Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“The Center of the Century” by Allegra Frazier

Each part of the water is the same blackness in night like this and all that these two poor boys can see are bits of Eva’s body buoying up, breasts and knees and the small eggs of her shoulders, a girl down there like so many puddles of milk resting on a tar pit. One of the boys is named Kyle and he calls down to her from the stiff, molded yellow banks of the dam, he calls, Eva, Eva, and the other boy, Robert, who is sure her full name must be Evelyn, calls, Evelyn! Her name is in fact Evangelina, Evangelina Munoz, a name that means the bearer of good news. Neither Kyle nor Robert will ever know her name is not Evelyn, but Evangelina will never know her name is Greek, not Mexican or even Spanish, and so they are even stevens in that and other ways.

The girl does not move and they are yelling at her so loud it is as though they are blowing against the milk puddles to try and move them across to the other end of the reservoir. They can see two other boys and one girl (Andrew Julian Mary) stop drying themselves on the opposite fake bank when they yell. Tiny white wisps of bodies that stop still for a moment only and then go back to drying.

She’s not moving, Robert says.

She’s thinks she’s having fun with us, I think, Kyle says. He is too tall. He is leaning his long body down over the water way below and saying this to Robert and it looks as though he could just keep going and touch the water without his feet leaving the wall. He adds, Or she can’t hear us.

Robert gets down to slide back into the water, but he calls to Eva before he does. We’ll leave, he says, sounding too much like he is joking. We’ll take your clothes and leave them on your parents’ lawn. He is easing himself back in. C’mon Eva, we’re going. He swims out to her.

Everyone got their high school diploma earlier this evening except for Eva. She is younger. He tries to think of other ways she’s different as he paddles out to her, his lips pressed tight against the dam water splashing near his head. For a moment she was the only one in the reservoir. But now they are both in the reservoir. She gets better grades than any one else got. Julian’s were pretty good, but not as good as Eva’s.

The Silverlake Reservoir is hard to see through, even during the day, even when the there is nothing between the light of the sun and the still water but the back of your own head, you cannot see more than a hands length down. The year Robert collects up the soft wires of Eva’s body and escorts her, smiling his collapsed, crumpled smile, back to her East Hollywood home is 1946, June, one year before the recreational fishing bass are removed from the vast fake lake and chlorine is introduced. These six recent adults have to climb a fence now to get down to the water itself, a fence that was only put there two years earlier, the same exact icy day the Allies found themselves on the long volcanic tongue of Japan for the first time.

By the time Communism assumes power in the Eastern Hemisphere, the chlorine will clear every opaque thing out of the water. You will be able to see right through each gallon.

Robert gets up to her where he doesn’t have to yell and he says, Eva.

She floats on her back and her hair is over her eyes and her ears and now, at this distance, he can tell the difference between the dark hair and the water it is dissolving into. She lifts a shoulder up and rolls over away from him, as though she is on a bed, and before her face goes under she says, “You know, I heard you the first time.”

No comments:

Post a Comment