On Sunday at noon my 16-year-old housemate finally rolled out of bed. “What’s to eat?” asked Jernae, peering over my shoulder as I typed on the computer. “And what’re we doin’ today?”
“I’ve got a class to teach tonight,” I said, staring at the screen in front of me. “And a column to write before I go.”
“Let’s rock climb,” she said, as if I hadn’t spoken. “We need to bond.”
“No bonding,” I answered. “There’s work to do.”
“You always say we need to do stuff together, so now I’m sayin’ let’s go do it and you won’t.” She sighed. “So typical.”
I shrugged and continued typing although it was distracting having someone leaning on my head, breathing down my neck.
“I know,” she said, suddenly animated. “We’ll go climbing and then while you’re at class, I’ll write the column.”
“You can’t write it,” I said.
“Because it’s my column, and –
“You write about me all the time.”
“It’s time I wrote about you. The people want the truth.”
“How many words?”
“Six hundred and fifty at least.”
She rolled her eyes. “How hard is that? It’ll be finished by the time you get home.”
I knew this wasn’t a good idea, but Procrastination is my middle name. We went to Ironworks Climbing Gym on Potter Street, and then I went to class. I left Jernae at home in front of the computer, and when I returned she was still there, perusing MySpace while listening to rap on LimeWire.
“Where’s the column?” I asked, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on in teenage cyberspace. The little I could see wasn’t pretty.
She handed me a sheet of paper, eyes still glued to the screen. “It’s not the right number of words,” she mumbled. “But I give you permission to add some.”
I looked at the printed page. It was entitled “Moving in With the Old Lady, by Jernee Suga’ Baby Carter.” I read further.
“I moved in with Susan a couple of months ago. Although I’ve known her almost my whole life, moving in was a shock to my system. She always wants to talk to me, but it’s not like we have anything in common. I’m young and hip, she’s old and going to break a hip. She tries to give me advice, but she just don’t understand. Yeah, she was once 16, but not in the year 2007. She has no idea what I go through on a daily basis, the stress I’m under. She wouldn’t last one minute in my shoes.
“Another thing: she’s got no sense of style, and she don’t listen when I give her advice.
“She wants to know everything about me, but when I tell her something I want her to know, she forgets. I have to repeat important stuff at least four times, sometimes more.
“She took the lock off my door and gave me some lame excuse about fire danger, but, duh, I need a door with a lock so I can be in bed and safe in case somebody robs the house!
“When I was little she taught me how to ride a bike, but she only let me ride to the corner and back. She also taught me how to rock climb and took my whole 5th grade class and they thought it was pretty cool.
Today we went climbing. What a flashback I had. I remembered when I was eight and climbing at the gym. I was cute. The End.”
“‘I was cute’ is the ending?” I asked.
“That’s what it says, isn’t it?” Jernae’s eyes were still on the screen in front of her.
“It’s not much of an ending,” I said. “And you need at least 100 more words.”
“Okay,” she answered. “Change it to ‘I was SO cute,’ That adds another word, it makes it more true, and it definitely reads better.” She paused, and finally turned to look at me. “I’m starving,” she said. “What’s for dinner?”