Firefly

April 18, 2010
My French mother taught me only one word in her native tongue before she died. Patience. Patience. I was dismayed to find out that it is the same as the English word. I hate that word. It means that I have to be fine with waiting. I hate waiting. If the word sounded different in French, then at least it would be more bearable. Patience in French and Patience in English. I hate it all.

My reflection disturbed me more than the word patience. Not my face, no that is bearable enough. Though I’m not pretty, I don’t find myself ugly either. Even if my eyes are the puke-ish green that they are. No, it’s the clothes I am wearing. The baggy hooded sweatshirt and jeans a size too large. No one would ever believe I am a girl. A short haircut and I would be doomed.

And now I was being forced to wait patiently for a day when I could do what I wanted, and feel what I wanted.

If mom were here this wouldn’t have happened. I can still hear her voice in my mind. “All girls in France have rounded curves and pretty eyes,” she would say in her thick accent.

Something about French girls always bugged me. Do they really not shave their armpits? I can’t imagine that, but hey, whatever they want!

Oh Mama, your milk fed my body but alas it hasn’t lasted. If you were alive then maybe I could dress my gender, and have gone to a co-ed school, and talk to boys my age.

I’d hardly ever been touched by someone other than my father before. Every now and then my father would place a hand on my cheek, or slide his fingers through my hair and say, “Patience, Delia, patience.” I hate that. Using what Mama used to say.

He entered just then, neglecting to knock first. I grabbed the large hairclip on the bedside table and pulled my hair up. I took great care not to catch a glimpse of my boyish reflection as I crossed the room to hug him.

“I’ll be back around ten,” he said, “but who knows how long these emergency meetings last.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said to him, “I’ll probably go to bed in a little bit anyways.”

“Good,” he said, “You’ve barely gotten any rest lately. If you get hungry there’s still that vegetable soup in the refrigerator. Just don’t heat it up in the microwave, use the stove. You know I don’t trust microwaves.”

“Ok,” I replied, trying to hide my annoyance. I used the microwave more than he would care to know. Hopefully the radiation won’t effect me until after he’s dead.

He left quickly, his cell phone buzzing nonstop.

Tonight was the night. I had prayed for my father to have an emergency meeting tonight. I suspect Mama had put a word in with God, because my wish had been granted. I was going out tonight. Like a normal girl. I didn’t know where I would go, but even just a short walk down the driveway would be a few minutes of utopia.

The night air was warm, odd for early March, but who was I to question? Before I realized where I was going, I went past the driveway and kept walking. Where to go now? No one was around, not even a stray cat. The streetlamps were dim, but bright enough to help me see what was ahead.

The park. That’s where I could go. It was only a few blocks, and who knew what I would find there at night? Good, bad, I don’t care. I’d never felt either. My entire life had been one flat plain of neutrality. Just a taste of emotion would be wonderful.

The cement pathway weaving across the park was shrouded by thick trees, their roots gnarled and tangled, clutching to the ground like steel. I should try to be more like a tree. Trees are perfectly happy to stay in one place their entire life. For hundreds of years they can just stand there. Too bad I’m not a tree, my father would be happy if I were. He’d jump for joy if I were an artificial one that he could keep in the living room.

But I’m not a tree. I’m a human girl. And right now I had human things to explore.

The playground was entirely abandoned, a solitary streetlamp casting a glow over it. The last time I had played here was when I was seven, and I wasn’t allowed to go down the slide.

That was the first thing I did. Climbing the blue painted step ladder, I threw my legs onto the yellow ramp and pushed off the rail. What a rush! Wind rushing over my face, as I plummeted to the pile of mulch at the bottom. No wonder children always lined up for this. I went again, this time stretching my arms out bravely. Maybe once I get used to it, I’ll try it backwards. But not now.

I laid back onto the slide and looked up at the sky. No stars were visible tonight.

“You are such an idiot.”

Abruptly, I sat up. Who said that? I looked around, but no one else was with me on the playground. I looked beyond it, past the streetlamp and into the darkness, where I could make out a small orange dot. It came forward, and a boy stepped into the light, a lighted cigarette in his grip.

He didn’t seem much older than me. His brown hair was short cropped, and put into little spikes at the end. He took a puff of his cigarette and sent a few ashes to the mulch beneath his feet.

“Don’t you know what goes on here at night?” he asked.

I said nothing. I couldn’t manage it. What could I say? “Sure I do, I just wanted to feel scared for the first time.” No, that would sound outrageous to this guy.

“You’re lucky it’s early,” the boy continued. “The later it gets, the more crack heads come out.”

“You’re one to talk,” I finally forced myself to say, “why are you here?”

“I’m an undercover cop,” he said.

“Bull,” I snorted.

The boy smirked and took another puff of his cigarette.

“Why are you really here?” I asked.

“It’s the only place I can catch a smoke. It’s usually only me.”

“Well, tonight I’m here, too.”

“And why are you?”

“I just didn’t want to stay home,” I said, “I wanted to get out and go someplace. Something wrong with that?”

“No,” the boy said, “I do it all the time. So why did you leave? Your folks beat you or something?”

I straightened the sweatshirt I wore, hoping to flatten some of the bagginess that obstructed the shape of my body.

“No,” I said, “My father’s never beat me. Though I wish he would. I’d like it if he beat me.”

The boy’s eyes widened. He dropped his cigarette to the ground and stomped it out.

“Christ,” he began, “you really are an idiot. Why the hell would you want that?”

“To see what it feels like,” I said simply.

The boy said nothing, but rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket. From it, he pulled out his cigarette carton and pulled one out. Sticking the carton back into his pocket, he lit the fresh one and took a long puff.

“Don’t make your own drama,” he said, “It’ll find you soon enough.”

“No it won’t,” I said, “it won’t.”

“Oh. You’re one of those kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s your name?”

“Delia,” I said, “Why does that matter?”

“Little Delia,” said the boy, “Let me guess. Your father says it all lovingly, and he cuddles you and kisses you, and pleads gently with you not to grow up. I can see he’s done quite a job of de-sexing you. When I first saw you I thought you were a dude.”

I said nothing. He was right. That was exactly what my father did.

“And you hate that,” continued the boy, “you just hate it. You want to feel things. You want to feel everything. That’s why you came here, to see what you can get into. You’re nothing but a firefly, and he’s not giving you enough holes to breathe through.”

He’s got to be kidding, I thought to myself, Has he been spying on me?

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Noah.”

“Noah…would you help me?”

“Help you what?”

“Help me to feel things.”

Taking a drag from the cigarette, Noah pushed the smoke from his mouth, intently staring at me the entire time.

“What do you mean?” he asked suspiciously.

I rolled the sleeve of my sweatshirt up and stretched it out to him. He took half a step back, but stayed. I pursed my lips for a moment.

“Hurt me.”

His brow furrowed.

“You crazy? I’m not going to hurt you!”

“Not even if I asked?”

“No.”

“If I begged?”

Noah looked at the ground, flicking ashes to the mulch. I could feel tears welling beneath my eyes, and a lump was growing in my throat. I was beginning to feel something. Want. But not the want I’d felt my entire life. No. This was stronger. This must be what people called longing. It felt terrible, but I was loving every moment of it.

“Please,” I said, “I won’t hold it against you. Just pretend I’m a wall. Please…I want to know what it feels like.”

Noah stared at me for a long moment, and I bit my lip. He looked at me as though he understood everything. That felt nice. The feeling of understanding. He approached me, and took my hand in his. He began to squeeze it.

“I don’t feel anything,” I said, “squeeze harder.”

He did, but it still felt like he was holding my hand.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said, “I’ll take it. Think of something that makes you angry. Take it out on me.”

Noah looked down, his face furrowing even more. For a second it became red. His hand swiped across my face. The stinging sensation was painful and wonderful. So this was pain. I cupped my hand over the cheek he slapped. It felt hot and tingled. A tear escaped my eyes, and I cried out a wail through the pain. The sound was magical.

“I’m sorry,” said Noah quickly as he stepped back.

“Thank you.”

“No, no. This isn’t right. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“No!” I pleaded, “It’s alright. You don’t know how good that felt to me! Hit me harder.”

“No.”

“Noah-”

“NO!”

I stood up and took hold of his shoulders. He’d opened a window for me that had been nailed shut for years. What would Mama say if she were here? Would she be proud that I had finally freed myself?

My heart was pounding out of my chest, my lip quivering. It was all so overwhelming for me. Noah continued to look at me apologetically. Leaning in, I brought me lips to his. My body felt as though it had been zapped by lightning. Noah looked at me in wide eyed horror when I pulled back.

He took a deep breathe. Slowly, he lifted his hand and place it on my left breast. I shivered, my breathe growing shorter. I didn’t want him to ever stop.

“You’re right,” I said, “I’m just a firefly. Thank you! Thank you!”

Suddenly, he jumped back. The understanding in his eyes had gone away. They were cold and distant. Confused, and rigid.

“You’re sick,” said Noah, “Get help.”

He waved his hand towards me in dismissal and ran away. I’d probably never see him again, but the five moments I’d shared with him on this playground was enough.

When I returned home, I found my father standing on the porch with his arms crossed. His face red, his brow twisted into a worried expression.

“Delia!” he shouted, “Where were you?”

“I went for a walk,” I said shakily.

“You’ve been crying. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

He took me into his arms and held me tightly. His grip was smoldering.

“I was so afraid,” he said, “don’t ever do that to me again! You hear me? Don’t ever do that again! Now go upstairs and get ready for bed.”

He was afraid? So he felt something as well. And he didn’t like it? Who wouldn’t love feeling these wonderful things? I felt alive for the first time, like a brand new candle being lit. And he was dousing the flame I’d tried so hard to ignite. No. He wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t let him.

Blood rushed to my face, feeling even hotter than when Noah had struck me. My heart was pounding, but it wasn’t the light pounding I had felt earlier. This pounding was much deeper, much heavier. Was I feeling anger?

I pushed my father away.

“No!”

“What?”

“No!” I said, “I won’t go to bed. All you want to do is smother me and keep me your little girl forever! You want to keep me in your house like some fake tree! But that won’t happen!”

“Delia,” my father began comfortingly, “what’s gotten into you?”

“Don’t say my name like that!” I said angrily, “Don’t call me anything! Just leave me alone!”

I pulled my sweatshirt off and through it to the ground. He looked shocked as the heavy cotton fabric landed on his feet.

“You’ll feel better after rest,” he whispered, “you’re just tired. You’ll be my little girl in the morning.”

“No, I’m not your little girl!” I shouted, “Let me grow up!”

Turning, I bolted up to my room and slammed the door. I wouldn’t feel better after rest. This wasn’t going to be passed over.

Finally, I had beat patience. Both in French and English. I had Noah to thank for it. I’ll find him someday and thank him. Though he saw it all as wrong, I knew it was right.

It could be worse. Noah could have really hurt me. Or killed me. An hour ago I would not have minded. Now I was thankful I had lived the experience lightly. I had been stupid to take action before actually speaking to my father. However, through this I now learned a new emotion; hope.

I didn’t mean to hurt my father’s feelings. I just meant to get the message to him. I’ll speak to him in the morning, and we’ll get this straightened out. But I wasn’t going to be treated like a baby anymore. He was going to give in, come what may. He’d just have to patient with it. It was his turn to have patience.

Patience. Patience. Such a laughable word to say!





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback