Autobiography of Us

Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss Page B

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Authors: Aria Beth Sloss
Tags: General Fiction
to do? I would have believed him if he’d said he saw the face of Jesus in my eyes. I was twenty-one, and listen: I knew nothing. All I knew for sure was what I loved. I loved the cool, dim halls of McCarren Hall, the building Oliver had seen me leaving. I loved the lab on the second floor, where Professor Potts taught chemistry. I loved the clean white countertops and the shining order of it. I loved the awkward, bespectacled boys I worked side by side with, the boys who peered at me and the lone other girl in the class—a Holly Stevens—on our first day as though we were unidentified specimens, before turning away and forgetting about us. I loved Holly Stevens a little, for her Martha Clarkson clothing—shapeless skirts, blouses two sizes two big and the wrong color for her complexion—and for her brilliant mind, which she used with the cool dexterity of someone uninterested in the everyday. I loved the night sky and the old telescope in the observatory, the way the youngish Professor Tinsley had shown me how to find Venus one night that spring, the smell of dried leaves and tobacco rising out of his coat as he moved around me in the dark, adjusting, until I saw it: a dot of light seared into the blackness above the horizon. I loved my evening hours at my study carrel—the quiet of the library, the books I pored over long after the floor had emptied of students. I loved the names for the bones of the foot—calcaneus and talus, the elegant, articulated joints of the metatarsals. I loved my father, who I thought must be the wisest man in the world; I loved my mother, despite the crease in her forehead when she came across me reading— intellectual , she told me, a label men found wholly unattractive; I loved her for her love of music and for the brisk efficiency with which she moved through the house, making everything shine. I loved what I had lost, those afternoons Alex and I spent down by the canal when we were girls, the light in my memory impossibly golden, impossibly bright. I knew I loved all of that. But beyond that, I was a fool.
    “You don’t know the first thing about me,” I said. His hand when I reached for it already waiting.

Chapter 10
    WE must have all driven back from the wedding in Betsy’s car, exactly the way we arrived. The sky would have been that particular blue, the blue that runs the length of my childhood like some brilliant animal spine. Say the car was oddly quiet. Say the radio jangled in the background, the tin-can strains of a piano rattling out into the hot air. Say Betsy and Lindsey spoke to each other occasionally at first and even to me, that Alex snapped her glasses off at a certain point and turned to the window, that the car went silent then and that she did not look my way again, not even when I gathered my things and stepped out of the car, mumbling goodbye. The truth is that I don’t remember any of it, only that by the end of the ride I knew. Everything had changed.
    Not that you ever would have known it to see me that first afternoon. I went straight to the patio when I got home and spent the rest of the day in one of our old deck chairs, flipping through a stack of my mother’s magazines and pouring myself glass after glass of lemonade. It was Sunday, I reminded myself. School was done. Summer stretched before me, a vast, uninterrupted vista of time with which I could do what I liked. I tried to remember how I’d felt at that thought just a day or so before, my joy at the prospect of being able to do as I pleased for three whole months. I reminded myself of the books I meant to study in preparation for the fall; entrance exams for medical school were scheduled for November, and I had a stack of practice tests to work through between now and then. There was a dress I’d planned on sewing to make my mother happy, the pattern clipped from the pages of her Vogue . I had plenty to keep me busy.
    But the longer I sat in the deck chair and tried to read, the less I

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