by Anne Moore
So, you might be wondering to yourself: Where has Anne gone? What is she up to? My life is so empty without this intermittently updated blog, what will I doooooo?
Have no fear. Motivated by the incredible work of 826 Boston, I’m starting on another posting pledge! So, for the next month, I’m posting here at least once a week with excerpts from what I’m currently working on (some kind of long-form autobiographicalish thing–the unholy child of a memoir and a novel?). In honor of the teenagers who provide the creative energy to 826 Boston, I’m focusing most of what I’ll be posting (at least four short entries, maybe more) on my own teenaged exploits. So get ready for flat, cold landscapes, because it’s about to be the 90s in Minnesota, baby. This is the period in my life when I first started to understand myself as a writer, and when I first understood that writing might save me. So please, give to 826 Boston, and help awesome teenagers find a way to write themselves through all that angst. Here goes.
“Are you sure they’re asleep?”
“I’m sure. It’s after midnight–they’ve been out for hours.”
Kate and I steal down the stairs, careful not to make too much noise. The carpet in the upstairs hall is good for muffling sound, but the stairs are unreliable, and I don’t know what excuse we could possibly come up with for being in sweatshirts and jeans, carrying our backpacks at 12:30 on a summer night.
The trickiest part is disarming the house alarm before we leave. There’s a telltale beep that sounds on every console, including the one in my parents’ room. We’ve done this loads of times before, so I’m confident we won’t get busted—but not that confident, I guess, since I can feel my heart starting to beat faster already. My mom is always bemoaning her light sleep, the problem must happen closer to dawn than sundown, because this time–between 11:30 and 1AM—is the sweet spot for sneaking out. I’m not worried about my dad waking up on his own–once he quit drinking he stopped snoring like he used to, but he’s still a little deaf, from artillery training, he says. If my mom woke up, though, she’d wake him, and then things would get serious.
We pause for a moment after I enter the code, breath in our throats for an extended beat while we make sure we’re in the clear. How is it that this is both the best and the worst part? I can feel my heart beating in my ears as I wait for thunder of his footsteps down the stairs. What would I do if he found us? Run? Lie? None of these options seem possible, but that just moves the act itself into the realm of the impossible–like we’re superheroes or dragons or something, untouched by human law.
I open the door and am struck by a wave of cool air. It’s May, and my brother will be home from college in a week or so, but the Minnesota winter seems determined to remind us all for as long as possible who’s really in charge here. The first year we lived here, my mother was dumbstruck when it snowed in October, and when it was 19 below on Christmas Day, she became irate. “Why did settlers even stop here? Why would you live somewhere where going outside would kill you?” In the fancy neighborhood in Dallas where she grew up and where her brother was slowly amassing his real estate empire from a house just blocks from her parents, there are horse-drawn carriages that bring people around to look at the Christmas lights. If they tried something like that here, she grimly reminded us the day that school was cancelled because it was “dangerously cold,” the horses would freeze to death before they got to the end of the block.
Kate and I step out into the chill and I quietly shut the door behind us and race up the street. To get to Cub Foods, we walk to the end of our street, head up the brutal hill on Sparrow Road that I still can’t conquer on my bike, and along the frontage road. If it weren’t so swampy behind our house, we could just cut through, but our whole development seems to have been built on a landfill; during the three weeks in April when everything suddenly comes alive again every year, cracks invariably snake through our basement and water seeps up through the floor.
I run down to the end of our block, but I’m out of breath before I get too far, and I stop and wait for Kate to catch up. Since we can be certain we have the streets to ourselves, her stride seems self-assured and easy. Daytime is a whole different story–she’s almost furtive when we’re walking to the bus, wary that Meagan Ward or Stephanie Olson from down the road might come out from behind a tree and ask her where she was able to find jeans that would fit such a fat ass. Or something like that. I’d like to say that I defend her–and maybe I do, some, just by being there as a witness, but I never explicitly step in, except to walk faster and tell her to come on or we’ll be late.
Once we get to the steep, brightly lit incline on Sparrow, there are fewer houses facing us and even a few cars speed by every now and then. We teach each other songs from our language-immersion summer camps (I go to Japanese camp, she to French), and by the time we get to the frontage road, we’ve moved on to the rousing Carly Simon song from Working Girl that is our favorite. I find Melanie Griffith’s transformation in that movie a bit baffling, since the bridge-and-tunnel hairstyle she ditches in her transition to power is the one that the richest, evilest girls at school wear with pride. But I find the idea of an instant and complete change of status intoxicating, as does Kate, judging from the intensity and feeling with which we echo Carly Simon’s call for “all the dreamers to wake the nations.”
After the desolation of the strip-mall parking lot, the blast of air that meets us when we walk through the door makes everything feel shiny and just-for-us. The fluorescent light gleams off the piles of cereal boxes and tuna fish, but Kate and I immediately make a beeline for the candy section. Grocery store candy is weird. You don’t have much selection for individual bars, but your only other choices are bags of a bunch of tiny candy bars–clearly meant for placement in a communal dish for a whole office, not to be hidden in the dusty, airless space behind your headboard. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and there’s no way we’d even be allowed in the section if Mom were here. She’s always steering us toward the Canfield’s diet chocolate cherry cola and nonfat yogurt. “I just want you girls to be happy,” she keeps telling me, “and I know that being so heavy is making your life harder.”
Kate and I are all business as we sort through our options. We can’t get more than we can realistically store, but it has to be enough to last until our next trip. I settle on a bag of mini Butterfingers, and Kate buys fun sized bags of Skittles. I already know how it will go–I’ll burn through my stash in a day or so, but Kate will successfully hoard hers for weeks, and I’ll have to find progressively more creative ways to get it from her–the most reliable one is to make her pay me in candy to play with her—which, miraculously, she always will.
We concoct elaborate role-playing games together: we’re roommates at boarding school, or wizards from the knockoff Tolkien series we’re both obsessed with. It’s a long negotiation to get started—I’m holding all the cards, and I know it, since our standard older/younger sibling dynamic is scaffolded by Kate’s unmentionable loneliness. Once the games begin, though, I lose track of time almost immediately, entirely bound up in this pocket universe we’ve created together—whether we’re bookish preppies or tormented mages, the evil little shitheads who chant “Chic-moose” at us on the bus every morning are gloriously absent.
We leave the sanctified nighttime brightness of the grocery store, and I dash across the parking lot toward home. “Wait up,” Kate yells. I slow down, but I don’t actually stop—she’ll catch up soon enough.