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Places No One Knows
Author: Brenna Yovanoff



WAVERLY

 

 

There’s something awful about the sun.

It rockets up from the horizon like a hot-air balloon. One minute, you’re looking at the shy, glowing sliver of it. The next, it’s glaring down at you like the wrath of God.

Sometimes, if you spend too many nights staring at the clock, it gets hard to tell what’s real and when you’re only anthropomorphizing.

Every day, I walk myself through the sequence of events, trace my way back through the hours. If one moment logically follows another, that means it’s actually happening.

It is 1:23 in the afternoon. I’m at my desk in Mrs. Denning’s Spanish class, behind Caitie Price and in front of CJ Borsen, because that’s where I sit.

I’m in Spanish because I have officially exceeded the allowable quota of French offered at Henry Morgan and I’m running out of elective options. It was this or home decorating. Sometimes when you show too much initiative, they have trouble knowing where to put you.

We’re demystifying sports and activities, waxing inarticulate about our hobbies. So far, we have five aspiring musicians, three football players, and a handful of ill-motivated boys who enjoy taking apart cars and putting them together again.

 

My book is open to the chapter on Deportes y Pasatiempos and I know it’s not a dream because the letters don’t slide off the page. I know the answers to the review questions, and when Mrs. Denning calls on me, I know that I will not tell the truth about my recreational activity.

At the front of the room, she’s wringing her hands, trying to figure out how her life went so wrong. “Emily,” she says, looking hopeless, “how about you? What are some of your hobbies?”

There is a fantasy and it is this: during class, Mrs. Denning only speaks to us in Spanish. It couldn’t sustain itself. Like all best-laid plans, it collapsed early, crumbling under the weight of its own ambition.

“Me gusta bailar,” says Emily Orlowski, and then goes back to painting Olivia Tatum’s fingernails with Wite-Out.

Dutifully, I picture them dancing—a savage riot of eyeliner and cleavage.

“Very good,” says Mrs. Denning, in a voice that implies it is not good at all and is, in fact, kind of horrifying.

Using her desk as a barricade, she settles on the back row. “Marshall? Would you like to tell us about your favorite recreational activity?”

Marshall Holt looks up. Then, just as fast, he stares back down at his desk and says in an impeccably accented monotone, “Me gusta jugar a los bolos con mis amigos.”

 

Mrs. Denning leans forward, sincerely convinced that he is not mocking her. “Bueno. Y a donde juegas a los bolos?”

“En el parque.”

I enjoy bowling with my friends in the park. Brilliant. Marshall Holt, you are a genius. Also, mature.

Around us, people are snickering into their textbooks. Mrs. Denning is still watching Marshall in this sad, hopeful way, like she might eventually see the punch line.

For a second, he almost looks contrite, but the damage is done. She wilts, fidgeting with the plastic cup that holds her pens, searching the room for someone who won’t betray her.

“Waverly, can you tell us another recreational activity?”

I am the bright, shining face she fixes on so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning. So full of promise, so full of hope. Waverly will tell you the square root of any perfect number and how to conjugate the verb quemar. Yes, Waverly knows all about immolation. What is the significance of Bastille Day and who can list three thematic elements of The Metamorphosis?

Waverly will never tell you that her primary hobby is getting stoned in the play tunnel at Basset Park on a weeknight.

Waverly is a good, good girl.

Waverly is so virtuous it makes you want to die.

I keep my hands folded on my desk. People are looking at me now, looking at my helpful expression, my neat hair, thinking how good, how sweet, how nice. How fucking perfect. Thinking, who does she think she is?

When I answer, my voice sounds thin and almost doubtful. “Me gusta correr.”

 

Wrong, says the girl in my head. Incorrect. Woefully inaccurate. I run, but not because it pleases me. What gives me pleasure doesn’t enter into it. I run because the nights are long, and because I can’t not run.

When the lights go out and the moon goes down, I slip out the french doors and through the gate. Down Breaker Street and along the median. I turn onto Buehler and let out my stride. From Buehler, I head for that one unreachable point on the horizon. Sometimes I run for miles.

Behind her desk, Mrs. Denning smiles. “Gracias, Waverly.”

I make up a little postulate and write it down. Theorem of Perfection. The effectiveness of your persona is inversely proportional to what people know about you. I provide an illustrated example: two diverging trajectories, racing away from each other on the graph.

There are two Waverlys. One is well groomed, academically unparalleled, reasonably attractive, and runs the cross-country course at Basset in under eighteen minutes. Sixteen point five on a good day.

The other is a secret.

Secret Waverly is the one who never sleeps.

Maribeth Whitman is my best friend in the whole world, forever and ever, if you believe in that kind of thing.

The Watson to my Crick, the Donner to my Blitzen. We’ve taken all the same AP classes, joined all the same clubs, know all the same corollaries and equations and scandals. We have been making bracelets out of rainbow-colored string since kindergarten.

 

When I fight my way down the language arts hall and into our locker bay, she throws herself at me, arms flung wide, and even though the bay is full of roughly half the junior class and I hate being touchy-feely where people can see it, I reach back and let myself lean into her.

Maribeth knows how to arrange all her features to maximum effect. Her face is so sweet that if you look at her for too long, your teeth decay in spongy black patches, like time-lapse photography. Her hair is the kind of blond that makes you picture halos made out of kittens.

“God,” she says, tucking my bangs behind my ear. “Your smile’s malfunctioning again. Have you even been sleeping at all?”

I adjust my mouth to look pleasant and spin my combination lock. “Some.” Which is the literal truth. I’ve been averaging roughly three hours a night.

She fishes a pencil from her bag and starts flipping through her notebook for a clean page. “Better get that sorted out if you don’t want to look like the walking dead for homecoming. So, you’ll be at the thing tonight, right?”

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