Thursday, August 16, 2007

Time Flies

Time, elapsed time. It’s 1:47 in the afternoon, what time will it be in 35 minutes. It took you three-and-a-half hours to get home; what time was it when you left. If you do one task that takes 30 minutes and one task that takes 90 minutes, how much time do you need to complete both tasks. How long does it take to get from here to there. How much time do you need to get everything done.

Time. Flies.

I am in third grade. I think I’m about as brilliant as a third-grader could be. School never takes much effort, and I’m always reading. I know I don’t like math, but I’m okay. I’m sometimes nervous that other kids can do the timed math tests faster than I can, but I’m accurate, and don’t have to work. I know how to tell time, no problem. Miss Moody likes me. She wears pink and has short black, curly hair. A curvy figure in tight fuzzy cardigans and snug skirts. Sweet, milkwhite skin. She lives across the street from us, in the condos that were built last summer. I sold her Girl Scout cookies. She got two boxes of the caramel ones with the coconut.

I love writing vocabulary words in sentences, making them as long and descriptive as possible. She likes this.

But the standardized test for third grade doesn’t have essay questions.

When the results of the spring standardized tests come back, I fully expect to see high marks, as usual. They weren’t hard, they never are.

Instead, next to the 97 and 98% scores for each skill, there was a big 64% under “elapsed time”. And a 76% for “basic computation”.

64%? How can that be? 76%? Computation? What kind of moron am I? Who am I, if not the whiz in the class?

In the report, in Miss Moody’s perfect script, were the words, “Meera needs extra work on figuring elapsed time. Her speed at figuring multiplication tables could use some work, as well. Please take some time at home working on these skills.”

I read and re-read them. Who am I, if not the one my parents were proud of? Who am I, who never needs extra help in anything? My parents have enough to worry about, do they really need this on top of everything? Do I?

The cold pit spreads through my shoulders, the sweaty palms, the rising meniscus of tears. Can’t speak. Emotion. Blink. Blink. Blink. Look at the fluorescent lights.

The bell rings, and I don’t go home. Home is a quick walk through some woods along a path lined with honeysuckle vines. Instead, I go to the playground. I head for the swings.

Most recesses, I swing. Give myself over to gravity, and defy it.

I wrap my sweaty hands around the chain, and kick off. Pump. Back. Pump. Back. Time. Back. Pump. Back. 1. 2. Time. Back. Pump. Watch the shadows of me swinging. Pump. Back. Pump. Lean waaaay back so my feet are vertical. Back. Pump high. Feel the power in my kicks, the tummy lurch as I drop, the centrifuge catch, and swing back. The shadows are longer. Pump. Back. Time.

The sun is in my eyes now, so they can run freely, but I don’t let them. Pump. Back. Time. No one is in the playground now. I’m alone. Pump. Back.

My hands smell metallic. The shadows of the trees along the playground stretch to my feet. My mother appears at the path, looking worried.

What, oh what will I say.

Time. Flies.


Query said...

Oh, does that bring me back! Believe me -- and being a mother yourself, you may already realize this -- your mother also struggled with what to say, particularly after she let go of her anger and concern that you hadn't come home yet and saw your shame and fear.

There are some things that moms can't fix.

And yes, Time. Flies.

The Unwelcome Guest said...

Ugh. Isn't it weird how persistent is the residue of pain and shame from these long ago things?

Lovely-ly told, though.