Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Pseudos, Part Two

I would like to issue an apology to anyone who happened to read my last blog. It ended at a point at which I would not have chosen to end it. I would have, at the very least, started the follow-up post immediately. Such things, however, are not entirely up to me. The people charged with my care sometimes find it necessary to treat me as a six-year-old instead of as the very nearly adult that I am.

When my post was discontinued, I had just gotten into Pseudo-Uncle's car at the Joseph Smith International Airport (or whatever it is that the SLC airport is officially named) and was riding with him to the lovely paradisiacal village in Utah County where I would spend the next month. I feared that the upcoming month would be the longest month of my life. I was already privy to the knowledge that time is not absolute -- thst one minute can be, in actuality, longer than another, despite what any clock says to the contrary -- because the thirty-five minutes in the car with Pseudo-Uncle, with no sound except for that produced by the car stereo, was, up to that point, the longest thirty-five minutes of my life.

When we arrived at the Pseudos' dismal apartment complex, rife with dead-eyed mothers half-supervising their saggy-diapered babies and dirty-faced toddlers in a toy-strewn area euphemistically dubbed a "courtyard," Pseudo-Uncle took my suitcase from the trunk and carried it through the "courtyard" and up the staircase, still at a pace my legs couldn't maintain. As I reached the door through which he had disappeared, my Pseudo-Aunt appeared just long enough to give me a perfunctory hug.

My Pseudo-Aunt is of Cuban descent and is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both her parents are immigrants, but they came to this country at young enough ages that they speak unaccented English. Pseudo-Aunt doesn't even speak Spanish. She's petite and thin, with long black hair, fair skin for a Latina, dark-chocolate-brown eyes, and proportionately long legs, muscular from years of daily tennis practice and related conditioning. She was at that time a recent BYU graduate, which was a curious choice of a university for a Roman Catholic. She had selected BYU because she had been offered a privately funded full-ride scholar-athlete package. While her parents had qualms about sending their only daughter off to a Mormon university, a gift worth roughly eighty-thousand dollars was difficult to reject. Following graduation, Pseudo-Aunt was slated to enter J. Reuben Clark School of Law at BYU. There was the pesky matter of rent and food money, neither of which Pseudo-Uncle would be in a position to earn as a first-year medical school student. To pay the bills, Pseudo-Aunt would work as an elementary school teacher, in a grade that had yet to be determined, while carrying a full load of law school courses. Pseudo-Uncle, in the meantime, was working that summer as a paramedic with a local agency. The money my parents were paying these people to keep me out of everyone else's hair was much needed.

Pseudo-Aunt is six years older than I. I had known her as a child and young teenager, but once she reached fifteen or so, she had essentially slipped off the radar as far as I was concerned. When we visited her family or when her family visited us, she either wasn't living at home or was away from the house most of the time. When I saw her at her wedding less than three months earlier, it was probably the first time in six years that I had seen her. She was, for practical purposes, a stranger to me, though we had an element of shared history.

The virtual stranger who hugged me was then pulled by the arm into the "master bedroom suite" by her new husband, and the door was closed.
I could make out snippets of the hushed conversation. "You said she was fourteen !" "She is fourteen!." "She can't be fourteen." "She is!" [something I coullnd't hear] "little kid! Won't even be able to leave her unsupervised for five minutes!"

Then the room went dead silent. This would happen a lot that summer as well as the following two summers. Any time those two were behind a closed door for even a few moments, there would inevitably be dead silence. Then they would emerge and Pseudo-Uncle would, without fail, be in a much more positive state of mind than he had been just minutes earlier. I was a sheltered child, but I eventually figured out the meaning of those brief but significant periods of silence. At least the Pseudos didn't make it awkward for me with loud moaning or anything of that sort. It was easy enough for me to pretend to be even more clueless than I actually was.

The Pseudos came out of the room looking slightly disheveled but with smiles on their faces. I was standing in their living room pretending to be interested in a framed wedding picture on the wall. The Pseudos hadn't invited me to sit down, and I didn't know if any of the furniture was off-limits to children, although if what I saw was their good furniture, I hated to speculate about the quality of their grungy stuff. Pseudo-Uncle took my shoulders and steered me around the curiously out-of-place ebony grand piano to an ottoman, where he sat, facing me. He smiled and said, "Let's try this again. I'm Scott." He paused, then said, "And you're supposed to say --"

"I'm Alexis," I filled in the blank he had created.

He stuck out his hand.

"Pleased to meet you," I said as I shook his hand.

"The pleasure is mine," he responded.

Pseudo-Aunt helped me put my clothing and possessions away in the spare room and bathroom, and asked me to help her with dinner preparations. Pseudo-Uncle played a few Chopin etudes on the piano as we cooked and set the table, complete with linens, Wexford china, flowers, and candles. I can remember feeling a bit chagrined at the realization that he was more skilled as a pianist than I was. The scene was mildly surreal -- helping to cook some sort of Cuban culinary creation that I wouldn't touch, much less eat, in a tiny cardboard-walled apartment, with the sounds of crying babies and whining toddlers coming through from the neighboring apartments on either side, while the lord of the manor played away obliviously at his Kawai grand. Still, at least the summer wasn't going to be spent in complete silence.

TO BE CONTINUED (At least I had five minutes' warning before my computer was confiscated tonight.)

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