A Stroll in the Park

October 14, 2010
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This isn’t the first time it happened.

A thick pool of laughter bubbled up inside me like a shaken soda bottle overflowing with fizz, a smile sprawled cross my face like a toddler who received their favorite lolli-pop flavor, and my mind was a freshly scrubbed chalkboard wiped clean of thoughts. Eeek, err, eek, err! The sound of the rusty swings, screeching as I tapped my sister back and forth effortlessly, became the relaxing beat of my heart, the bursting pump in my veins, and the pant in my breath. I glanced over at Phoebe’s empty stare, her robotic eyes glaze right over my hopeful exchange. Curiously, I envisioned her awkward smile as a rag-doll with a malfunction in the stitching. Ironically, those odd features appeared so normal to me. Eeek, eer, eek, err! Suddenly, the thunderous shrieks of two young girls shook me off my steady beat of contentment, their snobby voices barging into the park like monsters planning their gruesome attack. My stomach dropped to the ground, my heart beat so fast blood overflowed my body, and I frantically searched for a place to hide Phoebe and I from the beasts. Come on, I mumbled to myself, they’re just young girls playing cheerfully at a public park. They won’t even notice us. Breathing heavily, I attempted to push Phoebe casually on the swing, but the familiar creaks transformed into whispers of threats. My confidence seeped out of me like a hot air balloon with a tiny hole, freeing all the tiny particles that held me up. At that moment, all I could do was cope with the slap of embarrassment that was winding up to knock me to the ground.
Phoebe, who eagerly squirmed off the swing, eyed the benches where the girls were. When Phoebe sees something she wants, whether its across a main highway of beeping and swerving cars or her doll that is inches out of her reach, she will stubbornly fight to get what she wants immediately. As she crossed the park, Phoebe was a dancing monkey flailing her arms uncontrollably into the air, her erratic seal-like shriek echoed throughout the park, her slimy drool oozed from her mouth and dribbled onto her clothes, her knotted hair was tangled wildly like an old witch who refused to comb her hair in years, her boisterous giggle slipped from between the large gap in her teeth, her neck was bent over her body like a hunch-backed man stooped over a cane, her nose was exposing out mounds of green toothpaste, her uncoordinated body caused her to limp sideways as her feet thrashed woodchips away in her path, the oblivious stare in her eyes shot through the ground, and her bony, beat up knees appeared as if they would snap in the next step she took.
It wasn’t the first time it happened.
To understand why Phoebe did this is like answering questions from God himself. Her teachers, who specialize on her severe problem, can’t get her to draw on the paper instead of the table, eat a quick meal without spreading her food across her face, or even to just slip her jacket on independently. Like a toddler, she is easily amused by a silly noise or a unique facial expression, but no matter how many times you plead her to do something correctly, your words go through one ear and out the other.

The villainous girls, who stuck to each other like soldiers shielding each other at battle, glared at Phoebe with their lazar eyes, studied her as if she were an undiscovered species, and then haughtily sprinted away toward the slide. Instantly, humiliation poured into my blood like a waterfall, it pierced my ears with a vehement roar, its blazing temperature burned my flesh down to the bone, the horrific fragrance poisoned the air, and the foul taste stained my tongue. That’s not my sister, that’s not my sister, that’s not my sister. All I could hear was the painful snickering drifting from the slide. All I could see was Phoebe’s forlorn, confused expression, her eyes scanning the park for any glimpse of movement to turn to. All I could feel was the girl’s eyes slicing deep into my skin, itching me to yell, “not mine!” There was not much to do but squeeze my eyes shut and pray to disappear.

Minute by minute, the time dragged along. In a twenty minute period, the cat and mouse chase between Phoebe and the girls continued, Phoebe tripped over her own feet twice causing her knee to leak out drops of blood, and the hideous laughter from those strange voices played back in my head over and over, like a horror movie stuck on replay. Every time she wandered back over to the slide where the girls whispered, a new panic set an alarm off within me, forcing me to shout, “Phoebe! Stay over here!” Although I called to her repeatedly, she was only a statue; her stare frozen on those girls, for her head didn’t flinch at the sound of my frustrated voice. After calling at least eleven times, I finally heave my rock solid legs up, creep skeptically out of my hiding place, drag my ten pound feet over to the slide, vigorously grab Phoebe by the wrist, mutter, “sorry” to the girls for all the interruptions, and trudge away silently. My body shivered as I craved to screw Phoebe’s head correctly into place, to hammer all the absence out of her and replace it with the strength of a teenage boy, enjoyment, alertness, common sense, popularity, intelligence, the curiosity of a scientist, the motive to learn, breathtaking beauty, expressiveness, patience like her wonderful teachers, cooperation, sophistication, imagination, and maturity. I yearned to be plucked right out of this park and wedged into a Disney Channel T.V. show, where my younger sister may only be vicious and rude, but those would be her deepest flaws. While my thoughts took me to a whole new realm, my real sister riotously shuffled back to the occupied slide. The girls retreated to the swings. I sighed painfully. I had the stress of an unorganized pre-school teacher, reeling kids in as they bolt in circles around me, ripping my hair out as they flee away. By the end of the day, I’d be bald.

“Why does she scream like that?” A voice sneered behind me, but it sounded as if they were shouting, “why can’t you control that wild thing?”
I spun around to face one of the monsters, shook off Phoebe’s slimy hand, and held my breath like a dragon ready to ferociously blast it’s insides out. I would like to say that I told that girl to mind her own business calmly, but I didn’t. I would like to say that I told her Phoebe was perfectly fine, she was just a young girl having a good time, but I didn’t. I would also like to say that I spend hours explaining to her that Phoebe wasn’t born like she should have been, and she didn’t adapt to the world at the same pace as everyone else, but I didn’t do that either. Not even a mere puff of smoke emerged from my trembling lips. While I was standing, dumfounded, in front of my enemy, I discovered that defending myself was impossible, and I was only a cowardly tangle of shame and fear.
“Uhh,” I hesitated, “what-what do you mean?”
“I just don’t understand why she screams so differently. It’s weird.”
Was she telling me that my own sister is different, as if I don’t already know? I know she’s just curious, she’s probably never seen someone like Phoebe. This girl has no intention of melting my body, drowning myself in my own sweat of embarrassment.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t the first time it happened.
“Like really weird,” the girl repeats slowly.
The interior shell of my body echoed as the acidic words pierced my soul, telling every vein in my body to stop pumping blood, ordering my lungs to reject that last breath, the last chance of hearing my own voice I tried to ignore those devious, unfamiliar eyes that continued to glare at Phoebe while waiting for my answer. Stop staring- just please stop staring. I beg you.
“Well, uh, its hard to explain. I guess its’ just…the way she is,” I mumbled shakily.
Hours of sheer, ice-cold silence passed by, the girl finally shrugged her shoulders casually, and swiftly skipped toward her companion.
Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty. Hopelessly, I felt like a lost sailor, tallying my endless days of suffering on a rotten piece of wood, until I heard a faint cry from the entrance of the park.
“Lucy! Phoebe! I’m sorry it took me so long, I got caught up at home…”
When I saw my mother step into the gate of the park, both relief and pure rage tore my body in two. The rage sunk into my red-hot skin, forcing me to think, how could you leave me here so long? But it was all over. Everything stopped. Relief sucked out my filthy piles of misery like a vacuum cleaner. My mother was the white flag, the surrender, and the closure of the battle. I foolishly hid behind the skinny rod of the flag, trying to turn my body in the best way to remain unnoticed. As I snuck over to the car, I peaked past Phoebe’s jubilant expression and down at the two monsters smiling while they rocked back and forth on the swings. Suddenly, my weightless feet became heavy cinder blocks of cement. Every step I took away from those screeching swings reminded me more and more that I was nothing greater than an oblivious, dancing monkey, lost in my own world with no one to turn to, and waiting for the snickers and taunting laughter to repeat. I still felt the soft movement of the swing yanking me backward and inching me forward, until the momentum finally died down to a stop.

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