The Hammock

October 4, 2007
By
Summer days in the hammock were wholly unproductive. I wasn’t sure when I’d decided them into existence, but for an entire summer, they existed while I barely did.

It began as a sort of routine. I’d wake up at around eight (wake up= Mom would somehow unlock my bedroom door from the hall side and practically tear me from my cotton sheets and down mattress). I’d fry a single egg, toast a single piece of toast in complete boredom. Then, still in my plaid boxer shorts and stretched out cami and bed hair, I’d drag my feet through the teary grass and flop into the hammock. My hammock.

Well, really it was Felicia’s hammock that I’d taken the liberty of stealing. (Or borrowing, depending on how you look at it). She didn’t seem to care until Dad wisely asked her why she never used it. Why she never used it! I used it! At least it was getting used! Who cared whose buttocks was doing the job? Apparently Dad did.

And for some reason my hammock days actually worked. This was probably due to the fact that my mother was a wanna-be psychologist, who continually categorized weird habits or mood swings with bizarre “scientific terms”. For example, in our home potential boredom was commonly referred to as “cerebral-silencio” or silence of the brain. People at school always gave me hideous looks of distaste when I asked them why chemistry silenced their cerebral nerves. I’d learned to accept that I was generally “weird”.

I didn’t really care, though. So what if the kid who looked like he was part of the mob thought my tuna fish sandwiches were actually a stack of dead trout in my locker? So what if my World history teacher told me (on a daily basis) that my poor hair care and occasional sweatpants were a disgrace to European culture? But then again, my days on the hammock had set me to thinking: maybe I should care.

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It was Monday morning, barely a week and a half into vacation. My egg was taking an unusually long time to cook and the toaster was on the fritz. And on top of everything, I’d woken up in my frog underwear. Mom had triumphantly seized my unwashed bed shorts from me while I was sleeping and given them a charge-free, and very sudsy, ride around the washing machine. Now what am I going to wear out into the hammock? She’d completely ruined my plan to remain in the same pair of dirty pajamas all summer long.

Needless to say my routine was ruined and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Felicia, my elder by nineteen months, was absolutely disgusted with me. Whether it was because I had “unidentifiable creatures nesting in my hair” or because “I was eating the last egg in the Williams household!”, I wasn’t sure. Whatever the case, her summer plans centered around publicly displaying her general annoyance with my existence. I wished she’d just get a boyfriend then she’d have something to do. But I didn’t dare say it out loud.

When I asked Mom where my shorts had decided to vacation she told me: Ethiopia. Ethiopia? Wasn’t that in Africa or something? There were a thousand disrespectful things I could have said in response but I kept my mouth shut, knowing that otherwise Mom would never pay for my boxer’s ticket home.
Hearing Dad’s ugly shoes mutter down the back steps, I slipped into the nearest chair, hiding my boxer-less legs under the distressed wood of the kitchen table.

“You know, Shay, you really shouldn’t go around without your pants on.”

“Dad!”

“George!”

“I’m just saying, it’s not really appropriate for Shay to walk around in her underwear.”

“George!”

“You wouldn’t go around in just your underwear,” he pointed out, directing my piece of toast in Mom’s direction.

“Dad.”

“Shay?”

“You stole my toast.”

“Make another one. I have to get to work.”

“Who said I wouldn’t walk around in my underwear?” Mom changed the subject back with utmost seriousness.

Dad made a sort of snorting, choking noise into his cup of coffee. “God knows you wouldn’t walk around in your underwear, Les.”

“Well I guess that shows how much you know me! That’s what patients in need of psychiatric help do. They--”

“Mom, you’ve been married for like fifteen years; I think he knows you!” Felicia interjected, bouncing obnoxiously down the steps. Make that twenty years, Felicia.

“I know you well enough,” he concluded, chomping into my piece of perfectly browned toast and planting a kiss on Mom’s cheek.

She seemed annoyed for the remainder of the morning. I don’t get why she wanted to be thought of as someone who went around without pants. I pushed it to the back of my mind, saving it for my meditative hours in the hammock.

The toaster wouldn’t cooperate for a second piece of toast so I ate a plain, unbuttered piece of cardboard with my runny-yoked egg, unable to break my breakfast habit.

“It’s supposed to rain today, Shay!” Mom called after me as I kicked the screen door open with my bare foot.

“Good.” Even I needed a little diversion.

The hammock was cool from night breezes and the leather green shade of the maples. I tried to ignore the beauty of the day and keep my eyes closed so I wouldn’t have to look down and see the hideous gray of Felicia’s stolen shorts. I missed my boxers.


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Normally our road wasn’t very busy. An occasional car, an unwanted dump truck, perhaps a bicycle every once and a while, sometimes a walker or motivated runner. But it wasn’t the passer-bys that kept me entertained for hours. It was purely the bliss of idleness. The bliss of imagination, of creative boredom.

That Monday, I did consider Mom and Dad’s kitchen spat but I also considered life. Not the meaning of it. Not the reason for it. Just life. My life versus Felicia’s life, for example. Felicia’s life versus, say Dad’s life. Every life began in the same manner: a baby born to a mother and a father, or just a mother (I forced myself to explore all the options). But after birth each life became a person. Each life began to take shape, with the molding help of parents, home, friends, choices.

Life was cool.
No, cool wasn’t intellectual enough.
Life was incredible.

Just as I was beginning to mentally explore life post “childhood”, Mom interrupted. She had a wad of something in her right fist and a tray balanced on the palm of her left. (She waited tables for years before she became a self-employed “psychologist”.)

“Lemonade anddd your shorts.”

I almost flipped and got tangled in the crisscross ropes of the hammock. Steadying myself and managing a pathetic “thank you”, I decided that she must have dropped some sort of medication in my drink. I knew she didn’t believe in rushing “natural mental cycles” but I knew that she couldn’t be enjoying her view of me from the kitchen window.

After a good three minutes, the heat made me forget my suspicions and I gulped down the icy lemonade without a thought. I eagerly pulled my boxer shorts over Felicia’s and slipped back into my analysis of life.

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Tuesday I wondered what it’d be like to fall in love.
Wednesday I thought about languages, about words and letters.
Thursday I imagined myself in a dress made of thousands and thousands of yards of satin fabric.
Friday I drank more drugged lemonade and pretended I was an author suffering from a severe case of writer’s block.
Saturday I dreamt I was wearing my dream-dress for a lemonade date with my lover, a multi-lingual author dying a miserable death from lack of ideas.
Sunday the hammock sat empty while I prayed my heart out for something, someone, somewhere to love.

Monday nothing happened.
Tuesday Felicia stole my bedroom fan.
Wednesday Felicia broke the lock on my door.
Thursday we ran out of bread.
Friday I pretended to get a letter in the mail from someone special.
Saturday Felicia was jealous.
Sunday Felicia ignored the fact that it was Sunday and chopped a chunk out of my hair while I was sleeping.

Monday I was ugly.

It was three and a half weeks into summer and I was sick of egg and toast. I was sick of drugged lemonade. I was sick of dirty boxer shorts and old cami. I was sick of summer.

Well, that’s a lie. Just like one might be sick of one’s own life, I was sick of my summer. So Tuesday, lying face down on the hammock, my nose and mouth uncomfortably contorted by the rope squares, I made a decision. Wednesday, after Dad had gone to work, Mom left to go grocery shopping and Felicia had safely disappeared in her bikini, I, Shay Williams, would disappear. Would abandon the hammock.

I will never say that I was “sick of the hammock”, because I wasn’t. I loved the hammock. But I wanted to devote one single Wednesday to a search. A search for something else to love. And if I didn’t find anything the hammock would still have a friend. And if I did…I wasn’t sure what the fate of “my” poor hammock would be.

Wednesday came altogether too soon. I didn’t want to leave the hammock and I didn’t want to search. I didn’t care about any sort of love, any size, any shape, any color, any anything. I didn’t want Mom to think I’d recovered from my case of cerebral-silencio. I didn’t want Dad to see me with or without my boxers and label me as a normal kid. Like Mom, I wanted to be the girl who felt comfortable parading the neighborhood in her frog underwear. I didn’t want Felicia to think that the hammock was hers again. I didn’t want Felicia to think that she’d won; that because she’d cut my hair off, she’d triumphed over me. I didn’t want Felicia to think anything. I didn’t hate summer and I didn’t hate eggs…or toast. I didn’t mind that Mom interrupted my deep streams of thought with periodic doses of medicated lemonade.

I didn’t want anything but my summer days hammock days.





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