Her friends complained. Her parents nagged. But she did keep a job, if nothing else. She was fine, and she said it frequently enough to convince herself, if not others. No veiled recommendations or blatant admonishments penetrated her fog of routine.
But one evening, retracing the daily path, she heard the leaves crunch.
Beneath her feet, obscuring the concrete, was a blanket of gold, cadmium, and vermilion that taunted the limitations of language. The crisp air stung her lungs. Her knit scarf soothed the wind’s bite.
She hadn’t noticed, but something broke her, to let such miracles go unnoticed.
3 months of anxiety, 2 weeks of nightmares, 3 days of nausea, 2 sleepless nights, and 6 hours of hyperventilating.
Now, she lies on the floor as deep husky voice tells her to feel her muscles lengthen and loosen and fall through the floor for the last 15 minutes before she must abandon her sanctuary. But instead of dropping through the floor, images of dropped lines flood her mind bringing a tide of anxiety and nausea and nightmares and hyperventilating.
Trying to regain composure, her roommate’s question rings in her ears: Don’t you find it ironic that something called a “play” is ruining your life?
“Escuchame–don’t you dare waste this. Your papi and I didn’t travel this far for you to daydream and throw this away. Ya?”
“Of course, Mother.”
“That’s my Mira.”
But she was afraid, so during recess, while the gringos played and chatted, Mira hid in the book alcove, listening to her teacher make a phone call.
“So, I’ve got an illegal immigrant to deal with… I know! I’m not an a language teacher and I have 24 students already… It absolutely will end in disaster. She’ll fall behind, act out, drop out… Integrating these kids, it’s just a waste.”
She estimated she had thirty minutes before heat and laziness pushed her back inside, but that would be enough to cure her stir craziness.
After scrawling “Going on a bike ride. Be back soon” to ease excitable minds, she set off.
The cacophony of cicadas provided the sound track, and she followed her gut, passing construction sites and summer condos and gated communities.
Her instinct led to a dead end. Turning to retrace her tracks, she stopped; peaking through the forest, the ghost of a house caught her eye. Maybe she could last more than half-an-hour.
The worst part wasn’t the nudity, or costly refurnishing. The worst part was the constant retelling…
During a tour of the house: Our bathroom is the most recently updated, because one time Edmund was doing his business…
While looking at photo albums: … and he brought a book to pass the time…
Or randomly at meals: He didn’t realize Dad lit a candle on the back of the toilet. When he put his reading behind him to finish up, it caught and he screamed and ran out with his trousers around his ankles and a trail of burning toilet paper!
In a world of modesty, she had the upper hand. Other girls had to hide their best assets, smothering curves and covering skin, counting on a dowry or demure smile to ensure their future. Not her.
Despite a comely complexion, she drew the attention of all the eligible (and ineligible) men. Using a fan attracted unabashed stares, removing gloves brought the minister to distraction, and doing needlework out of doors could cause carriage accidents.
In a few decades, the tables would turn, but for now, the best inheritance a young lady could wish for was delicate smooth hands.
People would say she did it because she was tricked, because that frog was clever and charming, and because she was naive and wanted her ball back.
But, really, neither was true. You see, she felt the soft smooth lips of her mother while saying goodnight, and she felt the hot wet lips of a boy while behind the bushes. And when that frog tilted his head and she saw the moonlight reflect off his skin, she was not beguiled. She was curious.
So, she kissed his cold damp flesh, and was disappointed when he turned into another prince.
“On your left, way you’ll find the original monastery built during the life of Saint Francis…”
The heat absorbed her words. The nearest tree was out of range of the guide’s voice, so the tourists politely sweltered, letting their minds wander to anything that wasn’t the Italian summer sun on white stone cobblestones.
The locals smirked from the darkened windows.
Wiping her brow, she looked longingly towards the forbidden patch of earth, and she realized how ridiculous they all were. Even the pigeons, who normally seemed oblivious to anything besides breadcrumbs, all cowered from the sun in the shade.
Another productive day, the sun scorches his retinas through his eyelids and brings him from Resting into New Potential.
In the carefully calculated route, he moves from the bedroom, to the bathroom, ending in the kitchen, where he fixes his Nutritious Breakfast in exactly nine minutes and thirteen seconds, and then consumes it in five minutes and forty-seven seconds, using the allotted fifteen minutes exactly.
The precisely choreographed routine brings every citizen to Designated Work without traffic or delay–not a moment wasted.
At his desk he checks the clock–nine o’ clock. He smiles and begins: “Welcome to Desert Bluffs!”
With the weight of the world–or a garish wig–upon her shoulders, she followed the discussion.
“The famine’s becoming rather terrible… Too bad they won’t work for bread…”
Her schooling focused on etiquette, never touching government stances on food provision, but she listened persistently.
“If we don’t do something, soon they’ll stop asking for food… And start taking heads…”
Contemplative, her eyes settled on the tray overflowing with desserts. Surely, there’s enough to share.
Demurely, she cleared her throat, quieting the room: “If they lack bread, let them eat cake.”
The conversation resumed.
“… And that’s why women shouldn’t be in politics…”