feet lead to restless minds," Mr. Hall tells our class, pointing to
Evelyn Wells who, in second grade, spends afternoons in front of our
class with Merriam Webster's Dictionary weighing down her small, arched
feet. Evelyn reads comic books and her hero is a mouse. While
reading them, she swings her legs and shakes her feet, almost like
she's trying to break into the panels that hold her stories. Mr.
Hall tells us that we need to let go of our fantasy worlds; "Are you
mice, or are you men?" he asks. That's a silly question; no
one here is a man.
I watch Evelyn from the front row of
where I sit. She stares over me, never moving except to blink, which
she does only seven times a minute. I think I can hear tiny
bones underneath the huge pile of words snapping like Pixie Sticks
in between classroom snickers. Her toes must be webbing under
the pressure, or worse, her feet are flattening like Julian Divacio's,
our neighbor, who, in spite of being a man, disqualified as a soldier.
It is 1967; at home Mama takes a pill
every day to prevent another baby from bursting through. She
has five of us that are restless, while dad comes and goes like
most. Today I come home and tell mama that Evelyn Wells spends
afternoons covered in books, and she says from behind her cover,
"You could learn something from Miss Evelyn." I look at the
book Mama's reading, In Cold Blood, and I think of Evelyn's feet
turning cold underneath the weight of words everyday. What
happens when blood turns cold?
I go to the basement and grab all of
Mama's books off the shelf, tie them together with my jump rope
and balance them on my feet as I sit facing the photos of my parent's
wedding. Dad's shoes glare floppy, shiny and new. I
think of the mouse. Mama's are hidden underneath white chiffon
and layers of lace. Their faces stare over me, and their eyes
never blink. I try to sit still for what seems as long as
Evelyn's afternoons in front of us all, counting the seconds and
my blinks. My eyes weigh down with water, and my feet feel
numb. I am practicing to be a soldier for Mr. Hall's army.
The next day after class I ask Evelyn
if her feet are numb, if the act of staring makes things seem smaller
than what they are, like when you look in the rearview mirror of
your mama's car at what's behind you. I think Evelyn might
learn something from me. I tell her that Merriam Webster defines
Mickey Mouse as, "insignificant, lacking importance, annoying petty."
She looks me in the eye for the very first time, a cold, bloodless
look before brushing past me. Then her restless feet, like
weapons, lead her out of the room embracing her comic books, only
to reenter her world of fantasy where mice lead men.