On Stories, and the Writing of Them — Part II.

This is a continuation of this story from the other day. Click on the link to read Part I if you’re just joining me: 

II. Numbness

Mama had promised hot chocolate. The good kind, liquid and sweet, milky, with foamy swirls on the top and whipped cream in a bowl on the side. It was a reward, for being brave at the dentist. Ellie thought it was silly, the idea that it took being brave to sit in a chair and get a shot in your lip and feel it go tingly and to let the dentist pull out four small teeth with pliers one-by-one, to let him line them up like pebbles on a metal tray. Sitting didn’t feel particularly brave, and once the tingling gave way to numbness the pulling didn’t hurt at all. With her eyes closed it mostly felt like she was taking a big, extended yawn with her eyes scrunched shut. Still, Mama assured her that the sitting took lots of courage, and smiled Ellie’s favorite smile – the one the made her wrinkle her nose – and grabbed her hand and told her it would be alright if she missed class just this once for a special, chocolatey reward.

Ellie couldn’t help but push her tongue repeatedly against her lips as they walked towards the bus station. They felt funny in their unfeeling, like two slugs attached to her face, wiggly and slimy and somewhat gelatinous. Mama and the dentist told her the hot chocolate would fix it, but Ellie wasn’t sure that hot chocolate was a proper cure for slug-face syndrome. Regardless, they were going to get it, the American kind, and the thought of sugary sweetness this early in the morning made her swing the hang joined with Mama’s and skip just a little, even if 8 was absolutely too old for swinging and skipping.

The giddy anticipation wouldn’t leave though, and Ellie kept their hands in motion as they stood at the bus stop, Mama’s coppery hair in stark relief against the many black heads and the few blonde ones and even Ellie’s ashy brown. Eventually the bus appeared, dusty and belching exhaust, and Ellie let Mama tug her into the space behind the door that let them wedge together, Ellie’s backpack pressed up against Mama’s chest.

Ellie liked São Paulo well enough, but she missed Washington’s Metro trains, the way they rocked and jerked and swayed. In Washington, when people saw her on the train they would get up and smile at her and let her sit down on a chipped plastic seat, but in Brazil the seats were wooden and rickety and there were always so many people that practically no one sat down anyway. Mama tells her that in Turkey it was worse, but Ellie was so little when they lived there that she barely remembers it, anyway. Sometimes she has dreams where she smells spices and sees tents with bolts of colorful cloth and hears people shout strange, guttural words, but she’s never quite sure if they’re dreams or memories and she likes to pretend she doesn’t remember anyway, since then Mama tells her all sorts of stories about Istanbul and the Grand Bazaar.

When they get to their stop Ellie bounds out of the bus in a crush of people, feels Mama tug gently at her backpack, a reminder to slow down, and she hops a bit in place to let Mama’s body catch up to her hand. She starts walking towards the embassy, but Mama tugs her again, and she switches directions, embarrassed. Usually they come on Fridays to have lunch with Daddy, and it is a Friday, but it isn’t lunch time and Daddy isn’t here anyway, is off in New York on a business trip. Last time he went to New York he brought her back a whole cheesecake and a dress and a stuffed bear in a shirt, and Mama told him he was spoiling her, and to not bring back so many presents again. When he left on Tuesday, though, he’d promised her in a loud whisper that he’d bring her a cheesecake and a dress and maybe another bear too and then he’d walked out to the black car, and waved at her the whole way down the drive.

Daddy might not be here, but Uncle Scott is, and Ellie wants to see him. Unfortunately, Uncle Scott is even busier than usual when Daddy is out of town, according to Mama, so seeing him is out of the question. Ellie has never been quite sure how a person can be inside or outside of a question, really, but she knows enough by now not to ask Mama about it. Grownups never quite understand those sorts of questions, and she doesn’t like the tinkly laugh Mama lets out when she asks them, anyway.

So Ellie sighs and skips and lets Mama take her hand and guide her towards the cafe, a big tourist destination in the center of the square. Usually tourist is something of a dirty word in their house. When someone says it on the news or a family member wants to visit and have the full tourist experience Daddy scoffs and Mama smirks and Ellie scoffs and smirks too, because if Mama and Papa think tourists are silly then they most probably are. Sometimes, though, Mama has a hankering for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or Daddy really wants a hamburger or Ellie begs for the kind of cocoa you drink, not the kind that sticks to your spoon, and when that happens they head to the chocolate cafe (Ellie’s name for it, since clearly the hot chocolate is the most important thing). The cafe serves all sorts of things besides chocolate, but mostly the sorts of things that are geared towards people who are not from Brazil.

Ellie know this is a very special Friday adventure, so she tries not to skip too fast or fidget too much or do anything that could make Mama turn right back around and go home, young lady, which is something that happens more often than she’d like to admit. Thankfully, Mama just laughs a little at her excitement, and lets her tell the hostess in Portuguese that they’d like a table for two, please.

To be continued.


Day 14: January 14, 2017


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