I realize that in my mind when I think back I am in the dining room – or sort of suspended above the dining room in the far corner so that I can see through the swinging door into the kitchen and through the other door into the living room. I look down and through these rooms as if they were a stage set, the walls reaching only ¾ of the way up, the ceilings not there.
The Armonk house. Sold when my father went bankrupt. I see my mother in the kitchen like a shadow, my father in the living room. There is a certain silence that hangs over the scene. And empty space.
I am up in the attic, a room where the ceiling comes to a point. It slants steeply on both sides so you can only stand up straight walking down the middle of the room. I’ve painted the white cupboard doors a bright yellow.
I like it up here. I have this whole top floor to myself. I wish I knew people who would come over and sprawl on the old couch cushions I have on the floor. I wish I had a lot of records that I could play for them. I’d know all this music and I’d turn them on to all sorts of things they hadn’t heard before – obscure John Prine, Dylan, Leonard Cohen – but I don’t have all those records. Records cost too much. And when these people came we’d get high and they’d ask me about the curved, twisted piece of driftwood I have standing on top of one of the speakers that sit on the floor on either side of the turntable/radio that is also on the floor and I’d say casually as if it was nothing that I brought it back from British Columbia when I hitchhiked there and back last summer when I was sixteen. It sounds so good to be able to say that, about hitchhiking. It implies so much that isn’t actually true. The hitchhiking part is true, but not the implications. Those never happened, but no one needs to know that. They can assume I’ve done the drugs and had the sex.
When a boy calls and says he wants to take me to the movies I wait in the living room by myself with my nylon-stringed guitar. I want him to find me like this, the guitar tossed casually on the couch though I can’t play very much.
It feels good to carry it though. I like to carry it in its black case down my driveway in the afternoon after a stifling day at school where I didn’t speak to anyone, down the road that’s mostly woods with a few houses here and there hidden in the background. It’s not a road where you see people, but now and then a car goes by. I like it when one does. I want people to see me – a girl with long hair and patches on her jeans carrying a guitar. I’d love a boy to see me like this. I’d like him to stop.
I carry my guitar to Edgar Lane which is close by, a dirt road and I walk into the shady shadows of Edgar Lane to where there are two old stone pillars marking where someone’s driveway used to begin. The driveway is all grown over. It was never paved. It dates from a time before there was paving. It’s a very long driveway – it goes for a couple of miles and the house it once led to has long since disappeared.
I sit by the pillars on Edgar Lane and open up my guitar case and I play Blowin’ in the Wind. It’s the perfect song and only has three chords, all easy ones. Now is the perfect moment for someone to find me. They will see a pretty girl playing a guitar in the woods. They will love me. They will want me.
I get restless. I don’t know too many songs. No one drives by. Or maybe one car. There are fewer cars here even than on the main road, but that’s partly why it would be the perfect place to be found. I pack up the guitar, walk back, back up the driveway, back up the two flights of stairs. My mother is in the kitchen making dinner. Making supper, that’s what we call it. Dinner is too fancy a word. Each younger sister is in her room on the second floor, their doors closed.
My mother calls up the stairs when she wants us to come down. By then I’ve done my homework.
We eat in the kitchen, me at the head of the small table that’s pushed up against the wall, under the window, my mother on the side closest to the stove, my two sisters side-by-side. My father comes home later from the city. He’ll eat by himself in the same chair I’m eating in now.
Sometimes I am quiet during dinner, not saying anything. Sometimes I am angry quiet, sometimes just empty quiet. Sometimes I say things that make my sisters laugh or my mother. I can entertain them while in my mind I am racing away. I want to go places my mother has never heard of. I know – I am certain – there are worlds and worlds she knows nothing about. I hate it when she says I can’t do something – like the way she told me I can’t wear my best most patched jeans to the city. I hate her tiny world. She doesn’t know anything about what’s in the songs I listen to. She gets mean sometimes. She says no – she shouts no – and she doesn’t give a reason. She says she doesn’t have to give a reason.