The air was sticky on her lips, tasting faintly of last night’s shortbread cookies and chamomile tea. She sat in the living room, her never-ending project since the day she moved into her Upper East Side apartment 67 years ago. She would tinker with the clocks on the mantle, crotchet throw pillows for the never-slept-on futon, and constantly purchase paintings, usually in pastels, to hang, along with the rest of her collection, on her cluttered walls. The chair she perched quietly on was an old leather chair (her mom’s) so worn out that the brown was almost beaten out of it. The room had betrayed her over the years; maroon paint chipped off of the walls that hugged tightly around her, the wooden floorboards creaked with the air that circled from the old dizzy ceiling fan, and the oriental rug from her trip to India unwound around her ankles. This was her favorite room.
The other rooms didn’t feel the same as this one did. The kitchen was too cold—the tiles too slippery, the table too naked, adorned with only a few flowers in a plastic cup. Her bedroom was too white—her bed too lonely and lopsided from her body (the only body) sleeping on the right side only, leaving the corner of the left side blanket folded down, just in case. This is why she decided to wait for him in the living room.
In her leather chair, she cradled two knitting needles in the palms of her pudgy hands. Her calloused fingers, overworked from rewashing dishes and needle pricks, worked the yarn into a scarf of navy blue. She was knitting the scarf for him; she remembered that navy blue was his favorite color. She also remembered that his favorite book was Catcher in the Rye, although that was a long time ago and things might have changed. He told her that when her hair was still brown, the color of roasted chestnuts or the bark of an oak tree, but now it had ghosted into straggly locks of grey. When her skin was smooth, he sang along to Bob Dylan and did his best Elvis impression for her dinner guests, but now the flesh underneath her eyelids have sagged into purple bags, her arms dripped down against her sides, and her mouth, once always tipped into a smile, melted to a permanent frown. The scarf, she thought, would remind him that she remembered. After all this time.
The last time she saw him, he towered over her in a giddy haze of a youthful growth spurt. His hair was brown like hers, but unlike her shoulders, which arched around her neck and curved her spine out, his were sharp and straight and powerful. She remembered when he would smoke cigarettes and catch Junior Mints in his mouth with his friends in Central Park. She remembered the leather jackets and hair gel, and the nights where he fell through the door and sprawled out in her living room, on her oriental rug, and fell into a drunken sleep. She would brew herself a cup of tea and, careful not to step on him, would walk back into her bedroom to finish the crossword puzzle.
She had shrunken since the last time she saw him. She used to be tall, 5’7” and lanky, but now she couldn’t reach the top shelf of her bookcase. She didn’t move much either, only to get the New York Times at the end of her hallway and to her closet for her molting lavender sweater. She used to wear makeup when he was around, too. Her face would be painted pale, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes brightened to a desert-sky blue. Now she didn’t bother, she didn’t leave the house much anyways and no one came to visit her. That day, however, she smeared a berry colored lipstick on her receding lips because he used to tell her that berry colored lipstick made her look good. She wanted to show him that she remembered.
She used to take him down to the shore, when the summers got old and the city became steamy. He would dive through the waves and she would sit on the sand and wave to him when he would occasionally look up to see if she was still there. She always was. Then the summers passed when he wouldn’t want to go to the shore, and she would sit alone in her living room, the ceiling fan whirling over her head, and she would knit him sweaters for the winter orbiting near. Then came the summers when he wasn’t there at all, and she sat in the living room with nothing to knit.
The navy blue scarf was just finished when the buzzer to her apartment rang. She folded it into a neat pile and carefully set it down on the old leather chair. She readjusted the clocks on her mantle, propped up the throw pillows on the futon, and straightened the paintings on her walls. She put water on the stove for her afternoon tea, placed some leftover cookies on a plate, and put her crossword under the coffee table. Smoothing down her lavender sweater, pieces of wool falling to the creaky floor, she took a deep breath and opened the door. “Hello, Mom” he said, and he greeted the living room, her favorite room, as an old friend.
Age 15, Grade 10
Saint Ann’s School