Out of Focus—Elaine Bonow
Out of Focus
I didn’t want to go to my grand mothers house that summer. I tried every excuse I could think of to get out of going.
“Sarah, get up right now. We have to leave in exactly one half hour to catch the train.” My mother Janice Hopkins shouted from the bottom of the stairs.
I stared at myself in the mirror and the plain reflection stared back. I took off my glasses and wiped the lenses on the bottom of my shirt. Without my glasses I couldn’t see anything clearly, including, myself. I quite liked life when it was just a blur. When I blurred my eyes I could go right into my daydream self. It was like I became a television story, well, not me really but I could lapse into the most wonderful daydream.
“Sarah Hopkins. What are you doing? We have to leave in just twenty-five minutes.”
I thought that the bedroom of my childhood was superb. I appreciatively looked around at the single bed, dresser and bedside table all in matching blond wood. The walls were pale green and the curtains and bedspread echoed the pastel landscape in yellow polished cotton. My favorite dolls, ones I had collected or at least the ones my mother had saved, dressed up and coiffed, were lined up by size on the pillow of the perfectly made up bed. I was proud of myself for being able to make up a perfect bed. The crease under the pillow was sharp and straight without a wrinkle to be seen.
I would miss my room that summer like I had missed it the past five summers. I especially missed looking out at the shiny pale green leaves of the willow tree now taller than the rooftop of my second story bedroom.
I picked up my neatly packed suitcase, stooped in front of the oval vanity mirror, patted my bangs and went downstairs to rendezvous with my mother.
“Well, Janice, I’m ready to go I guess.”
“Alright, Sarah, you look presentable, after all, this is the first time you’ll be going on the train alone. It’s not too long of a trip. I’ve packed you a very good dinner. Grandma and grandpa will pick you up from the station.”
We drove along in silence. I felt big and small at the same time. I was scared but at thirteen I didn’t want to seem like a child. I opened my purse and checked for my newest Nancy Drew book, “The Case of Broken Chandelier. ” I checked my coin purse again counting by memory the two crisp dollar bills and four quarters I had saved from my allowance.
My mother doesn’t allow me to wear lipstick, but I hide the small round pot of pink lipstick I shoplifted from the Kress Store downtown in my bureau under the paper liner in the back of my sock drawer.
I daub some on at night after I go to bed. Taking off my glasses and blurring my eyes, I’d stare in the mirror and imagine what I would look like if I wasn’t so plain and afterwards, wipe off any traces with a Kleenex so no pink would stain my pale yellow pillowcase. In the morning, I’d take the soiled tissue and flush it carefully down the toilet so that Janice wouldn’t find out.
The train station was a fifteen-minute ride from the house. It was a low brick building with hard wooden seats, like pews in a church. We arrived in plenty of time for my train, the same one I had taken for the past five years with my mom. It seemed strange to say goodbye to her. I could have been going away forever.
I wanted to cry but crying would make me seem like a child, like I had never been alone before. I held back my tears and gave my mother a stiff quick hug. “I’ll be alright.” I told her softly. She held me by both shoulders. I couldn’t see her real eyes behind her thick tinted glasses.
“You be a good girl, Sarah. Help your grandmother around the farm. She’s getting old now and can’t do as much as she once did.”
“I’ll be OK mother. I’d better get my seat.”
“Here’s your lunch. I made the cookies myself, your favorite.”
“Thanks, mother. I’ll see you in three months.”
I found a seat next to a window. There were just three others in my car. I put the carefully packed basket of food on the empty seat next to me and lugged the suitcase on to the overhead rack. The train whistle blew and the train pulled slowly from the station. I waved at the gray clad figure of my mother as she receded from my view. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Alone.” I said to no one in particular. “Alone, for the first time in my life.” I waited until the train was at full speed. I waited until the conductor came by to take my ticket. I waited until the rocking of the train took me into the future.
I opened my purse and took out a small mirror and the tiny pot of pale pink lipstick. I used my pinkie to daub the faint color on my lips. I unbraided my ponytail and let the dark tendrils slide close to my face. I took off my glasses and made my eyes unfocus on the tiny mirror.