Renaissance

March 3, 2009
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An untainted feather drifts down from the winter sky. So distant, it waltzes gracefully, the wind its accompanist. Soon, it is joined by others.
I curse under my breath.
No, not again.
Snow leaches in like venom from a snake. It rams against the trees and houses, sucking all the life and color dry. Like a wolf, the monochrome frost launches it's fangs into my brain.
God, please help me. I can't do this now. Please.
My eyes fade out. I'm trapped in a whirlwind, forced to relive that departure from 12 years ago.



The blizzard outside was growing, and icy snow caked the roads.
'So you're gonna go live with that hermit on the street, right?' A cruel smirk swept across his face, his voice in a tone flooded with mockery, disbelieve, and ridicule.

She ignored him.

He scrunched his forehead, slightly disappointed, realizing she wasn't joking around. He stood up abruptly. She flinched, and gathered herself together after stepping 2 feet backwards.

'C'mon. At least give me a reason why you're gonna go.' His voice had switched tones, trying to bait her in with soft, droning reasoning. He walked over to her. His hands reached out to stroke her cheek, but she dodged them, her suitcase wheels making an abrupt twist on the unpolished wood floor.

'Fine. Leave. Go ahead, I don't mind.' He tried to appear decisive, leaning on the wall, thinking of a last resort to stop her. His gaze turned to the 3 year-old me. 'But the kid, well, his fate won't be as free-spirited as yours.' His reasoning tone evaporated.

Her eyes, regretful and pleading, settled on me, and she seemed to stop for a doubting second. Then, slowly and unsurely, she turned around and sauntered out the door. I grasped my last glimpse of her. Long, unruly brunette hair pouring down her back. Her hands stained pale white. Shiny leather boots. Extended winter coat. Slender shadow. A footstep. A gush of snowy wind. A door slam. And gone. Not even footprints to prove her existence.



My hands reach out for something, anything, and they pull back empty-handed.

Did she ever care for me? Did she cry when she left? Did she ever stop to stare at the sky, see my face on a cloud, and remember she used to have a son?
'M'' My tongue winces as it struggles to hike over the sharp mountainous syllable. Nothing comes out.
I hesitate, wondering if I should. The whole thing's over. Leave it behind you. Where it belongs. My conscience fights my hand, trying to stop it from doing something foolish again.
My conscience loses. I bend over, rummaging under my bed, snatching my whistles.
2 feet to the right and 18 inches inwards. Precisely there.
I sigh. The only crap my'that woman ever gave me: 3 whistles and a post-it note, labeled with a 'FOR KID'.
I fiddle with them. 1. 2. I have 2 whistles to hold on to. 2 whistles to keep myself together.
The 3rd one went on my dead father's neck. That fiend. The devil that taught me silence. The demon that named me Hush. What a coward. Only cowards run away from life.

Still, if that coward hadn't run away from life, I wouldn't have met Laneisha.
Oh, Laneisha. My new guardian. The one that taught me how to speak. The one that taught me how to dream. To make friends. To learn. To love. Her steamy hot chocolate. Her itchy Christmas sweaters. Her up-tempo 90s albums. Her nose. Her kisses. Her smile.
Hey you, you don't deserve that.
You don't deserve that'the same words screamed more than 8 years ago.


'What did you say? You don't open your mouth in my house. YOU DON'T DESERVE THAT. You know why she left? 'Cause you were born. It was all you. She saw your repulsive face and decided to leave. She couldn't wait to leave. You're the reason she's gone. You're the reason I'm like this. You see this room around you? You don't deserve any of it. Next time the police come to talk to me, you're out of this world faster than your mother left, you hear me?' His knife edged against my neck. I didn't dare to swallow. I only nodded.


You don't deserve that'
He's right. I don't deserve any of this. Not this room. Not this life. Not Laneisha. So what do you deserve? I dangle the whistles high. Love or hate? Nausea floods through my throat.
I thought I was over this. I thought I didn't have a problem any more. I thought Laneisha changed me.
Her syrupy voice seeps through my thoughts.


'Honey, you been through a lot haven't you? But don't worry. I'm your new guardian now. We ain't got a dad to spend the days with, so it's just gon' be you and me, right here, in this cozy apartment. Anyone give you a hard time, they take it up with me, hear that? People in New York can be a little judgmental.'
'''
'Oh, a silent one, I see. Don't worry, soon you'll find yourself full of words; these kinds of apartments do that to you. Squeeze ya real tight.' She had smiled, smiled a smile so kind and innocent, to a point where it was unreal.


I've come a long way since then. School. Friends. Life.
Still, the hole in my stomach seems to struggle a bit, reaching for air. I open the window. A chilling breeze flies into my room. Outside, a little kid holds hands with his mom and dad, swinging across the snowy street in his skis. How are Laneisha and I going to do that? I'm paler than the snow diving downwards. And her, her skin is darkened to a coffee-brown like the bark of the wrinkly trees outside, enduring the snow's beatings.
I'm better off alone.
'Good morning, hun.' Laneisha's voice travels from down the hallway. The floorboards moan as she strides through.
I clear my throat and think up something to say. I take a glance at the clock. 8:32 AM.
'I uh, I think I missed the bus,' I stutter. 'We should'you, drive me to school.' I shove the whistles into my jean pockets. She's the last one I need seeing these things.
'Well uh, I ain't even sure there is school today.' She's standing by my doorway already, holding a cup of steamy coffee, twirling her golden necklace around with her finger. 'I called Deborah, but she ain't pickin' up. Why don't we start driving anyways, just in case it turns out there is school. Plus, all this snow's really gonna slow us down.' Her eyes flicker at bit, as if trying to grasp onto something distant. She looks at me. 'This weather kinda reminds me of when I first met you.' She smiles sincerely, giving off a glow greater than the sun's rays. I know she's trying to find my smile too. I look away.
Laneisha, appearing slightly upset, opens her mouth to speak, but I turn around, push past her, and head out the doorway, fearing further conversation. 'Let's go,' I mumble. As far as I know, Laneisha knows nothing about my past, only that she wanted a kid and the people sent me to her. Plus, she's never asked me about anything.
I step into my sneakers and open the house door. Huge plumes of snow fall from the grayed out sky. Sirens echo through the streets. Just like they did 9 winters ago.


'Is this'Hush Tucker?' The policeman stared at the name on the wrinkly paper in confusion.
I nodded.
He held out a glossy photograph of a man, face bruised, eyes closed, hair ruffled. 'Is this your father?'
I squinted, slightly blinded by the flashing lights coming from the officer's car.
Say no. Say no. Say no.
I nodded.
'I'm sorry to tell you this'Hush, but'' He paused to look at me. 'Your father's corpse was found in Charracs Lake earlier around 6:18 PM. We're assuming it was suicide. We also found evidence of alcohol consumption before the time of death. We're incredibly sorry.'
So he got what he deserved.
'Hush, we need you to come downtown with us and find you a new guardian. Leave everything you have behind for now. We'll send people over to get it later. So, tell me. Any relatives?'
I threw on my hood, and we started to make our way down the front steps, our voices muffled by our stifling scarves and the battering winter snow.


The sirens have disappeared, dispersing into the distance.
I don't wait for her. I hurl on my light jacket and I'm out the door, into the chilly quilt of snow. I feel the feathers of white blanket me. I feel the ice sheathing around my heart.



'Is there something wrong?'
I ignore her.
'Look, baby,' Laneisha starts, a frown spreading across her wrinkly face. 'I know you don't like to talk 'bout this stuff, but we gotta. Tell me, what happened? You know nothin' gets past me.' Her face is solemn.
I gaze out the car window, searching for something to say among the unclothed trees. Should I'should I tell her? No. Say nothing. No one can know.
I remain silent.
'Honey, you know you can come to me 'bout anythin', right? If there be anythin' that's bothering'you, you just say it, I can understand. You gotta know that''
I tune out. Her syrupy voice no longer rings sweet: a watery solution washes in one ear and out the other. Guilt, that constant familiar feeling, tickles me, but I shake it off. I know I'm in debt to Laneisha, but that doesn't mean that I have to dedicate my life to listening and satisfying her.
The roads are icier than ever. Snow is piled high, and the color white interrogates everything ' there is no escape.
'You hear me, Renais?'
God, please help me.
That name, like screeching fingernails on a chalkboard. The name she recited so much. The dreadful title she had dropped upon me when I became her 'property'. Renais.
I'm drifting back 9 years, into her old Toyota.


The car's heater buzzed louder than a construction site. Laneisha's hair was in her old curly bun and her voice was honeyed thicker than ever.
'No one, not even the evil, deserves that depressin' name you got,' she declared. 'Hush? What the hell were they thinkin'? It should be declared a crime, naming an innocent child something so lousy and downhearted! But child, don' worry, 'cause I'ma rename you. I'm lookin' for somethin' sweet, but deep. Somethin' emancipating. I thought 'bout this for the longest time. How's 'bout Renais? Renais, like Renaissance, or rebirth. I like that. I'ma name you Renais.'
Renaissance. Rebirth. Renais.


Renais. I shudder.
Clouds of breath steadily fog the window, and my hearing's focused again.
'Renais,' she repeats. 'Do you hear me?'
Something smacks a reflex in my tongue. 'Could you stop calling me that f****** name? My name isn't Renais. I don't even know why you gave me that crappy clich' name in the first place.'
'Don't you be acting like this.' A flash of anger lights up in her voice. 'I named you 'cause I wanted to give you a second shot at life. I thought you liked the name. You been using it for 9 years. You ain't got no right to treat me this way, you hear? Who taught you to act like this?'
'Obviously not my parents, 'cause I don't have any.'
Her eyes turn watery.
Oh no. No. No. No. No. No. Tell her you didn't mean it. It's not what you wanted to say. Take it back. Don't do this to Laneisha. Apologize. Now.
A starved look stretches across her face. A face starved from love. Tears start to stream down her suddenly pale facade. 'So'so that'that's how you feel'' The honey is gone. Her eyes turn red, and all I can do is stare.
Make her stop. Wipe her tears. She's loved you for so long. So, so, so long.
My mouth is immobile. Desiccated sand seals my lungs.
She whimpers uncontrollably, her hands trembling on the steering wheel. 'Do'do you hate me? How long have you been feelin''are you lonely, empty?' Her shoulders start to tremble, her eyes avoiding mine.
'I ''
Suddenly, her hands fly off the steering wheel. An abrupt screech echoes and the car starts spinning. We're ricocheted around, the car gliding on the thick ice. Laneisha grasps the wheel again, swiveling it frantically, simultaneously tramping on the brakes. My hands grapple the seatbelt, planting myself against the seat. The car rejects any commands and the wheels pivot to the left, in the direction of an icy steep hill. It's too late to react.

God, help me.
A branch hammers into the side window, and shards of glass fly onto the seats. Gravity hauls us down. A tree pummels the car door, and the front window shatters. Something starts to fracture, the clank of metal loosening and escaping. Strapping hands wrap around me. Laneisha pulls herself over me, shielding me from the shards of glass. My center of gravity starts to modify itself, and the world is tipped on its head. The car flings over in complete turns down the steep hill. The roof dents into the car. Everything feels compressed, my shoulders losing energy.

Stop. Stop. Stop.
I seal my eyes shut. An earsplitting collision in the front of the car rams me backwards. Something thumps up against the inside of the car roof.
Suddenly everything decelerates, and the car arrives at a stop.
The wind flutters into the car through the hole in the front window, buffeting my face.
A cell phone somewhere screams its concluding rings, and then settles down.
Something icy stings my neck.
Then, dead silence.
I open my eyes, greeted by the intense burn of the winter sun. The car's not on fire. We're safe. My body is still pressed against the seat by Laneisha. Blood pours out of the back of her head, staining her hair a crimson red.
She saved me. She saved my life. Even after what I did to her.
The taste of guilt washes through my throat.
'Laneisha,' I whisper.
No response.
'Laneisha.' I hold her head, pressing it against my chest. Her face is blood-splattered, nose still bleeding. 'Please. Please. Please. I still need you.' I place my hand where her head is bleeding the most.
Her eyes open a sliver. 'You alright?' Her voice sounds whispery, scratchy, and messy, like the feel of a collage.
'Yeah.' I smile at her, the first time I've smiled today.
'Good. As long as you alright'' She forces out a smile weakly, and slowly, her eyes shut.
I find the words I've stumbled over for 11 years. They rush to my mouth, begging to be spoken. My lips curl outwards, preparing for the pronunciation of the first letter.
'Mom'' Each letter drags out in slow motion, rolling over my tongue. 'Mom'don't, please. I'I love you.' Hot tears empty out of my eyes, melting the snow piled on my face.
But it's too late. Her body is motionless, slouched over in the driver's seat.
The annoying phone buzzes and flashes, signaling a new voicemail. I flip it on.
'Hey girl, this is Deborah. I don' know why you ain't pickin' up, but I got yo' message, and there ain't school today. You really think New York City would be stupid enough to not cancel school durin' a blizzard? Anyhow, I'll catch up with you later. Have a '' I throw the cell phone into the snow.

I reach into my pocket for one of my whistles and drag it out. I place the string gently around Laneisha's pale neck, the whistle dangling next to her golden necklace.

I snuggle up next to her, wrapping my hands around her waist, settling my head on her shoulder. So this is what I deserve.

1 winter later'




Snow leaches in like venom from a snake. The snow batters down from the winter sky, consuming everything's color.
I clutch my last whistle as I silently walk up another set of unknown doorsteps. A tall man steps out to greet me with a forged smile.

'So, you must be Hush. Welcome to your new home.'





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