When I was 16…

Or, Memories of My 17th Year.

I was in Lower Six studying Biology, Physics, and Maths1 at Queen’s College, Guyana, and for reasons unknown, I found the Krebs Cycle fascinating.

My friends and I hung out in the Bio lab because the teacher was fun. There was a non-poisonous snake that someone found and brought to the lab, I don’t remember if we named it, but I do remember the boys trying to stuff the snake down the girls’ shirts2.

Before classes, my friends and I would help each other with homework, and play games – mostly chess. I also was a part of the Library Club, just in case you doubted I was a geek. I was a Prefect3 assigned to a Form One class, where most of the responsibilities included helping the Form Mistress and making sure the class behaved – with the added benefit of being called “Miss” by the lowerclassmen.

Around this time we finally got hooked up to the internet at home – it was a dial up modem. I wasn’t allowed to go on until after homework, but I figured out how to mute the sound of the dial-up and snuck on a few times4.

ICQ was the thing to use. Even if it wasn’t the thing to use I’d probably have still used it because I liked that they had such a smart acronym5. I used it to chat with my friends at school – and random chats.

One of those randoms was a guy from India who couldn’t believe I was a 16-year-old girl because I didn’t talk about things like “hanging out at the mall” or “teen magazines”.  He sent me an eCard from 123greetings with the Backstreet Boys “Quit Playing Games” midi in the background. I don’t remember the content of the card, but I don’t believe I ever chatted with him again after that6.

I loved the song Lately by Divine and secretly loved Hanson’s MMMBop. I still liked JTT and Devon Sawa, and still watched things like Saved by the Bell, Sister Sister, Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters.

My love for books started at a young age, I was still a huge Famous Five fan and loved Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys novels – especially the combos. I read my first real romance novel that a friend from school let me borrow. It was more historical than the contemporary type, but I decided that I preferred mysteries. Around this time I read my first YA novel, written in the first person7. Of course, I don’t remember the name of the book; there was no Goodreads back then.

I would often practise playing the keyboard. I believe I also started playing the guitar, mostly because a keyboard wasn’t portable and for some reason I pictured myself needing an instrument that I could take on the road with me.

This was a transition year for me. My family had started the process of migrating to the United States, and I knew that it was my last school year (so I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have) before moving. It was strange, still going to school but knowing that I would never graduate with the friends that I had, some of them since I was 11 years old.

I could go on, surprisingly I remember a lot from this year of my life, but I’ll finish this here. Exit; pursued by a bear.

———-

1 I think I also took English, but I can’t remember my English classes, so I’m going to assume I studied those three subject.

2 Of course, at the time, it wasn’t funny, especially to someone who is afraid of snakes. However, looking back at the memory now, I never felt threatened by the boys, they weren’t malicious, just teasing and being, well, boys.

3 Probationary, as Upper-Sixers were usually the full-fledged prefects.

4 Sorry, dad!

5 “I seek you” – just in case you didn’t get it.

6 What he didn’t realise was, I was into pop culture, but wasn’t interested in chatting with someone across the world about something that “everyone” talks about, I was more interested in what life was like in India.

7 The book was on my shelf for a while, but I couldn’t get into the first-person writing style the first time around, I enjoyed it the second time around.

~*~

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And then I spilled the soup …

I stood there and watched as the bowl tumbled out of my hands, almost in slow motion. If I had a super power, stopping time would have been rather useful at that moment.

Total cooking time? Thirty minutes. This included five minutes of cutting carrots and opening a can or two. And twenty minutes of watching and stirring when necessary. Thirty minutes of work was lying on the floor before me, dripping down the sides of the fridge.

“Oh no.” The words escaped my lips unbidden. I stood for a second more, wondering what the appropriate reaction was for spilling one’s lunch all over one’s refrigerator and knowing that the someone who had to clean it up at 10pm was oneself.

One second more, perhaps if I close my eyes and open them again I would find that this was all an elaborate dream. Nope; still there. So I resigned myself to spending the next thirty minutes undoing what was unexpectedly done.

I studied the splatter pattern of barley soup dropped from a height of 4 feet to the ground and wondered what this taught me. Close the lid properly next time.

I became a contortionist as I tried to get under the trays*, I picked up grains of barley, carrots, corn, beans and peas. My tired mind brought me back a story from younger days of a spirit that would come into houses to suck the blood of babies**. The story goes that you could distract it by scattering rice in the house and you’d find it counting the rice in the morning, because it wouldn’t be able to hold it in its hand. Was the barley multiplying? Where was all this grain coming from? I’m pretty sure I only made enough for two days.

Then I wondered if the appropriate reaction was crying in frustration. But I reminded myself that crying over spilt soup never changed the state of the soup and kept on cleaning.

So there I was, at 10:20 wondering if I should blog about this experience. And here I am at 10:55  wondering if the words in this post can count towards my word count.

Don’t be surprised if my heroine spills her soup.


* Before you remind me that I could take the trays out, I should point out that the way the door opens stops the trays from pulling out the entire way.

** Not to be mistaken with Edward Cullen.

~*~

From The Diary of the Mother of the Woman With the Issue of Blood

Another exercise from the weekend. I really enjoyed this one, it was a stretch of the imagination. I will have to do it again! 


My missing daughter came home today, she looked shell-shocked. She went to her room, took all her things down to the river and began to wash them. I didn’t know where she came from, she was gone before I got up – which in itself was very unusual.

I followed her down to the river, “Where have you been?” I asked, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice.

Her head turned towards me and she blinked slowly, like she was waking from a dream. “I went to see the teacher, Ima. He…” she stopped here, looked down at her hands through the water, and finished in a whisper, “I am healed.”

I had watched my daughter go from village to village, seeking out anyone who could help her; this wasn’t a new thing. I had to bite down the frustration that threatened to come spilling out; the tears that wanted to choke me as I thought about the times she would return, her strength leached out of her, the sickness making her pale as a ghost.

Twelve years I watched her sink deeper and deeper into despair, branded as unclean by everyone – alone. Twelve years of pleading with her to stop wasting her money on phony healers. Yet there she stood, telling me that she was healed, and all I could think of was, here we go yet again.

I braced myself and asked the question, “When you say you were healed, what do you mean?” Continue reading