I Feel For You
Must have been seventh grade when I trudged out into the snow to make a visit to the library where Mom worked. I told her I was bored and she handed me Gone With the Wind. It was huge. When I held it there in the library, I had no idea of the weeks ahead of love and love lost, war, marriage, death, desperation, hunger, poverty, greed, slavery, fire, amputation, labor, hope, adultery, alcohol . . .
Cradling the book under my arm, I headed south to Becca's house. She lived with her mother in a very tiny 1930's shack in a lone field, right in the middle of Spring Hill. I knocked on her door. "Come on in!" she sang, opening the door in a breathless manner, ushering me inside. MTV was flashing away on the living room TV. "You're just in time. I'm gonna call Matt Wade." She picked up the phone and dialed six numbers, timing the last one for Chaka Khan's I Feel For You. When the video came on Becca dialed the last number on the rotary and put the receiver up to the TV. We both stifled our giggles. "Hello, hello?" She continued to hold the receiver up to the screen for another couple of seconds, then with a muffled laugh, dropped it down into into the cradle.
"I thought you were going to talk to him!"
"Nah, I've sent him five music calls today. He'll get the point and call me back, I'm sure of it."
I dropped my book into a ripped leather chair and followed Becca into her bedroom. Chaos. Makeup, clothes, glittery hair spray, high heels, posters of hair bands, posters of ponies, rainbows and unicorns. She grabbed her coat out of a pile in the corner and announced we'd go out for a walk.
We left the house and started a long trek through a quiet world of white. Dead grass cut through the snow with little wheat-colored blades. A lone bird chittered in a pine, and Becca and I walked together, talking about school and boys, boys and school. The only thing she loved more than boys was ponies, which she drew prolifically. The rules of society had deemed us both misfits; she was overweight and I was a stick. I didn't care about myself, but I always felt the world was missing too much by ignoring Becca. She had such interesting stories, was so full of life. But underneath it all, I knew she was desperate for attention. Her mother was always gone with some guy, leaving Becca to fend for herself.
We circled the field, eventually following our tracks. She made up a story that pirates had been there right before us, and we were only inches away from being captured. "Watch it!" she called out, ahead of me. "Your boots are too loud! Don't step on fresh snow, it crunches too much!"
I fitted my feet into each snowy impression and bit my lip.
We stood in the middle of the field. Snow fell in tiny flakes. A soft thud of a drift falling from a fencetop met my ears. A bluejay squawked and flew over our heads.
"Ah hell, they're gone. Let's go inside and make some hot chocolate."
Becca had accidentally locked the door. We tried getting in the back kitchen window, but it was so old and covered with layers of white paint, like frosting, that it wouldn't budge. She got a forlorn look on her face. "I guess I'll just have to wait till my mom gets home."
"Are you sure? Why don't we try the front door again. Maybe it's not really locked."
Becca slumped when she walked around the house. She barely even tried the knob, so I cut in front and gave it a good yank. Locked.
"Well . . ." We both looked at each other. "So much for hot chocolate."
She nodded, slow. The phone rang inside. "Oh no! I bet it's Matt!" She banged furiously against the door. "Come on!!!!!!" As if summonsed, it opened right up and we both looked at each other with surprise. Becca made no time in rushing to grab the receiver. Snow was caked on her boots, and her wild blonde hair hung around her face with melting flakes. "Hello? Matt! Is it you?" Nothing. "Hello?" She waited a few seconds before hanging up the phone. "He didn't hear me or something."
"Yeah. He'll call back."
Becca shook out her hair. "I was gonna send another music call anyway."
That was the way we coped: ignore the insult, keep trudging on. Just like me in the snow. I was back out in an hour, book in hand.