If You Only Knew - 16

Zuri

Wednesday found me once more on my way to prayer meeting. As usual, Zuri asked me how my day in school had been, what interesting new books I was reading, and how my cousin’s health was. We lapsed into silence after that, because it was obvious that I did not want to talk, and Zuri was one of those rare adults who didn’t take that personally. She left me alone with my thoughts and  cheerfully navigated the horrible inner-city traffic while blasting the classical music in her car.

I remember that day we were listening to Liszt. What had she told me about him? Oh, yes, he was the rock star of his day. Women swooned when he performed. He had groupies, too. I was rather indifferent to him.

“I love this part” she said to herself—or to me—and while I didn’t say anything, I fixed my eyes on her hands. She had a curious habit of slightly tapping her fingers while she drove as if trying to play the piano on the steering wheel. There they went to the rhythm of Hungarian Rhapsody. She had beautiful hands. Slender, with tapered fingers, and pink nails. A pianist’s hands. A healer’s hands. Surely they would be incapable of harming others….

I struggled to tear my eyes from them, “Zuri, I have a question.”

“Sure, what is it?” She said, and turned down the volume

“Remember Monday, you gave me something for my stomach?”

“Of course!” she smiled wryly at me, “Who could forget that?”

“Well…what was that thing you gave me? Those bitter leaves?”

“Oh, you mean the absinthe wormwood?”

“Yeah!… I mean, does it have side-effects?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like…” I began to feel really stupid, and there was no way to ask the question without divulging things “I don’t even know. Never mind.”

“No. Tell me.”

I struggled to put my query into words, “Well. I had a very strange dream that night. A very strange dream.”

“A nightmare?”

I thought about it. No. It had not been a nightmare. I had woken up in tears, but I’d not had a nightmare.

“It was strange dream, and it felt very real…it wouldn’t happen to have been because of the…the”

“The wormwood? No. I’ve never heard that type of side effects”

“Oh.” I felt disappointed.

“What did you dream?”

I did not answer immediately. I waited until we exited the freeway, drove up the avenue that led to the church, and parked. I waited for Zuri to turn off the ignition, and only then did I dare speak the unspeakable.

“Grandma. I dreamt of Grandma. I don’t remember the details, only the feeling that we were together again.” I took a deep breath, feeling like I wanted to cry, or be sick, or both. But I composed myself when I remembered her hands. Healer’s hands that were now blurry through my vision.

“Zuri, can you tell me if I’m gonna die?”

– – –

part 16 of If You Only Knew

Friends Again

I pounced on him mercilessly the next day, “Terry, where is that book about dreams that you showed me—the one with the pictures of constellations in the front?”

He looked at me blankly, holding the bar code scanner in his hand and a dog-eared paperback copy of A Child Called “It” on the other,“Uh?”

I sighed exasperatedly and reached for the computer to search in the database, “Dreams, soul, destiny….something like that. Remember?”

His eyes cleared, “Oh! The one about the occult?”

“The occult?” I was immediately turned off, which was a first because I’d always been indiscriminate about my reading material. “Hm…Never mind.” I continued searching the catalog and wondered out loud, if there was another similar book on the same subject.

“Why? What do you need it for?”

I was about plunge into a vivid recount of a bizarre dream I’d had last night when I became acutely aware of him standing next to my stool, looking down at my screen—ready to help me find that book, no doubt. He leaned closer towards the computer to type when his arm brushed mine. That did it. I felt myself blushing. Oh, I was mortified–and furious at myself too. “It’s OK. I don’t need it anymore,” I said and abruptly ended the conversation by going away.

– – –

Terry found me sitting by the vending machines in the library’s food court a while later. I was wolfing down some mess of leftover lasagna during my short break from tutoring, and he had me cornered because I wasn’t going anywhere without finishing my dinner first—cold or messy my lasagna may have been, but it was delicious, and I was famished.

“How you doing?”

“Same as always,” I replied taking a violent bite out of a piece of my garlic bread. I was determined to be nice, but without knowing how to do it without embarrassing myself. I figured that keeping to short, terse, phrases was the best way to go.

Terry said nothing and returned his attention to the vending machine. He bought a coke, a cold sandwich, and Doritos. He  took a seat in front of me and offered me some deliciousness-covered nacho chips.

I looked down at the wholesome contents of the red bag, and was suddenly struck with a though that made me smile.

“No thank you,” I said, but somehow it felt just a bit less stiff. I suppose it was because I was tickled by the role reversal that was taking place. I wondered if Terry had caught on too. Daring a peek at his face, I saw that he was also smiling with me at the thought of that day in fifth grade. We both laughed a little.

“Why did you always want to trade your lunch with me—way back then?” He asked.

I returned my attention to my lasagna,“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, come on. Tanya. Those were the best turkey sandwiches I’ve ever eaten outside of Bob’s Sandwiches. I never knew why you did it. You never told me.”

“You never seemed to need an explanation. You always seemed eager to trade with me.”

“Yeah, but the first time I expected to drop dead or something—or end up with diarrhea.”

“Oh come on!”

“I’m serious! No one else bothered to approach me back then.”

“Well…” I looked at him, this time without feeling embarrassed. He sat there smiling at me like before, always interested in what I had to say, always kind. Here was a chance—a small God-sent chance—to fix what had gone wrong between me and my only friend in the world. I wondered if it was a late answer to a prayer I made, or if it was Zuri’s prayers on my behalf at work.

No matter. To me it was nothing short of a miracle, and you don’t let miracles pass you by just like that. So, as I was done with my lasagna and I had several more minutes left, I began. “Ok, I’ll tell you. But don’t get angry—you promise?”

“Hmm….” He made a pretense of thinking, “Alright”

“Alright then.” I put my elbows on the table and clasped my hands at the level of my chin, “It began the day I discovered—or thought I discovered—evidence that Mara had been abducted by aliens…”

 

part 16.1 of If You Only Knew