A nun? A real life nun? What the hell?
Never seen a real nun before and now I am sitting in a car with one, going to my new school, and new home I guess. My parents died, which I had been expecting, but it still left me with some issues to deal with.
For example: the fact that I am fourteen and now an orphan.
So a boarding school didn't seem like a bad idea, especially considering all the money my parents left me. They may have been the least healthy people you ever met, both mentally and physically, but they certainly did have a lot of money.
I could have sworn that I had more family than just them, I clearly remember visiting and aunt. To be clear I don't remember the visit, only the fact that it took place. But at least I get a lift to the school, with a nun.
I am having quite some trouble with the nun.
It isn't a Christian school by any stretch of the imagination.
We drive for a long time and I have nothing to do but look out the window at the changing scenery, the city slowly dying away, the houses spreading out until there is only the occasional house in the fields in the distance.
After a long time even those are strangely absent.
There is nothing out here but grass and trees.
But suddenly there is the school. A massive building that makes no effort to blend into the environment. It is five stories tall with an arched roof that could easily add another two stories to the height. But it is also the width of the place. There is the massive school building at the front that is easily four hundred metres across and then the L shaped dormitory behind it that is more like six hundred across and another two hundred out.
The place is just big. Way bigger than it has any right to be.
I really want to ask a question now, namely: why is it so big? And also: is your butt numb as well?
But I have a thing about nuns, not specifically. But I have a thing about religious people, I mean the ones whose job it is to be religious. Like priests and whatever. I just don't know what to say to them, except that I always want to ask: don't you think it is a waste?
But of course I don't actually ask. Maybe I should, maybe I should be confident enough, but certainly I am not confident. That is why I have not spoken a word since we got into the car together. That and the scenery.
What can I say? I like scenery.
The car pulls in behind the school building, in front of the dorm, and someone opens my door for me. It is a woman who looks a lot like the nun's sister, but almost nothing like the nun. I just get the feeling that they are related, something about the look.
The nun gets out of the car and the woman who opened my door starts laughing and then has a lot of trouble stopping. "Sorry sister" – I was right, I like that – "but what are you doing?"
The nun laughs as well and takes off the habit, I know what it is called and that surprises me. She just looks like a normal person now. I would guess that she is around thirty five. She has really damn long black hair. So long that it is tied up in loops so that it doesn't touch the ground.
They both crack up and I am left standing there wondering how many people there are in this massive building before me. I don't really get why anyone would pretend to be a nun and so I don't question it. I know that that makes no sense, but it is the easiest way to phrase it.
The way I see it there is a limit to the things you ask about. The limit is something totally pointless. If it seems totally pointless then it probably is and you won't understand the answers. So I just stand there and count the amount of people in the building.
I sometimes find that you can tell how many people there are in a building from looking at the outside, not often, but sometimes. There are twenty two windows with the lights on, evening is deepening, and there are another four with movement behind them.
I would hazard that there is only one window to each room, so that makes twenty six people within my field of vision. That seems like very few, unless the outside of the building is full of people like the inside, where I am, is not.
I know that I am not actually inside the building, but I am inside the school grounds. To be honest I would say there are about a hundred and twenty people in that building, I don't know this but it is what I am fairly sure of. I have always been good at judging these sorts of things.
The sisters seem to be calming themselves.
"Sorry about her," the younger one says to me, "shall we go inside?"
I just nod, I do that around people I've never met before, especially, but not exclusively, adults. She looks to be about twenty six, an adult. We go inside to find what is essentially a reception area, why is there a reception in the dorm?
But I don't ask as it doesn't bother me.
The older sister, the one who had been dressed as a nun, disappears into the reception area, which is currently unattended. I think that the woman guiding me through the dorms is the receptionist, she did open the door for me, which seems like a secretary kind of thing.
Or she might just be nice.
We go up two flights of stairs and then down the corridor, the nun is waiting there for us somehow, she isn't still dressed that way, I just don't know her name. That seems quite lax to me, and a bit… weird. She didn't tell me her name but I knew she was from the school.
I got into a car with a stranger.
They open the door for me and usher me in. I was right about the window, there is only one. There is also only one bed and one wardrobe and one desk. It is a single room, for some reason I had been expecting double rooms.
I can't say I am not relieved, and I can't say I am surprised now that I am here. There are way too few people at the school for there to be double rooms. But there are some double rooms, I know that, again it is just something I can see from the building.
"This is your room," the older woman says, handing me a key.
I nod, not sure what to say.
"See you on Monday," the younger woman says and they leave me in my new room.
All my stuff is already here, a few sets of clothes and all my books. I have more books than anything else because books are easy. You don't have to do anything in a book. I sent all this stuff ahead yesterday, all that is left in my house now is a picture.
I spend about twenty minutes rearranging the bookshelf. I didn't notice it immediately as, from the door, it is hidden behind the desk. I get the books sufficiently out of order and pull out the one I am reading.
I didn't bring anything with me except a wallet my friend got me and ring that I have had for a long time, since before I can remember. It doesn't fit me, it is too big, but I expect that one day it will fit, otherwise it will have been completely pointless.
I don't like that idea.
I lie on my bed with my book, turning on the lamp on my bedside table. There is a clock there, one of those old fashioned alarm clocks that have bells on the top. I check it and find that the alarm is not set, so I can sleep as long as I want tomorrow.
I didn't know how to check them before now, but it is pretty obvious, there is a switch. I make sure the switch is off and then lie back and read my book. I like reading, I really do, as it is so nice and distracting. As long as you avoid what you are distracted from.
I read until about eleven, and then decide maybe it is time for some sleeping.
I put the book on my bedside table, and then I turn off the light and put my glasses on the book. I lie back on the mattress and find it less comfortable than a moment ago. It is not what I am used to, and considering that I have been sleeping on the same sort of mattress for more than eight years, it really does make a difference.
But what really prevents me from sleeping is the ticking of the clock. It is just so… constant.
I don't like that. I face it away but of course that makes no difference, it probably makes it worse as I am fairly sure that the interior workings of the clock are in the back of it. I get up and carry the clock to my desk but when I lie down again I can still hear it.
I doubt that I can make it any quieter so I resolve to just deal with it. I manage to tune it out, it is a lot quieter over there. But the bed is still uncomfortable, so I get up, pull off all the blankets, and lie down on the floor.
I had a really hard mattress at home.
I can't hear the clock at all now.
I don't know what time it is when I finally fall asleep.
But I can tell you what time it is when I wake up, because what I wake to is someone outside my room yelling: "It's already six, hurry up."
It is a girl's voice, she sounds about my age. Judging from the light filtering through my curtains I would say that that is six in the morning. I try my best to go back to sleep, but, understandably, the floor is not comfortable enough now that I am awake.
I lie on the bed and manage to snooze for a while, until the same voice outside my room yells again, maybe there is someone who doesn't like me. "Isn't this the new girl's room?"
I put on my glasses so that I can see the clock, it tells me the time is ten thirty, and I assume it is morning still because the light has gotten stronger. I get up and put some clothes on, then I go into the bathroom and use it for bathroom based activities.
With my mouth tasting like mint I open the door blearily and wonder where the food would be.
Apparently the loud girl hasn't left the corridor.
"Hey, new girl," she calls, despite not being so far from me.
I turn to look and find that she is with another girl, they look like twins. But the difference is complete at the same time as the similarity is complete. Physically they look exactly the same, there is absolutely no difference. And they are my age.
But the one that is yelling is wearing a white skirt that goes to her knees with a brightly coloured, but plain, t-shirt. Her sister, who mutters something inaudible as the loud one starts my way, is wearing black pants with a black shirt that has an interesting design on it.
The way they carry themselves is just as different. The loud girl skips up to me and takes my hand, without my cooperation, and shakes it enthusiastically. Her sister, on the other hand, wanders sedately over to me and nods.
I think I like the sister better. I nod to both of them, but the loud one doesn't let go.
"Hello," I say eventually, "would you kindly let my hand go?"
"Of course," she says, hastily releasing me. "We don't get many new people around here."
I just nod, I am also not good with forceful people.
Really the only kind of person I get along with, or can even deal with, is myself. But I do want to know where the food is at. So I stay there in the corridor instead of retreating back into my room as they give me a strange look.
"Hello," the loud one finally says. "My name is Vivian, but please call me Viv. And my sister here" – she gestures in the wrong direction – "is Marie."
"Nice to meet you both," I say, more out of habit than anything else. Completely out of habit if I am being truthful, which I try to be most of the time. "Do you know where I can get some food? I only just got up." Even if you did wake me up so early, I think, but I don't say it.
"To apologise for waking you up so early we will show you the way," Vivian tells me.
I guess she would assume that she woke me up this morning.
I nod and she starts off down the corridor with her sister, so I follow behind, wondering what they were doing so early in the morning, I can only assume it was her sister she was yelling at. But I could be wrong about that.
The cafeteria is big, again it is way too big for so few students, but it is still a nice looking place. There is a table on the back wall with breakfast stuff on it. There is cereal and bread and toasters and spreads and milk. In that order from left to right, seems badly planned.
I walk over to the table at the back as the twins go and sit with some other people who are here, they aren't eating and don't have dishes, so I guess this is a hangout. Or something. I make myself some breakfast and sit at a table nearer to the back.
I don't like crowds.
Marie sits down across from me, but no one follows her from that table. She doesn't say anything, and I appreciate that. I eat my cereal and push the bowl away from me before I look up. I didn't really get a good look at her before.
I got a good look at her sister but even if they are twins they are still different. Her face is just like her sisters, but her hair is short, giving her less of an air of femininity. She doesn't sit like her sister does and she didn't stand like her either.
I wonder if being one of a pair of twins, especially identical twins as these two seem to be, brings with it a few self-image issues, or individuality issues. I couldn't tell you and I don't know that it is important.
"I like your shirt," I tell her, and I do.
It is black with a white hammer and sickle, it also has some Russian writing on it and the name Leon Trotsky in English. I don't know what the writing says, not really, but I know that the overall meaning is: "force works." So the quote must be: "Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity."
It looks long enough for that to be the case.
She smiles a little but remains silent. And for once I was trying to make conversation.
I don't know what to do with the dishes, there are no adults in this room. Will someone else deal with them if I don't? I want to assume that but I don't remember what it said on the site about that, or what it said on the site about rooms.
Or anything it said on the site except that it was a boarding school.
Vivian sits down next to her sister. "Just leave the dishes," she tells me.
"Ok," I reply.
Some more of Vivian's friends sit down with is and I suddenly feel crowded. It isn't a crowd, only six people, that is not a crowd. But I can't help these things, I am not well suited to crowds, not well suited to soft mattresses, not well suited to clocks that tick.
I am not well suited to this school.
First day, no classes and I already can't deal with the place. I would like to say that I am worse than usual but I am not, I am just further outside of my comfort zone. My parents may have died only three months ago but that makes no difference to the way I am now.
They made me who I am, but their deaths have no contribution.
I want to go back to my room, but it is too late now, there is a crowd here. I can see that the twins notice my discomfort but no one else does and I am bombarded with questions. Mostly only two questions, but I am still bombarded.
"When did you get here?" A girl asks.
"Where are you from?" another asks.
"Did you come in late at night?" a third asks.
"Are you from a city?" the fourth asks.
I got here in the evening but I cannot say it out loud. I am from a city, but there are too many people talking. I did not come in late at night, but they wouldn't hear me. It doesn't matter where I am from, does it? I am here now, I will not be leaving any time soon.
But I know what it is that I will do now, I will do what I always do. What I did last time this happened, and the time before that. And too many times before that. I have never been good with people and I know why that is, but knowing why doesn't help in the slightest.
"Excuse me," I say, "I don't feel well."
And I leave to a chorus of concerned sounding goodbyes. Maybe they are concerned but that doesn't help, they don't get me and I find myself difficult to explain. Maybe someone else will be able to explain me one day.
And then I will be able to accept who I am.
Or at least understand it.
I lie on my bed and try not to think too hard, but I don't pick up my book. I do want to think about it, I just don't want to think very hard, or very much. I lie on my side and stare at the wall for what feels like an hour but could not be.
There is a knock on the door.
I get up and open it. It is Marie, I was expecting that.
She gives me a questioning look and I step back and gesture her in. There is something I like about Maire, it isn't quite what it seems but it is close. She seems like me, but she seems like me because of something else.
She ended up this way for other reasons, but regardless we are in the same place.
Knowing that it is not just me makes me feel better.
"I'm sorry about them," she says, it surprises me that she speaks. Her voice is so soft I almost don't catch what she says. Here is something that is completely different from her sister, her voice. She has a quiet and controlled voice.
"Don't worry about it," I reply, smiling a little, "it was not your fault."
"But it was," she says, "if I hadn't sat with you then my sister wouldn't have and so you would have been left alone." It is a long speech for someone who speaks so little. I am still having trouble with her voice. Malleable is the word that I see.
Malleable is undoubtedly the wrong word. But it is the word that comes to me. It is changeable, it is strong and soft at the same time. You would hear it in a crowded room even if she did not speak up, but there is of course no guarantee that you will ever catch what she says.
I can see now that that is why she speaks little, because not many can catch what she says.
"Don't worry about it," I say, "I do not blame you."
She smiles now and gives me an interesting look. "Thank you," she says.
A new word comes to mind when she says that. Beautiful. She has a beautiful voice and I don't mind that she doesn't want to use it. I don't mind at all that she wants to keep it to herself. And I don't mind at all that she is sitting on my bed, still giving me that look.
After a moment I sit down beside her on my bed. The bed gives too much and I don't like it. My old bed didn't give at all, even when both my parents sat on it. But I don't mind that the fact that the mattress gives pushes us together a little bit.
"I do like your shirt, by the way," I tell her.
She smiles again. "Thanks, but I only got it because it was the only one I could find that didn't have a quote from Stalin on it," she tells me. "I was looking for a quote from Marx or maybe Lenin."
"It surprises me that you could find a shirt with a quote from any of them," I reply.
"I just know where to look," she says, smiling again.
She has a really nice smile.
"Thank you for being so nice to me," I say.
She looks at me and up close I can see her eyes too are a different colour from her sisters. Or maybe there is just a different look in them. "You are very welcome," she tells me, and kisses me on the cheek.
Just a little peck on the cheek but it makes me blush.
And to be perfectly honest, I am a little disappointed she only kissed me on the cheek.