Friday, July 22, 2011

on fresh air

This morning, when the concrete felt like it was sagging with each step, when deep breaths stung just a bit at the back of my throat, when the air was thick and foggy with haze and heat, I thought of Roseanna.  Of her childhood self sitting on the fire escape outside her bedroom window trying to catch some moving air and I felt a pang of regret in my gut for not being better when I had the chance.

My family sponsored Fresh Air children when I was growing up.  Roseanna was our last and favorite and returned year after year for two weeks in July.  We acted like sisters, volleying between love and hate at any given time.  I wasn't always my best when I was with her.  I wish I could apologize to her now for it, but it's too late.  She moved to Florida with her family when we were teenagers and after a few years we lost touch. 

Roseanna came to us from the South Bronx tiny and tough in 1988.  She was six but would turn seven over the course of her vacation (somehow this meant something to us as kids, she and I were two years apart when she arrived but the gap would lesson to one year by the end).  She laughed hard, threw a ball better than any boy I knew, and had breasts and a first kiss before I had even thought about either.  I loved her, felt protective of her, but by the end of two weeks, couldn't wait for her to leave.  I was never quite sure what people thought of me and always had the feeling that I didn't fit.  Roseanna seemed to have the ease of fitting everywhere, of having everyone love her in an instant.  It sounds awful to admit now, and I can't describe how even with those superficial advantages I could be jealous of this person who had so little, but I was. 

I wish now that I could sit with her and tell her how sorry I am that I wasn't always able to share it all with her, how jealous I was that my parents so easily loved her, how I hated that she knew our family was coming apart at the seams before I did, and how that fear fueled a selfishness I had never known before.  I wish I could make it better, but it's too late.  


"My brother's got a gun underneath his bed."

We were sitting on the edge of the pool, feet skimming the surface, peeling away pieces of sunburned skin from our arms when Roseanna broke the silence.  I looked over at her, searched her face for an appropriate response, but nothing came to me.  Instead I sat quietly and watched my toes make circles in the water, suddenly aware of how hot the concrete had become beneath my palms.  I wasn't sure if it was a threat or a fact, but I didn't know what I was supposed to say in return.

We kicked our feet and waited for conversation to come to us.  We were eight and six and had been informed that we would be best friends by the end of our first day together.  But there we were on day two and I still wasn't sure.  From inside the house a radio played and Roseanna started to sing along, "you got a fast car, I want a ticket to anywhere, maybe we make a deal."  I knew the words and joined in but next to her my voice was too light, too high, too polite sounding to sing them.  Roseanna sounded off, but tough, her accent ending the words in a perfectly cool way.  "I remember we were driving, driving in your car, the speed so fast I felt like I was drunk."  And then the song got to the good part and loudly, half laughing, half singing, we started in together, "and I--eee--I had a feeling that I belonged.  And I--eee--I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone."


  1. your gift is amazing-you captured her and you and that time so perfectly and are so honest in your telling-

  2. hmmmm hello "anonymous" you sound an awful lot like my mama! Busted.