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All right, so I know I'm tall and strong and I've got muscles and my shoulders look like I'm a gladiator. In fact I think I am a gladiator. I feel like one of those Gauls or Goths or ghouls that the Romans dragged in from far away to entertain the masses in the Colosseum. I feel like I'm fighting lions and bears and other gladiators all the time.

But I'm also a girl and I like peace and quiet most of all. That's not because I'm a girl but because I'm me and that's what I like. For instance, one thing I absolutely love is rollerblading with Emma or whoever at RollerMoaster. We cruise round and round and round while DJ Homer blasts us with boom boom but we don't say anything. I like not saying anything most of the time. Somehow my mind fills up then with feelings like bright sunsets on beautiful plastic beaches. Yes, it's like I'm inside a beachball accelerating into the sky.

Then I get home and stand in front of the mirror in nothing but knickers and socks and do bodybuilding poses like Milford showed me.

Then I do my homework.

Then I clean out the guinea pigs' cage and feed them and stroke them and let them play in the garden for a while.

Then I drink an entire can of coke in one swallow without burping.

All this time I haven't thought a word, even when doing my homework.

It's only when Tri comes home and puts on the TV that words appear and spoil my peace. But by then I have started to cook tea so I slap pots and pans down on the stove and generally make such a noise that I can't hear the TV anyway.

Although if it's 'Sale of the Century' I sometimes join in, trying to get as many answers as I can, especially in the quick quiz (whatever it's called, one minute, or something). When I was a little kid I could hardly ever get an answer right but now I seem often to get more than half of them. I don't know where the answers come from. Ma says it's from all the reading I do. Which is true, in a way...I do read a lot. But when I read I'm not thinking. I just sort of absorb stuff and don't think at all. It feels like looking at an abstract painting (like the ones of Kandinsky's that Ms Rubenach showed us once). It sort of means something but I haven't got any words for it.

Nevertheless all sorts of things seem to stick, even though I'm hardly even aware that I know these things. It's funny. My mind feels like the pond at Terrin's place.

Still.

A few water lilies loll about. If a drop of rain falls there's an instantly expanding circle then nothing.

Yet if I put my hand in the cold water and stir about I notice all sorts of things. That ceramic Chinese house that the goldfish can swim in and out of. The slimy rocks on the bottom. The grey, decaying leaves. The toy car I found once that had been dropped in by Terrin's little brother. An Aston Martin. From England. I don't think they make them any more.

My mind's like that, too. If I stir around in it I find so much stuff. All sorts of fragments, weird ideas, knowledge, memories. I don't know how it gets there but it's like a big swimming pool full of compact discs. And each CD is full of information. They float about like jellyfish, bumping into each other, sparking. So if you ask me a question, often the answer just pops out though I didn't even know I knew.

Like, the other day we were talking in class about structures and things. Ms Ruby gave us a challenge to make a paper bridge one metre long that we could drive Scott's old toy truck over while it carried a gross load of 10 kilograms. (She explained what 'gross' meant.) We could only use paper from the recycling bin and up to a metre of sticky tape. Well, some of the kids thought, 'impossible' and other's thought 'possible' but I just knew how to do it. I could sort of feel it in my head. Or in another dimension or something. It felt like all I had to do was to pull it out of that secret place and put it on the floor of the classroom. So I didn't have any hesitations and I told Milford what to do. (Milford was my partner for the activity.) Then Scott saw what we were doing and said, 'Oh, yeah...' in an admiring sort of voice and he tore down what he had already made and then he made one like mine and Milford's. I didn't mind if he used my idea. I mean, in a way, it wasn't my idea, anyway. The idea was sort of sitting there in mid-air and I just noticed it there.

Or sometimes it's just a piece of useless information. Like when Ms Ruby talked about structures later I just knew before she said it that the Eiffel Tower was 300 metres high. In fact I said, 'Yes, yes,' (quietly, almost under my breath like I always do...I have never been known to speak in a loud voice). Straight away Dylan said, 'Oh, yeah!' in a sarcastic voice. And Ms Rubenach said, 'Dylan, that was hardly fair. Mai might have known the answer before I said it.'

Well, everyone laughed at the pun, except me. Because I was wondering: Did I know the answer before Ms Rubenach said it? So I thought I'd try a little experiment. I had noticed before this habit Ms Rubenach has of pausing a moment before she delivers some fact or bit of information (like she's saying, 'Get ready for this kids...cool...wha-dya-reckon?') So I thought I would relax and just whisper to myself what the answer was, in that tiny fraction of a second before she actually said it.

The next thing she said was, 'The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, one of the finest examples of traditional Chinese architecture, was first built in...' and I whispered, '1492,' just like that. I mean, I had no idea, really, 1492 just felt right.

Then like an echo, Ms Rubenach said, '1492.' And looked at me. (I mustn't have been whispering as quietly as I had thought.)

Next she said, 'The pyramids of Giza in Egypt, built for the pharaohs to live for eternity, were first built...'

I whispered, '4000...'

She said, 'years ago.'

By now everyone was sitting up and taking notice but they were quiet about it...even Dylan. Bated breath. I could see Ms Rubenach thinking, 'All right, I'll give her a really hard one...'

She said, 'From the seabed, the Statfjord B oil platform rises...'

I could see Dylan thinking, 'Sucked in! Hardy, hardy, ha, ha!'

I just whispered, '274 metres.'

Ms Rubenach continued, very cool, pretending not to notice, 'That's nearly three times as high as the top of the Tasman Bridge from the riverbed.' She paused. 'And weighs...'

'838 000 tonnes.'

'Hey!' yells Alice, who has wandered up to the back of the room. 'All this stuff's on a poster here. Except it's not in metric!'

Good grief, I thought, Alice didn't used to talk like that. She's lost her pommy accent.

Everyone laughed. They must have been thinking the same thing.

Anyway, after that I couldn't answer anything. So I don't know. Maybe I had changed the information on the poster into metric when we were doing conversions in maths, and then forgot I did it. But not the answers. It sure felt weird. A bit like that feeling when you suddenly realise that your hair's blowing out behind you in the wind and you must look funny. Or when your nipples press against your T-shirt and you decide it's time to buy a bra. Or when you spill icecream on carpet. Or put too much chili in the spring rolls. Or win a race without trying and pretend not to seem so pleased with yourself.

Well, that's my experience, anyway.

I guess I've got a placid nature. Duk San and Hilary call me Maiasaurus because Maia means mother and I'm a mother-sort of person. Not that I think I need a baby to give me inner fulfilment, whatever. It's just that I can't help feeling calm. Even when I'm running.

I guess I've found the secret of life at a young age.

Don't worry, be happy...

Someone ought to make a song out of that.

 


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