps. Mom was told she needed a C-section. I’m sure she was terrified, but she agreed to the procedure. The surgeon got me out of there fast, and left a resident to close her up. The resident made a huge mistake, and Mom started to bleed. The same resident panicked and managed to slice open the bag of donated blood with his scalpel. By the time more blood was brought, Mom had lost too much and there was nothing anybody could do.
Somebody brought me to Dad. Dad asked how Mom was. Somebody asked the surgeon to talk to him, and reluctantly, he told him about the fatal mistake. Dad thanked him, handed me to a nurse, and left the hospital. He got into his car, drove to a bridge, and jumped.
I lay in the nurse’s arms and knew nothing of what had happened to my parents.
It took a while, but Mom’s sister, Aunt Bev, was contacted. They’d been estranged for a few years, ever since Mom had “run off” with Dad. She knew nothing about my existence.
After giving Aunt Bev the news about my parents, the “God-fearing young woman” said, “You have a beautiful, healthy niece.”
There’s a huge truck stalled in front of me. I can’t back up and I can’t go forward.
Horns honk behind me.
Everybody’s impatient to get wherever they’re going, but it’s not like I’m stuck here on purpose.