Roger Covin coughed as dust clouded up into the air; he felt the particles rest upon his skin and clothing, and wiped some of it off impatiently. Bending over to pick up the box he had knocked over in his quest to find an old set of speakers, the seventeen year-old noticed a pile of books that had tumbled out of the box.
The attic was small and very cluttered, but well lit due to many small windows that let in the afternoon sun. He was able to see the titles of the books he picked up: an old dictionary, a faded volume of Shakespeare, a dusty reference of horse breeds…. He smoothed out the bent pages before setting them back in the box.
A small green book caught his eye. The cover was bound in a denim-like material, and the pages were stiff and yellowing. It seemed sad in its state on the ground: haphazardly open with its pages pressed against the old wood of the attic floor.
Roger picked it up, and glanced at the pages. They were filled with a loopy, natural teenager's writing.
'…will probably be dead by the time her grandchildren are born—a sad thought. I don't think I could be as good a mother to my children as mine was (is!) to me. I'll try, though…'
He flipped to the previous page. A date was in the upper right-hand corner: December 20th, 2007—over thirty-four years before.
With a start, Roger realized that he was looking at his mother's diary.
He stared at it for a few moments, flipping back to the few sentences he had just read: 'will probably be dead by the time her grandchildren are born….' His mother's mother? And then the part—the part where she worried about not being a good mother to her own children….
Speakers forgotten, Roger picked up the small green book and went back down the ladder from where he had ascended, and immediately closed himself into his room.
He spent the first few moments studying the script. It was slightly sloppy and hurried, but very personal, even more so by the fact it was written in purple ink. The only reason he had been unable to recognize it from the start was because his mother now wrote in a graceful, curved hand.
Roger felt that he was holding something that he shouldn't—something so highly private that he should put it back in its place. It was a teenage girls' diary, after all—what if his mother walked in as he was reading it? Was it even right to read someone's diary without their permission, even a diary so long discarded?
Would his mother even care?
At that thought, he creased the book open to the first page.
December 20th, 2007
Fresh new page of a new book! Do I waste too much time writing? I hope not—it is therapeutic, after all. At least, I'm inclined to think so.
It's Calculus right now, the last day before winter break—I'm killing time. I know that if I just sit here all I'll do is think about tomorrow. I'm going to Maryland, to visit my mother—it's been months since I've seen her. Too long, but whatever the divorce settlement says…
(Now in blue pen…)
Why do people insist on talking to me as I write? I just spent the last ten minutes arguing with John over the government's health care policy. Then I started getting upset, and he remembered that last time this happened I started crying because he's such an insolent ass. That was embarrassing—I hate crying in the first place, and at school that's even worse. So he cut himself off.
At least he's learned his lesson.
But, honestly, saying that there is no excuse for not working is ridiculous. Can Chanel's dad work from his wheelchair and with memory loss? Is my mother even allowed to work, because of her seizures and her brain cancer?
No. She isn't. That's why my stepfather is working two jobs to afford her crappy HMO health care.
I can't wait to see her. I miss her so much. I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her I miss her. They say you never appreciate something until it's gone—that's wrong. My mom isn't even gone yet, and I fully appreciate how good of a mother she was. She always told the truth, and never glossed anything over. And now look how I've turned out! I'm obliged to think she did pretty well. I think of myself as her test grade. A+ to RIKKE!
But she will probably be dead by the time her grandchildren are born—a sad thought. I don't think I could be as good a mother to my children as mine was (is!) to me. I'll try, though. I'll certainly try. All I have to do is remember her mantra—"Never lie, bite, kick, or steal." That should do it.
Bell rang. Have to go to Spanish.
So went the first entry.
So went the first entry.
Roger closed the book.
His brain twirling with this new information, Roger went down to the kitchen. She sounded so… alive, so normal, so full of emotion.
Rowan Covin neé Lexington was an FBI agent—a job she had held for twenty years, and a job she loved. It might have been awesome for a kid to tell his kindergarten class that his mother worked for the FBI, but being the actual child of that FBI agent actually sort of sucked. His mother worked long hours, and came home exhausted, and was always preoccupied with a case she wasn't allowed to talk about. They moved every few years to completely different places—Roger had lived in Chicago, New York, Corinth, Los Angeles, and now he was residing in Washington, D.C.
Pulling out some cereal and milk, he poured himself a bowl and turned to sit at the table to see someone already sitting there.
It was his mother, looking sharp as usual in her pantsuit, eating a bowl of cereal. Her blonde hair was pulled into a tight, professional ponytail. She regarded him as an older sister would regard her brother.
Roger sat across from her, and started to eat. After a few bites, he broke the silence.
"You're home early."
He watched his mother swallow, and dab her lips with her napkin.
"Jones told me to take the day off," she said carefully. He stared at her for a moment, trying to gauge why. Did she have a bad day? Did something go wrong? Or was her boss simply rewarding her for years of dedication with an afternoon off?
As usual, trying to draw answers from her was like trying to hold sunlight. It was there—just unattainable.
"What sort of health care do we have?"
There was a moment in which she observed him in an effort to find out why he was asking. However, Roger kept his face carefully structured. It must have been a trait he inherited from her—certainly not from his father, a writer who played as Mr. Mom, whose emotions flowed as freely from him as words.
"PPO," she finally answered.
"Of course not. HMO is horrible. Why do you ask?"
"We're learning about different health care systems in my government class," he lied easily.
Rowan Covin wouldn't be good at her job if she weren't able to detect a seventeen year-old boy's lie. Her icy blue eyes narrowed, as if trying to scrutinize from him a motive. However, she declined to ask, and, excusing herself, left the table.
January 7th, 2008
I left this at home when I visited my mother. Oops. I told myself I wouldn't, but oh well.
Fun trip! Can't possibly cover it all here—I spent many nights watching The Office with Mom and Tina, and then I went riding. Sunny was horrible! He's bucking like crazy, so irritating. What the hell is wrong with that horse? I wish mom was strong enough to get on him herself, but I feel that if he even brushes her against a fence that she'll break. On the bright side, I got to use the full chaps I got for Christmas. They're beautiful beautiful BEAUTIFUL. I didn't want to leave Maryland. I never do. Perhaps I'll live there someday.
Dad had a GREAT WELCOME HOME GIFT that sort of eased my missing mom again.
ROGER WATERS CONCERT MARCH 2nd. HOLLYWOOD BOWL. AHHH!
January 8th, 2008
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
a walk-on part in the war
for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
swimming in a fish bowl,
year after year.
Running over the same old ground,
what have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you wer
(Now in pencil...)
I hate my English teacher!
January 9th, 2008
I miss Mom.
Roger found an old CD player in the attic and a box of CDs that hadn't been touched in years. One of them was labeled, in black marker, PF: WYWH.
He cleaned off the CD and set up the player in his room. Once it started playing, he found the clarity remarkable—usually with these old technologies, everything sounded very scratchy.
Halfway into the CD, the track turned into an acoustic guitar that sounded like it was playing along to a radio. Roger looked up from his Spanish homework. Under his door, where the light from the hall usually shone in very clearly and brightly, paused two shadows. They moved slightly.
"So," said his CD player. "so you think you can tell…"
Roger never saw his mother as someone with great opinions, with great passions (except for work), with great excitement—accordingly, he never really looked.
But, as he watched her watch the news, he witnessed a fine line between her eyebrows and a tightness to her mouth. The newscast was about the president announcing something new about the war.
Rowan Covin obviously didn't approve.
Roger watched her. This was the woman who loved riding horses, Star Wars, Pink Floyd, and arguing. This was the woman who confided her deepest thoughts into a book. And this was the woman she turned into.
March 14th, 2008
"War ingrains an ethos very deeply." I love that line. If I ever write something besides diary entries, I'm using that line.
March 18th, 2008
I officially hate Roger Nelson.
We've been best friends since I was seven and
Wow, I just considered erasing that.
My first vow upon creating a diary was
Resolved: Don't hold anything back.
I almost held something back.
I almost held something back.
If I can't even confide my thoughts in a diary, if I'm so scared to commit my feelings to something as sacred as MY OWN DIARY, how the hell am I going to be when I grow up? A cold stone wall, like Tina calls me now. She's more intuitive than people think. I love her, even though I never tell her. I only don't have problems with those words when I'm telling my mother that.
I think it's his fault.
Softball playoffs were on the seventeenth—my birthday. I invited him to come watch the game. I was starting, for once. I was so excited. It was a great game—I hit a double and got on base the other two times I got to bat. I scored in two runs! And I caught two pop flies and threw out that idiot girl who tried to steal second. My best game EVER. AND WE WON!
But guess whose life was too important to watch that?
You've got it.
I don't understand. We've been the greatest friends since I was seven. Roger got me INTO SOFTBALL because he played baseball. We played catch every day in my front yard. I was in love with him. Am? I have no idea. I hate him right now. Why is he such an ass? Why is he closing himself off from me? What the HELL? Why do I have to be that girl that loves someone that treats her so badly? Why CAN'T IT STOP?
I read a short story, recently. The main character, a girl my age, had some sort of sickness, and she lost all hope for living. As a last wish, she wanted to see the ocean. Some young woman picked her up and they drove for a few hours together. I remember one conversation that went somewhat like this:
"Will you be remembered after you die?"
"Will you live in someone else's memory? Have you made such an impact on someone that they will remember you every day?"
The girl had no answer for that. She stammered something about her parents, but the woman shot that down: the parents will grieve, but they will get over it.
The girl miraculously survived her sickness. The woman who drove her to the beach, however, was not so fortunate. She perished. But she affected this girl so deeply that for the rest of that girl's life, she was remembered.
This is only relevant because I already know who I will think about every day—whether it is fleeting or something long and drawn out like this, I will always remember the person who least deserves it. Roger Nelson.
Is this my cue to write crappy poetry and slit my wrists like the rest of my pathetic generation? I hope not. I don't want to stoop to their level.
Inside was a Polaroid of a girls' softball team. Roger picked out his mother. She was smiling in a reserved way as the rest of her team, laughing and rejoicing, crowded around the trophy.
"Mom, look what Aunt Tina sent."
Roger held a stack of old photos in his hand. They were accompanied by a note—Roger, see how your mom used to be like!, followed by the e-mail 'at' sign.
His Aunt Tina always thought herself so clever—her initials being unofficially 'AT', she liked shortening it to the 'at' sign. He smiled to himself. She was such a dork. Maybe for her birthday he'd make her a shirt with a giant 'at' sign.
The smallest of smiles appeared on his mother's face, and she set down her patent leather briefcase on the table as she sunk into a chair, flipping through the pictures.
With a flurry, he watched her try to hide a picture from him—using his reflexes honed as a first baseman, Roger leapt and snatched it from her hands.
Laughter pealed from his lips as he kept it from her reach. It was a picture of his mother buried in some blankets, with a sarcastic but playful smile lighting up her face while holding her middle finger to the camera.
"You threatened to break my finger last time you saw me do that!" he accused.
"And that still stands." Her eyebrow was raised, and the slightest signs of amusement were cracking through her face.
Together, in an unusually comfortable silence, they went through the pictures. He paused her at a picture of three people: he recognized the teenage versions of his mother and his Aunt Tina, but there was a tall, good-looking boy standing behind both of them and grinning goofily at the camera.
"Who's that?" Roger pointed.
He felt her hesitate for the slightest amount of time before she answered. "One of my best friends growing up," she replied in a very even tone. "His name was Roger as well."
She was a little more subdued as they went to the next picture. It was his mother again, sitting atop a handsome chestnut. A thin woman with short blonde hair was standing at the horse's head, smiling up proudly at Rowan.
"Is that Granma Rikke?"
Another pause. "Yes. And Sunny, a horse I used to ride. Sometimes." She checked her watch. "I'm late for work," she excused, standing up.
Roger sat back in his chair, once again watching the back of her head start to disappear through the door.
This time she turned around.
"I love you. Have a good day at school."
Roger may have been giving her a weak smile at that point, because she gave an unsure smile back, and left.
April 22nd, 2008
The rest of the diary was empty.