Shift 44: Flea Market

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During winter break, Britney took me to look at flats in San Myshuno. It felt like spring, and we didn’t even need jackets.

Through the yoga community that runs YOTO, some people open up their homes to YOTO grads when they go to college. That’s how we came to find out about the flats.

I liked the apartments. They all sort of looked the same after a while. Couples lived in some, and young families lived in others. The one I liked best had a musician living in it. It was a big loft in the art district, which is a short walk to the university. The woman living there is a violinist with the San Myshuno Symphony Orchestra. She’s only about four years older than me, actually, which is kind of neat.

“Wasn’t that place beautiful?” Britney said. “Much better than staying in the dorms, right?”

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I don’t know. I was kind of thinking that the dorms might be easier. But Aadhya feels like it works out better for YOTO kids to live in homes after we graduate. She says, for the most part, we already develop all the communal-living skills that dorms require while we’re living at YOTO. What we really need is to develop home-living skills, so that when we graduate college, we’ll be better prepared to live on our own. We can stay in the dorm, for sure, if we want. And some YOTO kids do for the first few years, and then move into house-shares. But Aadhya thinks for some kids, like me, it’s better to start by sharing a flat.

I’m thinking about it.

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I’ve got a few months before I need to make up my mind.

After we looked at the flats, Britney and I hung out in the park. They were holding a flea market there. I couldn’t believe the junk for sale.

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Adriene showed up.

“Are you following me or something?” I joked. “Or maybe you live here!” It seems like every time I’m at this park, I run into her.

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“Same wave length!” she said. “It’s like we’re surfing the same universal waves, right? Hang ten!”

Sofia showed up, too.

“My mom told me you got into USM,” she said. “I’m going there, too! Maybe we’ll have some classes together.”

“That would be cool,” I told her. “What are you majoring in?”

“Music. And you?”

“Botany.”

“Botany!” yelled Adriene. “Go trees!” She really is funny.

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“Hey, squirt. I see you still got the same taste in friends.” It was Donnie.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him.

“Same as you. Scoping out flats. Emiliano took me.”

“You see any you like?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” Donnie said. “I might start out in the dorms.”

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Britney gave Donnie and me a ride home. We sat together in the back seat.

“I’m not read to live with a family,” he said. “Or even have a room-mate. It’s just weird. Too much baggage.”

He said he liked the way we lived at YOTO, sharing a dorm-like room for sleeping, taking turns cooking and cleaning. He liked that there’s always someone around, and it’s easy to avoid one-to-one conversations or being alone.

“When you live with somebody, you’re either just with them, or alone. It’s weird. I don’t think I can cope. I’d make a good frat boy.”

He said it, not me. But I had to admit he seemed to have good self-knowledge.

I like being alone, and I’d rather be with one person than a group. I think sharing a flat would work out well for me.

Life’s weird. Move on, move through it, and things happen. Sometimes, the things that happen are the things you need. And even when they’re not, if you just keep moving on, moving through it, you might get to the things you need.

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Shift 36: Jenny

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I could tell from Britney’s face that she meant what she’d told me earlier: She’s got really big news for me.

When she called to tell me that she had everything in order for me to be Jenny Trevalyn again, all I needed to do was to sign a few papers, she also said that she had discovered something. She had big news.

“Who do you want to bring with you for moral support?” she asked.

Moral support? I supposed there was only one person for that. I called up Deon and asked if he could meet us as the restaurant.

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She was jubilant when we arrived, so I assumed the big news was good news.

I looked through my Twitter account–I could open a new one, I realized, under my real name. Or maybe, I could see if I could change the name associated with this one.

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“Did you really get everything set up?” I asked her.

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“I did!” she said. Then she launched into a big long story that I couldn’t even follow. There were so many trips to attorneys’ offices, and stops by offices of public records, and so many forms that had to be filled out, but she said it was all “a piece of cake.”

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“And the timing is really perfect, Jazz,” she said.

She went on to explain that spring semester of junior year is the best time to get the whole identity thing straightened out.

“Coaches will be watching you during track season,” she said, “and you’ll be fielding offers! And of course, there are your school transcripts. We get it all set now, and it’s smooth sailing during senior year as you get ready for the final transition to college!”

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“You’re gonna do it!” Deon said. “I’m so proud of you. No GED for you! No community college for you! You’re graduating high school and going straight to university!”

I looked up the Twitter page of University of San Myshuno, which is where I’m hoping to go. It’s funny–I was just getting to the point that when I dream, I let myself dream. I finally stopped being paranoid that nothing good would ever happen anymore.

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“So that’s the good news,” Britney said. “But that’s not all the news. I found out more.”

My dreams screeched to a halt.

Why is it terrifying to see someone pause before speaking?

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I tried stalling her.

“So, before we move on,” I said, “I couldn’t quite follow all the steps you told me before. Can we go through it again, and this time I’ll write it down?”

So she reiterated all that I had left to do, which was really nothing but sign a few things, like she’d said, and she’d take care of filing everything.

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“I met a lot of people,” she said. “Your grandmother was one beloved lady.”

This, I knew. Britney shared with Deon that everyone she met in our old town knew of her and spoke highly of her. I wasn’t surprised, of course. I know Gran was loved.

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But it felt weird and sort of giddy to hear people talking about her. I hadn’t even mentioned her–not as a real person with a real name, Guadalupe Cisneros–for years.

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“Your grandmother sounds like a beautiful person,” Deon said. “And I’m not a bit surprised, for she raised you, didn’t she?”

“Yeah,” I said to Deon. And I realized that he’d never told me about his family, too. Maybe he never would. When you go through what we’ve been through, me and Deon and the kids at YOTO, sometimes it means a clean break from the past. Stories sit inside, untold. The people of the past become ghosts within us, haunting us still, but never to be talked about. We carry on layers of “former” into the present, and sometimes we forget who we are for not knowing who we were.

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“There’s more,” Britney said. “I met people who know all your family.”

She went on to tell about meeting my grandmother’s attorney, who told her the “big news.” It was about Scott.

“You know how you were worried about your uncle?” she said. I could tell she was trying to break it to me softly, but I was already so emotional and nervous that I don’t think there was any “soft” way to hit me with a two-by-four. “You don’t have to be worried anymore.”

I just looked at her.

“He passed away, two years ago. He got in a fatal auto accident.” She looked away.

Deon said something. I couldn’t hear it. I just heard his voice–or felt it, really. That warmth that is his voice.

Uncle Scott was dead.

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“Are you OK, Jazzie?” Deon asked.

I didn’t know what to feel. I felt relief, of course. But I also felt mad. Two years when I could’ve been Jenny, stolen from me.

“Why do I feel sad?” I asked Deon. I’d hated my uncle when he was alive. I’d wished I was a boy so I could kill him. Sometimes, on dark nights, I thought of plans of finding him, when I’d grown up, and killing him anyway. I wasn’t going to do it. I’d met too many people whose hearts were full of love to go down that path. But that didn’t keep me from thinking of it on nights when I couldn’t sleep.

Deon said, “Of course you’re sad, honey. You can hate somebody and wish them dead. Then when it happens, you still feel sad.”

“I’m really all alone now,” I whispered.

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There were so many more words. I sort of tuned them out.

Britney had lots of condolences, of course, and there were so many details, still. But it came down to Uncle Scott was dead.

Britney talked on, and I zoned out.

I heard her saying something with excitement when I finally tuned back in.

“It’s not a fortune, but it’s plenty!” she said.

“That’s amazing!” said Deon.

I was still in a daze.

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It turns out that Gran’s estate was never fully settled, and with Uncle Scott dead, I’m the beneficiary, and the attorney was just sort of sitting on everything, hoping I’d show up or something.

So I got some money coming to me when I turn 18. It’s not a lot. But it’s enough to help out with college, in case the scholarships don’t cover everything. And there might even be some left over, to help with a house or something some day.

I don’t know what to feel. I’m just numb, I guess. I mean, it should be good news. I can be Jenny without worrying about Scott finding me. I’ve got a small inheritance. It’s big news, but some of it is good news. Something good comes from every something bad. That’s what Gran always said. I should be feeling relief. I should be feeling good. It’s just that I’m the only one left. I didn’t really want Scott dead. I just wanted him to leave me alone.

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