I Don’t Have Favorites!
“Ahhhhrrrgggh!” she play acts, pretending that she’s mad, upset, put out over PP showing up at the same locker again. Throwing up her hands in mock exasperation. Knocking her forehead in pretend frustration. Grinning from ear to ear.
“Here we are again!” PP calls out as she languids down the aisle to her locker, grinning at Pretend Girl. “Must be Tuesday!”
PG laughs, nods and smiles as PP comes up to the locker next to hers and starts to unwind the combination. “Did you have fun in the pool tonight?” PP asks her as she pulls her pile of clothes out of the too small locker, trying not to drop her fuzzy purple skirt on the wet cement floor.
“Yeah,” PG shrugs. “I gotta go find my mom and see if she has my other clog.”
“Oh, okay,” PP nods as PG shyly reaches inside her own locker and pulls out a flip flop. Is a flip flop a clog? Does she have one flip flop foot and one clog foot?
But one thing PP does know is that PG loves swimming. When PG is in the pool it's pure giggling fun with her mom and dad (PP guesses). She dives under the lanes in front of the lap swimmers (PP doesn’t care with her—she’s just having so much fun); slams through the water in a spastic imitation of the crawl; hangs on her parents, laughing joyfully.
Yet like the other child PP saw over the summer, there’s something ‘up’ with her. More autism? Perhaps. PG’s eyes are too big and round and stare kinda sideways out of her fleshy brown face. Her speech is carefully weighed before she speaks. Her manner is just a little off.
How old is she?
PP can’t tell. Certainly not 16 (like the rules for the locker-room state & everyone ignores) But then, maybe this is it. Maybe she is 16 and she acts and looks like a
10 or 11 year old?
Whatever the ‘different ability’ is that she has, PP still knows one thing: she has a sly sense of humor.
Like the play-acting greeting just now. So fun and unexpected, completely delighting PP on this tired post swim Tuesday eve at Hilltopia.
“Did you find your clog?” PP asks PG when she returns. PG stares at PP, mystified. Then shrugs. “Yeah.”
But no clog in hand. So…? Maybe she hadn’t said clog at all in the first place?
“Are you hungry after swimming?” PP asks, changing the subject.
“What’re you gonna eat when you get home?”
“That sounds fun. What kind?”
She stares shyly at PP. Why is she being bombarded with all of these questions her look seems to say, though of course this doesn’t deter PP. She’s all about asking questions. It’s the answering them that she abhors.
“Some kind of ….” PG pauses, considering the cereal question, “….with honey?” she ventures.
“Oh, like Honey Nut Cherrios?” PP asks, not that she’s ever eaten such delectable fare, but she’s seen the ad on TV with the woman in the hard hat building a skyscraper and effusing over a bowl of it.
PG shrugs, then smiles, “Yeah.”
There’s a silence. Why is PP so wanting to engage her tonight? Is it because she’s been saddled with dense abstract meaningless academic writing all day and the idea of discussing Cherrios is appealing?
“You have school tomorrow?” PP continues inanely.
“What’s your favorite subject?”
PG stares at the ground for a moment, then up at PP, her gaze fierce, “I don’t have favorites!”
Wow! PP’s totally thrown by the intensity of this response. She has favorites of everything. Favorite color: blue; favorite cat: Sylvia; favorite TV show: All My Children. But decides against insisting this propensity for favoritism on PG. Instead goes for the diplomatic answer, not her favorite, but sometimes necessary.
“That’s good not to have favorites,” PP agrees.
PG doesn’t offer more and PP doesn’t press. It could very well be a sensitive topic for her. Maybe she wasn’t anyone’s favorite at home or school or with friends. Maybe since she’s “different” the reality of ‘favoritism’ was one she was keenly aware of.
Maybe it’s not such a good question to ask strange girls in the locker-room, PP thinks as she starts to pack up her bag to head out.
“Hey!” PP turns, smiling (or trying to), “we talk every Tuesday, but I don’t know your name. What is it?”
“Marlene?” PP grins, like Marlene Dietrich? Of course, she’s not going to have this film archive reference, though Bay Area Children can surprise you.
“No. With a e!”
“Oh, sorry. How do you spell it? M-E-L-E-N-A? Melena?”
She nods, pleased now. “That’s a very pretty name,” PP tells her as she closes her locker and heaves her swim bag up.
Melena smiles happily and shyly.
“See you next Tuesday,” PP says.
“Yeah.” Melena agrees as she turns away to focus her attention on getting home to her Cheerios. Which PP is sure, are NOT her favorite!