I no longer sat in the chair we once fought over. Her smile is no longer a glance across my shoulder, her pomegranate chapstick still tucked between the clasp of two tables. She was always like that, marking her territory one way or another. I never knew that I would someday become a part of that territory: forbidden from the outside world, sacred and just out of reach.
It’s been thirty eight days since I last saw her, and only eight days since I last saw Nala, her golden retriever who still escapes to my house every morning. I have recently begun to lock the dog door we so long ago attempted to make. Seeing Nala made the memories come rushing back like the water of the Mackenzie River the morning we woke with twigs in our hair and paint down our spines.
Jasmine, my Jasmine. Gone from my hands and my bed the morning after the big game. “Get some sleep, Mr. Thomas,” her father told me the eleventh time I visited her house. “It doesn’t take a doctor to notice those bags under your eyes.”
Jaz wasn’t the kind of girl that every guy would turn heads for. She wouldn’t wear high heels and ruby red lipstick. She wore her wrinkled “writers outfit” with confidence, her short hair hanging loose from the side of her carved face. Her rosy cheeks rose high and thin, a distinct line formed where her jaw was. Her hazel green eyes were like a deer in headlights, as large as the universe, holding all the stars.
“It had taken me weeks of contemplating and pacing to come to the resolution of the words I would say to you when I saw you again. Not “I regret what happened,” not that “my life sucks without you.” I know too well that you don’t handle pressure and blame positively. “I miss you” is the one thing that summarizes the hatred and anger and love and lust you had put me through. Through all the self discrimination, I learned to live life in the moment like you had taught me. Although, no moment seems as significant as the ones I had spent with you.”
I looked through the baby book my mother once made me, forced into my hands as I ate a warm breakfast on a too hot morning. As I open the hard cover with a child’s bear framed, I see a scribed list of what I could’ve been: Ally, Olivia, Allison. Names of no significance other than in passing. My name is unique, I like to think. A word with no inherited meaning; the reason which I believe I’m the needle in a haystack of my family. Jasmine Carolyn Aurosa. Some say there’s more of a ring without “Aurosa.” Although, I don’t think there’s a ring without it.
My mother had always taught me “you have to be odd to be number one,” quoting her favorite and most literate poet, Dr. Seuss. Her motto is what lead to the oddity which is my name. “Jasmine, the worst thing you can do is root your name to your family. It’s like a dog trapped inside a kennel, unable to watch grass grow or the seasons change.”
A woman of a simple lifestyle, my mother works a steady job as a journalist for the Pacific Post, married her childhood sweetheart at twenty nine, and had her first, and last, child at thirty three. She is now in her upper forties and editor of The Post, my dad her right hand man as the co-editor. The only fights my parents get into are brought home from work, gone by the time of the next printing.
As I scooped up my next spoonful of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, I noticed the watch hidden under my wrist displayed 8:23 a.m. I had two minutes to catch the bus at the top of the hill. I rushed out the door grabbing my backpack as my mother followed suit. She drove at what felt like a hundred miles per hour, but was more along the lines of twenty or twenty five. We managed to catch the bus just as it was pulling off our street. Stopped because of the flashing red light, I rushed out of the car and in front of the bus before it had the hesitation to pull forward. I nestled into a seat between a businessman and a jock, turned around, and blew my mom a kiss from the fogged up window.
Minutes into the rough ride, I had pulled out my favorite childhood book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. To my surprise, the jock to the right of me gently grabbed the book from my hands and began to read the summary printed on the back cover. I had worn my contacts today, and I was unconsciously tucking my hair behind my glasses that weren’t there. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do, he acted as if he was disappointed that I hadn’t bothered giving him a reaction. “Honor Role student doesn’t defend book on life,” the headline reads. I imagine my parents discussing the cover story as if it won the Pulitzer Prize.
The words Jasmine repeated in my head until I realized the jock that had taken my book was trying to get my attention. I snapped out of my daydream state and looked him back in the eyes. No words were shared within those seconds, but something else was exchanged, and I don’t know what. Coming to a realization, I asked him “how, how do you know my name?” the stutter escaping my lips. He chuckled and shone a smile showing all his teeth, “it’s written on the inside of the cover, along with your phone number, social security number, and credit card number.” I could feel the blood rushing to my face as I began to worry about what he said. He not only knew my name, but how to access all my personal information as well as my bank statement. He clearly saw me struggling and overthinking the situation because his brows came together in concern and he apologetic for making a crude joke. I began to nervously laugh, and he joined until we were loud enough to get complaints from the early-wakers without their coffee.
“Wren. Wren Thomas,” he stated, and stuck out his hand to shake mine. “Jasmine Aurosa.” We approached the lanky, brick building as we sauntered off the crowded bus. It was a hundred plus years old and didn’t look a day younger. Lincoln High School was built in 1819 and hasn’t been updated since. I stepped off the bus before Wren, and was making my way to the double doors in front of me. An old elementary school friend hold open the door for me, as well as the twenty students that followed.
I was walking into the corridor of the best four years of my life. I walked into the drama, the spirit, the Friday night lights, the dances. I didn’t know what would happen in those four years. All I know is that I was here, ready, and already late to first period. I didn’t have time to go to my locker, and I rushed to my Ethnic Studies class, where there were approximately five students present.
At freshman orientation, I had taken the extra time to locate my classes and the best route to each, as well as practiced opening my locker dozens of times. Ten minutes after the final bell rang, my teacher, Mr. Williamson, hadn’t made any attempt to introduce himself or to begin class. Every thirty seconds or so, another lost freshman would wander into the classroom and take a seat, relieved they hadn’t missed anything important. An occasional student would sit down and realize they were in the wrong class, seconds later rushing out the doors in search for a teacher’s help.
Twenty three minutes after the final bell, Mr. Williamson rose from his reclined chair and introduced himself to the lacking class. “Although we have lost twenty three of our precious first minutes together, I decided it’d be more efficient if I began class now, instead of repeating myself for every student that walks in that door. I’m your Ethnic Studies teacher and will be for the remainder of the year. As you walked in, you should have grabbed a class syllabus by the door, but I’ll pass it out to those who didn’t grab one.”
His voice was deep and corresponded with the rest of his appearance. He dressed in a white button up, collared shirt, which was tucked into his black trousers. As he walked around the classroom introducing himself to the staggering students and passing out papers, you could hear the sound of shoes clicking on the tile floor. The heels of his black Oxfords hit the ground with every step he took, without leaving a single scuff. It soon became the sound I couldn’t forget, never escaping my ears during a test or exam.
The remainder of the hour and thirty three minute class were tedious. We had played a name game to introduce ourselves to “the people who will help you succeed throughout high school.” Mr. Williamson was perky and saw the goodness in everyone and everything he saw. When he sees peer motivators and mentors, I see a group of worn out students who are only at school because their parents made them.
My rest of the school day consisted of a ten minute break, Geometry, a half hour lunch break, College and Career Exploration, which is a semester elective required by all freshmen to reduce drop out rate, and Spanish 1. Once the final bell had rung, I didn’t make any attempt to visit with forgotten friends I hadn’t seen all summer. Over the summer, I had chosen to distance myself from old friends, since I hadn’t been in the “good crowd” through middle school. I saw high school as my opportunity to change myself and not worry about people noticing. Since I wasn’t attending parties every weekend or doing beach trips with my group, I was at a loss of what to do with my time, and became so bored, I resorted to books.
I read every day and every night, and read more that twenty books in three months, which was more than I read in the first fifteen years of my life. I hated reading until that summer, I always saw it as a punishment for bad behavior in class or what nerdy students did for fun. I hadn’t realized I was a “nerdy student” until I pulled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out of my backpack that morning, which had felt like so long ago. I hadn’t talked to Wren since we got off the bus. I half expected him to approach me in the halls until I saw him at lunch with the popular click, my old friends.
Using my sisters recalled memory of bus times and routes, I made my way to a nearby coffee shop to keep warm in until my bus comes, forty minutes later. To my surprise, the bus had come five minutes early, pulled over to the side of the road and parked for ten minutes while the driver smoked a few feet away. Few students sauntered on the bus after a long day of introductions of what the rest of the year will look like. As the driver resituated himself and start the bus, someone ran in front of the bus, like I had done previously. The man began to walk towards the back of the bus where I was settled, sat next to me, soon realizing it was Wren Thomas.
I was nervous to start a conversation because of what might come out of my mouth. I had questions I wanted answered: ones about my old friends and how he happened to fit into that group, his story and why I’d never seen him before today. I was more than relieved when he pulled my copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out of his backpack and handed it to me. He laughed as he spoke. “I guess I lost track of time this morning and forgot to give you your beloved Charlie back.” I would normally take offence to a comment that seemed to make fun of my reading, but he had said it so sincere, I attempted to disregarded it.
We had created small talk until my bus stop came. I had talked about my first day of school as he talked about moving from New York City over the summer because his father had gotten relocated for work. I didn’t bother to ask what his father did for a living, but I found out his mother had died in a car accident when he was twelve years old, and that he dedicates everything to her. He commented that he enjoys the weather in Portland and the West Coast compared to New York, “it’s a lot more consistent, hot summers leading to warm falls and cold winters and springs.” I told him that he was in for a ride, but he laughed it off and didn’t believe a word I said. When my bus stop arrived, Wren had gotten off with me, but backtracked the route of the bus. I stayed and watched to see which street he lived on. He passed two, then three, of the previous stops before mine. I turned around to go home once I realized he should have gotten off at least four stops before mine.
“The earthquake is supposedly going to be a 8.2 on the Richter scale, it has been nicknamed ‘The Big One,’ and is going to devastate most of the West Coast.” As I ate the sausage and eggs my mother had made me for breakfast, Kacey Hardy, the channel twelve news anchor updated half the city of the earthquake we knew we were doomed for. Scientists have been aware of The Big One for more than twenty years, and have been warning citizens of Portland and the rest of the coast just as long. We are required to have drills in school every month, in preparation for the earthquake. It was suppose to happen twenty years ago, but is now rumored it could happen any minute of any day.
“The fault line will be everything West of I-5, where cities will fall to ruins. Anything East will have a high risk of destruction. We recommend creating a safety box full of nonperishable foods and blankets and spare clothes with any other necessities. This may be fatal.” My mom came into the kitchen and clicked off the miniature television set above the sink. “Jasmine, I know you’re worried about this earthquake and it striking before you leave for college, but we’ve survived the past twenty years, we can survive four more.” I was on the verge of arguing with her. I wasn’t worried about college, I was worried about her being alone after I leave for college. My mom separated from my dad five years ago, and my sister has left for college in Denver. For all I know, she has made no effort to look for any man since.
I had miss the bus that morning. The news broadcast had interrupted my timed routine. My mom, irritated, got in her car and drove me fifteen minutes out of her way to maintain my perfect attendance, with the exception of a single tardy from my first day of school. I had made CDs to keep in my car: happy ones, depressing ones, throwback and alternative and movie soundtracks and lullabies. I had always believed that there is proper music for every moment, and the right music can make a memory unforgettable.