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If There Is No What

Ruth Blank

When I see a girl my age coming, I put this thing down, so that’s what most of the pauses are. I think my voice sounds whiny when I talk to you and I don’t want anyone else hearing it.

On the airplane this morning, while we were still over the ocean, the captain came on the speaker and said with his British accent, “we have a birthday on our plane today. Everyone say happy birthday to Meg.” Actually, it was her birthday when she got on the plane, but it was already the next day when he made the announcement, but you could hear people saying happy birthday and a couple of people stood up to try to see the birthday girl. This is the kind of thing Dad would arrange, thinking it made our family the most important people on the plane.

Meggie and I haven’t spoken all summer. Well, that’s not correct. I haven’t spoken to her and she gave up trying to get me to say something. You’ve tried to get me to talk about Meggie, not directly of course, and so far I’ve hardly mentioned her name, so now I’m letting you know: I’ve given up speaking to her. I don’t look at her at the dinner table, and if I want something on her side of the table, I do without instead of asking her for it. I couldn’t really say why. She just makes me mad. She goes out with her friends who drive and they cruise around and she comes home just like she’s still Mom and Dad’s little girl and I’m sure she’s not. She’ll lie across the end of their bed while they watch some old movie. She pretends she’s happy to be in their company, when really she’s reliving the evening in her head.

I know what she’s doing because I’ve done it, from the other side, from the guy’s side. Go to the Hot Shoppes or Vista Park and see who’s there, get in someone’s car and drive for a while. By the way, I’m walking by Piccadilly Circus right now, I recognize the statue of Eros. Lots of tourists taking pictures. Almost no one around me is speaking English so I could say any fucking thing into this fucking thing.

So Meggie probably gets in guys' cars and rides around with them. Not probably. I know she does. That’s her whole reason for going out. She wears eye makeup and tight shorts and Mom says, “should you go out dressed like that?” and Meggie says, “it’s fine” and that’s all the resistance she gets.

Sometimes I imagine when she leaves the house, she’s saying fuck you to me in her head.

I go out sometimes, too, but I avoid Vista Park. I go further into town where the girls from Bishop Quinn hang out, at Speed Boys and Devon Alleys. They’re not smart girls and they’re not always great looking, but they like me for whatever reason.

I’m a little lost. I’m sure I can find my way back to the Shaftsbury just by looking at the buildings. It’s right down the street, I’m pretty sure. I’m just really tired from not having slept on the plane and I think it’s not even dawn Philly time. I don’t want to ask anybody; I’ll get there eventually.

Sharing a room with Meggie, I’m not just going to not speak to her; I’m not even going to look at her.

*  *  *
I called up to Mom and Dad’s room from the lobby. The lobby smells like bacon, not like Oscar Meyer, but like some English farm bacon. They’re on the seventeenth floor. They gave me a key to my room, which is on the fourteenth floor. They told me Meggie’s sleeping and that she wants to go to Madame Tussaud’s this afternoon and will I take her, they don’t want her riding the Underground by herself.

I told them I don’t want to go to Madame Tussaud’s. “Just do it,” Dad said.

“Why are you mad at your sister?” Mom asked.

I said, “I’m not.”

“Then take her. I’ll give you twenty pounds so you’ll have money for food.”

I took the money and I’d like to go take a nap, but I’m not ready to go to the room yet, so I’m back in the lobby, sitting in one of the high back chairs, resting my head on the back and my arms on the armrests. The lobby is bustling. No one notices me talking to you, at least I don’t think they do.


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