Kristal

by

03/15/2008

Washington Heights and the Natural History Museum, 10040

Neighborhood: Washington Heights

“This would be a great place for making babies,” Kristal said to me, in the same longing way she often asked to go to the bathroom during city and state exams.

Kristal was fifteen. They were all fifteen, even the other ones, the white ones from New Jersey, whose names reflected the suburban streets where they lived, who had come on a tinted-windowed bus with velour seats and air-conditioning and squirmed and squished against my students who had come by the sometimes air-conditioned subway that still made their bodies sweat so that their 2 karat medallions were caramelized to their sticky, hairless, lovely young necks. And all those fifteen-year olds squealed and chirped and whispered together like tiny chisels as Tom Hanks’ everyman voice prepared us for a journey into space.

My whole class was staring up at the domed ceiling as artificial stars appeared, their expansive Dominican faces twisted with worry that somehow the whole thing might come crashing down; Mercury, Saturn, and the ominously looming “this presentation sponsored by” credits. Washington Heights was 140 blocks away and even though the bullets and knives and the tin-tin-tump-tump of “Gasolina” couldn’t reach the purple sphere of the planetarium, the hovering manufactured infinity was naturally suspicious to these steel-browed tropical islanders who measured entire generations in only double decades.

“My eyes are still with you,” Kristal said or didn’t say, because she knew, damn well, my heart was pounding.

“We’re fake traveling at the speed of light,” I giggled, clammy hands, head locked upward, unblinking.

“I’m touching your arm,” she said.

Kristal was right. It might be nice to make a baby here, especially with a well-rumped, dimple-eyed fifteen year old who even looked fresh after she had given birth two months ago to the purplish pod child her grandmother sometimes brought to class, late in the afternoons, swaddled in hand-me-down fleece. But I was over thirty and lived in a studio and responsibly walked my dog three times a day and diagrammed sentences five days a week and was not ready for a child because…because I still liked to drink and flirt and forget to pay my friends back for early morning taxis.

I was still a child.

But Kristal was ready. Only after two months and with high school just around the bend and Jupiter fast approaching and Tom Hanks telling us to hold on to our seats, Kristal was ready.

 

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