Zerbin


Eliza Mae Alcaraz

© Copyright 2012 by  Eliza Mae Alcaraz
 

 

Photo of roses by the sea.


It was called Zerbin, the town she lived in. On occasion, the Sky Pilots would harass the sky and leave streaks of cloud-like serpents in the endless blue. The sky was only so blue because Zerbin was located next to the ocean (Zerbinians called it the Big Blue) and, duh, the sky reflects the water. Most people told her it was the other way around. She would spit on their shoes and run back home.

Home wasn’t anything special. Her parents were both blind, so the decorations were mostly her taste, her design. She did everything in her house; it was only when the Sky Pilots came out that she also felt the need to. There was one Sky Pilot that was her age, seventeen, and he was the only one who bothered to make silly shapes in the sky. One time, he’d taken his flyer out and spent twenty minutes in the endless blue. By the time he was done, there was a bouquet of roses in the sky.

Roses were important for Zerbin. Zerbin was the village by the beach, and it was most famously nicknamed, “The Village of Love.” And of course the town interpretation of love is roses. Tons of them, pounds of them. Every front yard had a rose bush. Even her parents planted some, which came with the occasional hunt for band aids and constant shampooing of red-stained carpet.

See, it’s a crime, you know, rejecting love, only in Zerbin. Yet she did it. She did it all the time. She loved her parents, yes, but she had already mastered the art of losing. She didn’t count on anything, so her heart stayed impregnable and guarded. She still kept the roses up. Through thick and thin, she had no idea, but she kept the roses up.

Every day on her way to school, she found roses sprinkled on every girl’s door. It was just that way.

On one of the days the Sky Pilots were out and she was, too, she spotted Marlita, a seven-year-old girl who liked to cut the thorns off her mama’s roses.

She asked, “Hey, Marlita, why do you do that?”

Marlita looked cross with her, but she liked talking to the girl with blind parents. It made her feel lucky that she had two loving parents who made her soup and didn’t spill it on her favorite dresses.

“Because,” Marlita started, “the flower of love shouldn’t have thorns. Thorns are evil. Thorns make people bleed.”

“Only the stupid ones,” she said, shrugging.

“Or blind ones, Mere.”

Mere ignored that. “But why?”

And then Marlita answered with the most illogical answer. “I do it for loooooove.

Mere sighed. “And why is a rose the symbol of love?”

Marlita sighed, too, much heavier. “You know, Mere, if you spent less time asking ridiculous questions and actually acted like a Zerbinian should, you would have actual friends! And maybe a lover, because you’re actually pretty!”

“But why is the rose the symbol of love?”

“Because! Love has four letters, and so does ‘rose.’”

“‘Lily’ has four letters. Why couldn’t that be love’s flower?”

Marlita had stomped away before Mere finished.

In place of Marlita stepped that one Sky Pilot. The one who liked roses a whole bunch he was willing to dizzy himself in his flyer just to portray them in the world’s forever azure ceiling. He’d been eavesdropping.

“Hi,” he said, smiling. His eyes were as blue as the sky he flew in.

Mere nodded then walked away.

That night she pored over books. The study lamp hung over her head and seemed to be getting lower and lower, giving in to the long hours Mere spent on Cummings, Achebe, and Steinbeck. She got up to get some water and bumped her head on the lamp, muttering soft curses.

Very many people asked her about her views on love. She had lived seventeen years in this village, and people had grown accustomed to her strange answers, but they were not accustomed to her alienation of love. Mere’s door had never been laced with roses of any color. Not just yet. They had waited for her adolescent years to really decide. She was young and seventeen, but to true Zerbinians, like Marlita and her parents and the whole string of houses down almost every block, her love had run out. Love had simply dried up inside her. Either that or there was no love to begin with.

“She has a heart,” many argued, but many suggested, “It keeps her alive, yet it doesn’t.”

She sat back down after the water break and really thought about it. Her response had always been the same:

“Love is a matter of finding the one you’re truly meant for. But it’s like hell. How do you get to an assigned singular page in a thousand-page book? Like the ones with filmy paper, so it’s even harder. You close in on the page number, give it several tries. Then you’ll find you’re two hundred pages off. One hundred, fifty, then three, oh so close. There you have it, the page. But that’s too much flipping for me. I’d rather close the book, then open it and be happy with the page I’ve randomly landed on.”

This was when people would give her looks. Not the kind of look you give a cat when it’s black, and it doesn’t know the implications of its appearance to humans. Not the look you give your lover when the ocean’s tide gets suddenly high and your only dry clothes are soaked to a sop. No, it was a mixture of both incredulity and disgust, of wariness, of pity.

The next day the Sky Pilot caught her again. He smiled a smile as clear as the sky he flew in. “Hi.”

Mere nodded then walked to school.

Studies were very easy that day and so she stopped by the store and bought some coffee ice cream. In her opinion, it was the best. Just enough caffeine and just enough sugar. Except, she didn’t really like the idea of being in stores or any public area. But the ice cream had begged her and she deserved an award.

At home, she offered her parents some. They both looked at each other, as if on instinct, as if in place of their sight they gained new presence detectors. But that wasn’t true because when they addressed Mere, they only both looked at the train figurine that stood on the nearby coffee table. They never really looked at her at all, so she thought their rejecting ice cream was well justified.

The next day the Sky Pilot bumped into her. He spoke more than one word this time. And his voice was as drawling as the planes he flew in, but it was just right that way. “Hi, there.”

Mere ignored him and walked on home, not wanting to give him clearance that the “third time’s a charm” idea really paid off. Because it didn’t. Mere always knew it was the fourth time. Because after the third try, who really tried any more?

But fourth time’s a charm because the Sky Pilot found her again, this time by a creek, the farthest point of the village away from shore. She did not have time to wonder how he found her. She also did not have a chance to ignore him. She found no reason to; he was one persistent son of a gun.

“Yes, what do you want?” she asked him.

He smiled. “I’ve just wanted to talk. I think you’re interesting.”

“Just because everyone talks about my non-existent love life, it does not make me interesting.”

“Oh, it’s not that.” He laughed. “I’ve heard what you thought about the sky.”

Well, that was weird. No one ever asked her about the sky.

“And you say the sky reflects the ocean, and not the other way around.”

Mere nodded.

“You really believe that? That the ocean is actually blue?”

“Yes. Have you come here to say otherwise?”

“Well, actually yes. I have.”

She stood up and gathered her things. Her hair caught dangerously on a few branches as she maneuvered her way around him. He didn’t budge.

“I just wanted to share my opinions.”

“Your opinions get no grade from me. I hardly know you.”

He ignored her. “I think neither of them is blue. I think they need each other to stay that color.”

She blinked, not wanting to let that sink in. But it did. She felt it was inevitable. “Well, that’s wonderful. I believe I have made a new friend.” She forced a smile.

He jumped and startled a few bullfrogs across the bank. The happiness Mere had caused in him also frightened a few blue jays in a nearby willow. She felt that was the only way to get rid of him. So he went on home and left her alone. She did not want to think of the implications she had just given. What exactly were the implications of being a friend?

She found out the next day when she opened her door and a bucket of lilies lay there, glistening under another Sky Pilot-decorated sky.

Zerbin rejoiced. Mere took the bucket and placed the lilies around the roses, wondering if the random page she’d landed on was the actual page that was given.

At my age, I8, I know it's difficult to be taken as a serious author, but I've been wanting to be recognized for my works of fiction and poetry and creative writing ever since I could remember, ever since I picked up my first book. Words are indulgent; as an author, I want to make sure my readers' minds are full at the end of the page. 



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