Arielle Part 6

Laura got dirt roads. She wished there were more around, that this were one. She’d love to tear down a dirt road: field of shadows to the left, a veil of moonlight. But the best would be that humble crackle when a car slows on loose land. She turned down the music anyway.

“You don’t like that song?” said Delia.

“What? Oh, no. I wasn’t sure if it was too loud.”

Delia smiled and turned it back up. She needed her music loud, especially at night. Even this song. Arielle loves this song, and it’s so dumb. The words aren’t even trying. They probably wrote it in high school. Like, “what kind of movie would have this soundtrack?”

“What?” shouted Arielle.

Laura turned down the music and said, “What movie would have this soundtrack?”

“Ohh,” Arielle hummed. She loved these questions. She taught Delia this game; well, her dad taught them. He would ask them to title different parts of their life. She would have told him twelfth grade was “The Year of Blankets.” Tonight would be “A Very Special Episode.”

“That’s not a movie,” said Laura. “You’re supposed to pick a movie.”

“Shit, you’re right. Delia you go, and I’ll think.”

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Arielle Part 5

Delia leaned back to pinch the hem of Arielle’s dress. “Where’d you get this?”

“It’s nice, right?” said Arielle, turning back to Delia and brightening. “My mom got it for me.”

“Raquel picked this out? Damn. Since when can she shop?”

“I know,” beamed Arielle. “She didn’t even ask for help, she said.”

“She said,” said Delia.

“That’s what I said,” Arielle breathed. “Yeah, I got home, and it was just laying on my bed.”

“Ew, like how she’d lay out your clothes when you were little?”

“She did it for you too.”

Delia grabbed Arielle’s knee. “She got me a dress?”

Arielle laughed. “No, I mean she used to lay out your clothes too.”

“Oh. Only when I’d stay over long enough that she washed my clothes.”

“Which was a lot.”

Laura glanced back at Arielle through the rearview mirror. She had rolled down the window and was leaning her face into the wind. It was too dark for Laura to tell if her eyes were open. In side mirror, she saw Arielle had her hands out the window, holding her palms flat forward like she could slow them.

“It looks like space,” Laura said.

“Huh?” said Arielle. Delia had turned to Laura too, like she had missed something.

“Your dress. When we pass under the streetlights, the sequins flash like space. Like those pictures they show of what space looks like to an astronaut,” said Laura, lifting her chin as if to bounce the words back to Arielle.

“That stuff scares her,” Delia told Laura.

“What are you talking about?” asked Arielle, pulling her arms in.

“You don’t remember that Sandra Bullock movie and how scared you got?”

“At getting stuck in space. Not about being there in the first place.”

Delia wasn’t sure if Arielle’s lip had curled or the shadows were being weird or the tequila. “Yeah, but if you go to space, you have a chance of being lost out there,” she said.

“That’s not the same. Who do you know’s gotten stuck in space?”

“No one knows. The government won’t tell us,” said Laura and laughed and Arielle and Delia laughed too.

Arielle Part 4

Going wasn’t where she wanted to be right now. She had decided, once she had learned she could bottle life for later, to figure out why this place would become where she was from.

She had seen people talk about the place where someone was from. How it made them who they were. How unlikely it was, but how fortunate they were. When the someone was the one talking about it, it was as if they had just woken up to find themselves made, like they were a bag of ingredients that only needed time to cook and didn’t realize they were already in the oven. How they wished at the time they had known. She wished to know, too, and she would make the time.

She knew she should tell Delia. She didn’t like it, but she didn’t have to like it. She just had to do it. The less sober, the better, she thought.

With her older sister Maribel’s ID — backer by her student ID from North South City College — she bought some mini bottles of tequila and the big bottle of Coke.

After Laura picked her up to meet at Delia’s, they stopped by the bush down the street where Arielle hid her bags.

Delia was playing a video game when they got there. “We’ve got the house to ourselves. They all went to a movie,” she said.

“Cool,” said Arielle, looking from Delia to the TV screen.

“What time are we going to Trey’s party?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know. Taco Bell at like 9 then go?” said Delia, looking to Arielle.

“Taco Belllll,” ringed Arielle, falling dreamily onto the couch beside Delia. Eyes closed, clutching at her heart, “my love.”

“Mexican Pizza?” Delia asked a bit quieter.

“Mm, to share yeah. But I’m getting my own Crunchwrap,” Arielle said and turned to Laura. “Want to split nachos if I get them with jalapeños?”

Laura nodded and murmured while drinking from her water bottle. “Definitely,” she exhaled. “Are we going to the KFC-Taco Bell?”

“I mean, we could,” said Arielle looking to Delia, who paused the game.

“Yeah, we could. It’s not really on the way, though,” Delia said back to Arielle.

“Yeah, but it’s not like Trey’s party is going anywhere. His parents don’t get back until Sunday,” Arielle said.

“It could get broken up like Arthur’s,” said Laura.

“Oh shit, that’s right,” said Delia. “Yo, what was I doing with Joey Sampson that night?”

“Not much after he came his pants,” said Arielle.

“Oh my God, yeah. Because then you had to drop him off after me.”

“I wouldn’t have had to if you still lived down the street from me,” Arielle said.

“I wish I hadn’t traded my turn for Joey Sampson,” said Delia.

“No trading back because I plan on cashing in my turn for graduation tomorrow,” said Arielle.

“Oh fuck,” said Delia and then opened a bottle from Arielle’s bag.

Arielle: Part 3

The first time Arielle went back into the memory, she wanted to see what Delia was doing. They hadn’t talked since Trey’s party. Technically since before walking into Trey’s party. But it wasn’t like they weren’t going to ever talk again.

Delia would be up with the “A”s, which sucked because the teachers on stage were almost literally looking over the front row as if they might pull someone on stage. But “Ames” meant she’d at least be second or third row, with all the Abbotts and Acalas and Adamses. Fourth row in fact, Arielle found, having forgotten about the Aguilar twins and Aguirre cousins, plus the other two Aguirres who were each their own things.

Delia was on her phone. Promising. Arielle couldn’t interact with others in the memory. She had learned that the fifth time when she got up her courage after discovering on the fourth time that the memory captured stuff she didn’t even see or know about when the memory was being made. Mostly she was a spectator. But if she could spectate on people’s phones, she had even more to see.

Not so much on Delia’s phone though, not right now. She was playing with that pink focus filter and putting it on different people sitting behind her. Oh wait, she was adding superlatives. “Most Cliche” went to Tom Morgan. Yeah, duh. He wears a puka shell necklace and brings his own beer bong to parties. “Most Likely to Drive a Winnebago” to Claire Forte. Weird. Sandra Dayton had been the one who said she was going to drive through all 48 connected states before she graduated college. Arielle didn’t think much of the fact that Delia was saving these videos to her phone instead of posting them. Delia almost always banked posts. Arielle thought she tried too hard, but she didn’t have anything to say when Delia snapped back that at least she was trying.

Oh bitch. Delia had her phone aimed at Arielle’s section, then at Arielle, who could have taken her mother’s name Acosta if her parents had divorced because her dad had some secret family — no, two secret families — instead of loving each other and even, swear to God, deciding to renew their vows in Hawaii this summer. But no. Instead she was Arielle Ignacio, which would be great years later when she was making her name, but right now was the name of the person most likely to move home after college.

Arielle: Part 2

Ugh, right, making a memory, she remembered now. Caps, gowns, white chairs that weren’t built for sitting (is this where people’s picket fences went? she wondered), astroturf, bleachers. Bleh.

This wasn’t a memory. It was a stock photo. Not how this works. She knew at least that by now. She had to find some specific thing that made this now and could contain it later. Some flyaway moment that could be slowed into sand.

Was someone laughing? That had done it before. The way the cashier’s neck had folded into her laugh, like it had balled the joke into something her chin could hold for keeps. People won apple-bobbing contests with that neck clench. For whatever reason, she could return to that moment. Walk around in it. Watch herself in it. Rewind herself, switch herself to slo-mo, move around, grab a Slim Jim from the next checkstand, bark that she was snapping into it as she did — and nothing, the scene played on. Even better, she could step into herself and change how things play out. Except for the laugh. She couldn’t change the laugh. Anytime she did, she got kicked out of the memory, back to wherever she was when she entered it. Memories were strict with their rules.

She hadn’t learned many of memory’s rules yet. She had no idea how many there would be to obey or try to bend. She never would. Not that it mattered, especially not now. Now she just needed to figure out what made a memory. If she had learned it before, she had forgotten. She didn’t think she had, anyway.

Then it happened. Principal Wheeler was introducing Kayla Saunders for her speech, when the wind whipped across the stage. It yanked the programs from some teachers’ hands and laps, landing one against Ms. Geider’s cheek before heading off to wherever miracles return. Finally she saw it. Principal Wheeler’s tie was being pulled up and to the side, its knot pressing against his ear, the rest reaching to the sky.

It only lasted for maybe two seconds. Long enough for people to see, but too short for them to remember exactly what they saw. Later most said it looked like a noose around his neck, only to be substantiated later that summer when Wheeler left town.

Morbid bastards, Arielle thought. She didn’t see a noose at all. Okay, she did. How could you not? (Ha, knot.) But that wasn’t all she saw. The energy wasn’t going in that direction, like a noose. Mr. Wheeler wasn’t weighing down his tie. The tie looked like it was lifting him up. Trying to, anyway. He seemed to recognize it too. His normally red fingers were white against the edges of the podium. She could see him clinging. Then it was over.

When the yearbook team posted a video of it to the school’s Facebook the next day and their parents showed it to them, everyone felt fooled. The whole thing lasted less than three seconds, and Wheeler’s tie for maybe half a second (734 milliseconds, as Arielle would later time it). Yet no one would remember much else of the two-hour ceremony. Not Arielle’s sweat smile. Jimmy Vero’s attempted streaking that was spoiled by stage fright. Mrs. Gaylen’s speech and the laughs it elicited. Mr. Gaylen’s singing and the laughs it elicited. If it weren’t for all the scenes in movies and on TV of the newly matriculated tossing their caps, no one would remember much of that mess either. Not Arielle, though. She could relive it all, so long as she didn’t stop the wind.

Arielle: Part 1

A story

Take a mental picture of this moment, Arielle told herself. She tried. Thinking of the heat and the stage, backlit by the sun, beaming in their faces.

Whoever had organized the graduation ceremony must have been trolling, she decided. Why else schedule it for 5:30 pm on a Saturday and arrange for the stage to be on the west end zone, and not even flush with the end zone but angled so that the sun stared them straight down as it set? Who the hell tracked the trajectory of the sun like that? How big of a compass and/or protractor would you need for that?

Whatever. She would never need those again. She would miss proofs, though. She didn’t know it now, but a month into her freshman year, she and her dormmates would begin writing proofs of “Law & Order: SVU” episodes. They would even create an Instagram account to post them to, and that account would become the subject of a BuzzFeed article that would alter the trajectory of her life.

But at the moment, she was concerned with the trajectory of the sun, which was bowing to flash its light straight in her face, like an asshole. The moon would never do this.

She reminded herself that it wasn’t the sun’s fault. The sun didn’t know it’d be pitted into a staring contest with the North South High class of 20something. Even if the sun had known, it couldn’t do anything about it. Couldn’t angle itself to look at something just beyond and to the side, like someone trying to be polite while the Subway worker makes them a sandwich. The sun couldn’t pull up a book to bury its head in. Nope, the sun was here, and so was the sweat.

Oh fuck, the sweat. What if it pooled under her boobs? It’d be like that time she stood outside for hours get a selfie with Demi Lovato and felt Demi’s hand squish against her soggy shoulder and instantly peel off, sounding like a wet fart. A sound that Arielle may have imagined but that made her face bulge in an all too real way. Like she had accidentally swallowed a bug and was being told it would lay eggs inside her.

Obviously this would be worse, though. With Demi, no one there knew her, and no one who knew her needed to know about the picture. But if she got up on that stage with two dark stains on her maroon robe looking like oversized, oblong nipples — wait, they didn’t have to be nipples. They could be eyes! Yes, and she could tuck her robe into her belly and bend over, pressing her sweat into it, into a smile, a happy face. It’d be weird, sure, but at least it’d be on purpose then. And it’d make for a good picture, a picture she’d remember. All their faces. Then she could forget the rest of this, this…culmination? Coronation? Culmination.

Why do life’s milestones always have to involve walks down aisles? What was momentous about grocery shopping? Oh oh, getting to pick whatever cereal you want when you’re an adult on your own, that’ll be momentous. She’ll remember that for sure.