One long winter night, Ezra Washington’s wife walks in on him telling their younger child stories from his rollerblading days. The room is as dark as a coal mine and his voice floats sonorously from somewhere in the vicinity of the trundle bed. He is remembering a time long before the child was born, a time when he was a poor graduate student living in New York City with nothing but his own body and mind for entertainment. Saturdays were spent in the narrow park that runs alongside the Hudson River, blading up and down the path very fast, as if his happiness depended on it.
“She was coming straight at me,” he says. “To the right of me was the river. And to the left a pack of bicyclists. She was coming around the bend with a look of panic in her eyes.”
From the doorway his wife wonders silently if he is speaking about her, the younger self who, on the three or four occasions on which she’d joined him, may have worn this expression.
“She was going fast, too?” their child asks in the dark.
“No, not at all, she was clearly a beginner. Which made the situation that much more dangerous,” Ezra says patiently. He then explains how he called out to her in the instant before they collided. “I’ve got you! ” he cried to the inexperienced skater as he grasped her by the forearms and guided her down between his legs until her bottom gently touched the ground. “By then she was laughing,” he said. “That laugh you’d know anywhere.”
His wife doesn’t recall ever laughing while on Rollerblades. Her first wild thought is that all these years she’s been wrong about herself. But then the child shifts in his bed and sets the comforter to rustling and casts the story in an entirely new light. “She’s the one who plays the mom?” he asks. “With the big teeth and the long brown hair?”
“Well, I’d say it’s more of a reddish brown. An auburn color. But yes, that’s right,” Ezra says to the child. “Julia Roberts.”
2020欧洲杯体育投注网“Julia Roberts went right between your legs,” the child confirms.
“Yes, but don’t repeat that,” Ezra says. “Better to say we crashed into each other. Or that Julia Roberts crashed into me.”
The child falls silent, as if committing this to memory.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网Ezra adds, “It’s not an exaggeration to say she was the biggest movie star in the world.”
“Back then,” the child clarifies.
Fine, his mother thinks, back then—all children are by nature sticklers—but in fact the poor kid has no idea. Never will he know the stunned sensation of emerging from the darkness of a matinée on Senior Skip Day, speechless at what they’d just seen: Julia Roberts as an adorable streetwalker. It confounded the imagination. Whatever had possessed them to spend their day of mutiny in this ridiculous way? They would never forget it. A whole group of them milling about on the sidewalk outside the theatre, boarding-school students let loose on the world and now at a loss for what to do next, Ezra with his arm resting lightly across the shoulders of his girlfriend, Christina, his serious senior-year girlfriend Christina, and Christina looking shy and triumphant because already more than one person had said, “You know, you kind of look like her. . . .”
Yes, she was there that day, witness to the spectacle of Ezra and Christina, and though she was sandwiched in the middle of the crowd, she saw them as if from a great distance, from a far, chilly point on the periphery. She kept half an eye on Ezra from long habit. She had done so, without quite wanting to, through all the weeks and months of high school that had come before, and maybe he had noticed: when he and Christina broke up, after a run of graduation parties, it was she whom he called. He was miserable but talkative. You still had to pay for long distance in those days. On a Saturday morning in early October, he appeared on the steps of her freshman dorm, despite having enrolled at a college more than three hours away. By the time Ezra got into graduate school, they were an old couple, a familiar sight. She, too, had her tales of New York. The park he spoke of, and its hazardous paths—she once knew them well.
2020欧洲杯体育投注网“Tell him,” Ezra urges, his voice turned in her direction. It comes as a surprise: she thought she had gone unnoticed when she glided into the room, wearing socks.
“It’s true,” she says to their child. “Julia was huge. She was everywhere.”
2020欧洲杯体育投注网“And I bladed right into her,” Ezra says with satisfaction, the splendor of the story holding all of them in its embrace. For a moment they absorb the fact of being together in the darkened bedroom, just the three of them, the older child probably off somewhere brushing his teeth. Ezra says to his wife, from the low edge of the bed, “You remember that day,” in the sure-sounding voice she’d first liked in history class, and huskily she answers him, “Mm-hmm, I do,” when in fact she has been quickly sifting through her brain only to find that she has no memory of it at all.
This is the second time today that her mind has failed her, but the first instance was so mild that it barely registered. In the late afternoon, drowsily driving the boys to their martial-arts class, she heard on the radio a story about the chain restaurant Medieval Times, where diners can watch live jousting tournaments while eating without utensils. The big news was that the restaurant had decided to replace all of its resident kings with queens. Despite this change in leadership, the radio host remarked dryly, the servers at Medieval Times would still be referred to, going forward, as “wenches.”
She perked right up at the sound of that friendly old word, which carried her instantly to the broken-backed couches and burnt-popcorn smell of their high-school student center. For a brief spell there, “wench” had been the slur of choice—originating with the boys, one had to guess, but soon enough used in good-natured address from girl to girl. To her ears, it summoned not so much a barefoot slut with a tankard as the lanky, lacrosse-playing classmates of her youth, addled on weak hallucinogens and jam bands. The word filled her with sadness and warmth. But she couldn’t for the life of her recall how to use it convincingly in a sentence. “Hey, wench, good game today.” “Stop being such a wench and pass the popcorn.” “Later, wench.” It all sounded wrong.