I don't say this now I will surely break, as I'm leaving the one I
want to take. Forgive the urgency, but hurry up and wait; my heart
has started to separate. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh be my baby. Oh, oh,
oh, oh, oh, oh be my baby. I'll look after you. There now, steady
love, so few come and don't go. Will you, won't you, be the one I
always know. When I'm losing my control, the city spins around,
you're the only one who knows, you slow it down. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
oh be my baby. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh be my baby.
…I'll look after you"
"Oh, maybe, we were made; we were made for each other.
Ah, is it possible, for the world to look this way forever?"
Prologue • Made For Each Other
I still remember the first time I laid eyes on him; we were ten years old and it was two weeks after my parent's had uprooted my older sister and me from Brooklyn to suburban New York. While my sister was spending the weekend in the city with some friends—to the dismay of my parents who felt this was a sign she wasn't "socializing" well, I sat on our porch eating a chocolate éclair bar I'd solicited from a passing truck.
It is the same thing I did on smoldering summer days in Brooklyn, yet it is still so very different here. There were no sounds of girls saying rhymes while playing Double Dutch on the sidewalk, no neighborhood friends to ride on bicycles with me until the streetlights came calling, not the busy sounds of New York City; home. No, instead it was shingled houses that are very much all the same except for changes in color—purple here, yellow there, fire engine red on the end. There were no majestic brownstones standing from the turn of the 19th century or cars—hybrids to hoopties, lining the streets. In their place are minivans and yes, even some hybrids too, parked in freshly paved driveways.
Children don't exist on this street, or drive as my new home is now called. I had to get used to that, too—not living on an avenue with a number in front of it but on "Wood Creek Drive." But yes, it seemed as if I was the only child in existence on this street. My older sister, who was thirteen at the time, described it as the "most lifeless place with living beings" and she wasn't wrong at all. I am being a bit overdramatic, because I did see kids from time to time, but it was always a passing notice. They seemed to be mini versions of their parents; I only saw glimpses of them getting into cars to go other places, places that were not home. It seemed as if no child here actually knew how to be a child, and while I was not running home to Brooklyn for that comfort, I could not blame my sister for doing so.
I'd been sitting on the porch for what felt like hours with the flies buzzing about and the hot sun beating down on my face with no shade, but I sat out there anyway. I'd gotten tired of watching people getting slimed on Nickelodeon from the comforts of my parent's plush bed, and had decided I'd watch the whirls of suburbia and wonder how it was I ended up here, the summer before I was to start fifth grade with my friends from kindergarten at St. Catherine's. I never thought I could miss the plaid jumpers and white collared shirts I loathed so much, but here I was missing them and everything they reminded me of.
It was in this misery of reverie that I saw him. What intrigued me most was that he was the first child on this street whom I saw come out of their front door with an actual ball. It was that simple action, him juggling the black and white soccer ball from knee to knee, a look of pure joy on his face that said more than any word ever could. He had sun kissed brown skin and a mop of black hair, in red soccer shorts and a white jersey with the red, peeling number 12 on it. His uniform—from the shorts to the tall white socks with the red stripes, reminded me of home. Of the boys who'd pile up in Mr. Dugan's minivan and go to soccer game; often they would leave wearing war paint in the team's colors, and return tired and sweaty, but jubilant and victorious with ice cream smudges on the sides of their mouths.
He juggled that ball all the way until he was in the freshly mown grass of his lawn, and then he let it roll out into the grass. He did the most peculiar thing, something that isn't really peculiar at all I find, but that seemed to be the very definition of so at that moment: he plopped down in the lawn, laid on his back with his hands behind his head, and stared up at the sky. He looked so content—as if the world's answers rested in those cumulus clouds, until I couldn't help doing the same thing. But when I looked up at the sky, all I saw was the sun blinding me.
I watched him until the sun began to set, and his mother called him inside. I couldn't see her against the shadows of the dark and her position behind the screen door, but I was enchanted by her voice. It was slightly accented but this only added to my fascination. He must've fallen asleep against the gentle lulling of the sun, because she had to call him—"Dev! Dev!"—a few times before he came to, grabbing the ball and going inside.
When I went inside my hands and legs were sticky from the chocolate melting off the bar and running down my legs and in-between the crevices of my hand, but I was too fixated on him to care. Now it was a hassle and I was too boggled down with fatigue to take a shower so I ran hot water, squeeze a towel, and wiped myself off. When I went downstairs my father had fixed me a fruit smoothie, the peace offering he'd given me every night before bed since moving.
It is my father's fault we moved upstate.
My father is an accountant, but not just any accountant—you know the types who become accountants because it's stable and pay well. No, my father lives, breathes, and dreams numbers. My father graduated from high school at fifteen and went on to attend MIT. Since before I was born my father worked as an accountant for a huge law firm in Manhattan, making the commute from Brooklyn 5 days a week and working long hours, sometimes past his eight hour shift. Midway through my 4th grade year, he was offered the position of accountant at a small firm in upstate New York, and with it 5 hour days, weekends and Wednesdays off, and a pay raise, It seemed a simple choice to make. And while my parent's talked to my sister and I about the decision as to make us seem included, it was decided that at the end of the school year we were out of Brooklyn. No sleep 'til…Wood Creek Drive.
My mother, who taught at St. Catherine's and in turn afforded my sister and me free tuition to attend the school, was quick to make the transition as easy as possible. She immediately started house hunting every weekend and made sure to take my sister and me with her on the four hour drives. At first, I was upset to be missing dance and acting class, but stopped sulking when my mom told me my teacher had recommended, "A good friend of hers" in this new place we were moving. My sister Cait however was no so easily pleased and won over. She found something wrong with every house the realtor showed us and said her basketball team (number one in the tri-state area, a very impressive title) could not be so easily replaced.
But my mother is resourceful and before we knew it everything was in place—she'd secured a job teaching at a prestigious k-12, coed, secular private school. This was crafty on her part and benefited my sister and me—the school only took the top 5% of students in each grade level, and because my sister and I had the grades (and extracurricular activities) we were accepted. And while the school didn't give us free tuition, we got a discount for having more than 1 child attending the school, and because of my mom's position as English teacher. This cut the tuition down from a hefty 20k a year to half that price.
My parents are very different from one another, and at times I wonder what drew them to each other, if perhaps it is those differences that make them fit so perfectly; like puzzle pieces. My father, David Clarke is an only child who was born in the mid-'60s to a beatnik white feminist mother from the Upper West who was attending Sarah Lawrence, and a black college student father from Harlem attending NYU. While their love made for an inspiring tale doing the civil rights movement, it didn't last and they divorced when my father was six. He didn't see his father much after that, and the only thing he had to show for it was the checks my grandfather sometimes sent and the stares on the street; for even in New York in the '70s, there were still curious states at the "high yellow" boy with his wavy hair and his radical blond mother. While my father is an accountant who deals with numbers and things that are factual day in and day out, he is also a free spirit like my grandmother. He has been an Atheist since childhood and believes in urban legends ("everything is based in truth, Aisha" he always tells me; "Everything.") and things that go bump in the night. He is a small thin man with glasses, and who holds fast to his belief in non-belief.
My mother Natalie Thompson's upbringing was different. She grew up in the only black family on a street in Connecticut with her mother and father—a construction worker and teacher respectively, and her twin sister, Linda. She was a bookworm who loved to learn from a young age, and was skipped from the 2nd to the 4th grade, to the delight of my grandparents who'd worked so hard for their daughters to have what they never could. My mother was raised, and still remains, a devout Catholic. That is the one thing I am still trying to figure out in my mind: the union of an Atheist and Catholic which, unsurprisingly yielded an Agnostic (me) and a Buddhist (Cait). My parents sometimes get into heated arguments over religion, but it always ends in laughter and the slight shaking of heads, agreeing to disagree. My mother, who goes to mass dutifully, tries to live by the book as much as possible. But she disagrees with the church on key issues such as abortion and sex education, and I don't know if she's ever really made peace with herself over it.
As I sit down at the kitchen table to enjoy my freshly blended smoothie, my father asks me about my day. I cock my head a bit and think about the sticky ice cream, the sun, the bugs, the few mosquito bites I'd rather not have, and tilt my head back and smile. "It was grand."
He laughs that magical laugh of his and ruffles my hair that is already out of its ponytail, "grand, eh? Well, that's good to hear."
I drink my smoothie silently as my father reads his paper. When I place the glass in the sink and look back at my dad, "don't think this means you have to stop making the smooth—piece offerings."
He winks, "I wouldn't dare."
And when I get upstairs to my room that has felt so empty and scarcely like my room at all, I pull back the lace curtains. Only slightly, just enough so I can see the house directly across the street, I am not sure which room is his but I have a feeling I will know by morning; and sure enough, just as I am about to crawl into my bed and be welcomed with a sigh, I see him at his window—the room I will be able to see from my bed. My breath catches in my throat as I watch him look directly at me. It as if he knew I would be there, and he opened his blinds just to look out at me. I'd thought he hadn't noticed me earlier, but when he raises his hand slowly and gives a simple wave accompanied by the most fantastic grin I have ever seen, I know that he did. I smile back shyly and quickly get into bed. He leaves his blinds open and I know he's watching me, too.
When I dreamt that night they were of Dev Singh.