Cinder and Smoke  

semanticlacuna 33M
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5/28/2006 9:00 pm

Last Read:
5/28/2006 9:06 pm

Cinder and Smoke

Amy’s elementary school hosted an award ceremony at the end of each school year. Each teacher, each year, would present a series of paper certificates to their elite: perfect attendance, best grade, most progressed, etc. Each year, Amy would receive more than the previous, decorating the wall above her dresser with a collage of compliments, and each night, in these days, her mother would tuck her in at night and kiss each of her eyelids. Love was a competition, then. “I love you” always preceded “I love you more.” The competition always ended with “I love you moon and back.” This was a game they played, from Amy’s first sentence until her fifth school year, when the twins were born. And by high school, when self-esteem proved a carrot on a string, always out of reach despite the records she broke–the tortoise and hare phenomenon–, the competition was a two front battle, her mother always losing. Amy tucked herself into bed those nights and competed with herself. The competition always ended with “I...”

Each weekend, her mother hosted cocktail parties, from four o’clock to seven. As a child, as an only child, Amy was an implicated spectator. She would play the saxophone, everyone gathered, silent at the dense, potentially jazzy reproduction of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” But seven years later, the twins took the floor, a duet, with vocals, piano and violin, pushing Amy offstage. Desperate for involvement, Amy freshened drinks, taking a bit off the top when the top was there to be taken; each weekend left her wined in orbit. On those nights, she slept on the couch because the stairs were too tall and the bed was too far–and the competition was empty.

The summer facing college, when the twins were playing Chopin and the cocktail parties occurred nightly, Amy, athirst and insatiable, took scissors to her mother’s closet. Sequins and splendor soiled the carpet, and Amy felt the twins envy.

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