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Is This It
Topic Started: Jul 30 2016, 06:28 PM (444 Views)
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[Georgia Lee Day continued, years later, from War Paint]

Georgia Lee was incredibly punctual. When it came to social events it was almost unheard of for her to be late, and when it came to class she was, as a general rule, always at least five minutes early. She liked to have time to get her books and pens out and prepare before the lesson began, to let her mind settle itself before it undertook the task of learning, and to give herself time to read.

She had recently checked a book out of the library, an older volume with a pea green cover and pages that smelt like the backrooms of a Goodwill store. The text was small and thin, hard to read against the faded, yellow pages. There seemed to be so much space around the letters. They crawled across the page like an ant trail, beneath a crosshatched picture of three men in old fashioned clothes, standing among trees and bushes and flowers. Georgia Lee had to squint a little, to make them out.

I was asked, by him, if I was familiar with the lesser apes of Indochina. I recall shaking my head, and saying I had not. I had heard, in some sense, of monkeys of the region, but if anyone had made mention of any apes, it was not to my recollection.

"They are the much diminished cousins of the apes of Africa. They are smaller, there is more of the beast in them. Would you say they are not further down our Lord's ladder of creation?"

"I do not know them, but from what you tell me I would say that it is so."

"And yet those of my mission tell me they marry."

"They marry, sir?" This, from a priest, seemed to me dangerously close to sacrilege. "That is a sacred bond between man and wife, surely. To say that it is found among apes, seems to me to be most improper."

"And yet this is what my brothers tell me. They say that they even know love, and that when they find it in a partner they never leave that partner's side."

"But is that marriage, sir? Love is one thing, but a sacred bond in the eyes of god is quite another, is it not?"

I knew myself to be no theologian, but his words did not ring with truth, to my ears. He continued.

"They stay with whom they love for the length of their lives, just as we do sir. The great apes of Africa rut like savages, and yet their lesser cousins have lives much as our own."

"Then I would say sir, that it is the Africans that are the lesser, and the Indochinese the greater, regardless of their size."

"Marriage then, puts one higher upon the ladder of creation?"

"I would say that it is so."

"Tell me," said the priest, "Do angels marry?"

I told him that in these matters of scripture I would demure to his judgement, and a this he laughed, and said I was wise.

Reading was a luxury for Georgia Lee, and as the year drew on and her schedule grew busier, it was one she had increasingly less time for. She simply couldn't justify prioritizing it over her extracurriculars, over her work with her church or over study. It was an increasingly rare pleasure for her to simply sit down with a book, and when she forewent her reading for some of indulgence, the rarity of that pleasure made it all the more painful when the indulgence disappointed.

Last night had been one such disappointment.

He'd been good looking after a fashion, though he was certainly a far cry from the sort of boy who usually drew her attention. He was too short, no taller than her; too pretty; too delicate in his features; his voice too soft. But there was a charm about him, Georgia Lee had always thought. A certain seriousness in his manner, a certain sort of gravity in his bearing that she found oddly compelling.

She hadn't been attracted to him, not really, but she'd been curious enough to agree to a single date, which they'd gone on the previous night.

It had not been a success.


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Georgia Lee looked up sharply. For a moment she was too shocked at his temerity in talking to her, to feel anything. Then, she was annoyed.

She'd actually allowed herself a little excitement, when Ben had asked her out. Most of her classmates, the boys especially, didn't think very highly of her, she knew that. They saw her as cold and standoffish, and took this either as a sign to keep their distance, or as some kind of infantile challenge. Ben had seemed better than that, and to his credit she supposed he still was, but that didn't change how appallingly the night had gone.

When he'd asked her out she'd been flattered. The boys in her school, by and large, were cretins, and it had been a surprise to her that one had actually been able to see what was good about her: her drive, her ambition, her passion. It had felt nice, genuinely nice, to be noticed like that.

Ben, though, had noticed nothing. He'd seen nothing of who she really was, had no understanding of what mattered to her.

Georgia Lee knew she didn't have the time for a boyfriend at the moment, not a proper boyfriend, but it hadn't seemed so unreasonable to want someone to on nice dates with and hold hands with sometimes and who could understand her and how hard her life was and how hard she tried at everything. That wasn't too much to ask, surely? Nobody could fault her for that?

This Perfect Boy hadn't looked like Ben when she'd pictured him, in the times that she'd been alone with her thoughts. He'd been taller of course, and older too: the boys her age, she had decided by that point, lacked the maturity to appreciate the characteristics that made her good. Someone who was going places, maybe who owned his own business, or was some sort of high-powered executive, promoted many times over despite his age.

Ben was none of that, but he had asked and had seemed good, and sincere, and like he cared. Georgia Lee wasn't even angry at him, not really. More than anything she was angry at herself, for just how wrong she had been about him.

What was it about her, she wondered, that gave the impression that some mindless action movie and then fast food was an appropriate date for her? Did she really seem so foolish? So vacant? After she'd gotten home last night, Georgia Lee had stood in front of the mirror and stared for minutes on end, trying to see what was wrong with her. She looked herself in the eyes as she wiped of the makeup that she'd done especially and had taken her an hour, trying to find the weakness or ignorance that he had seen in there.

There was nothing, as far as Georgia Lee could tell. Nothing about her that would say that would appeal, and the only thing she could conclude from that is that Ben had never really looked. She'd thought he'd asked her out because of her heart, but it seemed he was interested less in the organ, and more in what it sat behind.

She'd been polite, of course. She'd laughed at his jokes, and tried to fill the awkward silences just as he had, but it had been a disaster. His tastes were plebeian, his interests were infantile and his ambition was non existent. At the end of the night she'd said her goodbyes and driven herself home, feeling hurt and embarrassed. Given that it was his date that had gone so poorly, Georgia Lee had assumed he'd been feeling something similar.

And yet here he was, talking to her.

Georgia Lee put her hand on the book out of pure instinct, when he mentioned it. Less than a week earlier someone had snatched that same book off of her desk and taunted her with it, and the experience had left Georgia Lee deeply protective of the tome. She looked back down at it, welcoming the excuse to not meet the boy's eyes.

"It's just a book, Ben. Some people read for fun."

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"You asked if this was a book you should have studied. It isn't. It's just a book. given your question, it's a perfectly reasonable answer, Ben."

Georgia Lee turned then, to meet his eye. She should have known from the previous night that Ben had the observational abilities of a particularly obtuse mole. It had been foolish to think he'd notice how poorly the date had gone, or how little regard she held him in. Even her obvious coldness this morning appeared to have gone unnoticed, so it seemed she would have to spell things out.

She noted her page, then closed the book. It made a rather satisfying thump sound as the pages came together.

"Look, I appreciate you asking me out, I suppose. That was nice. But I didn't really have a good time last night, and I don't think... we're just not a good fit for each other, sorry Ben." She gave him a rueful smile, lips pressed tightly together.

"So I guess I'd appreciate it if you didn't talk to me. I just... I don't really want to get into this, this morning, okay?"

She reopened her book and stared fixedly at the page in front of her until she heard Ben walk away.

[Georgia Lee Day continued in Yes, Virginia]

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