August 7, 2020

Once Upon a Time in Savannah

posted on: Wednesday February 17, 2010

Dara Plath ’13 / Portfolio Staff

The backseat of our Dodge Durango is rough and on hot nights the leather sticks to my skin so I have to peel myself off of it like an old Band-Aid. The feel of leather isn’t too bad, though, when you compare it to the smell. The smell is something of stale McDonald’s french fries encrusted with a layer of gasoline and that horrible perfume Mom likes to wear. The smell gets into my head and likes to twist my brain into strange and painful shapes. I ask mom to roll down the windows, but she says then the bugs will get in, and do I want that to happen?It’s afternoon now so I don’t have to worry about those things for a little while. We’ve just reached Savannah, Georgia, and I mark it down as one of my favorite places because we share the same name. I also love the trees. Their trunks are as large as a giant’s arm and the branches reach out towards the sky, like fingers hoping to grasp a piece of heaven. What I like best, however, is the moss: it droops down from the branches like thin wisps of hair and swings frantically with even the slightest gust. Earlier today, we stopped at a diner to get breakfast and while Mom was in the bathroom I asked our waiter about the trees. He said they were Spanish moss trees and told me a story about them.Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Spanish princess named Adonia. She lived in Savannah with her father, a very powerful and ruthless Spanish king. The king had promised his daughter to a man named Orlando. Yet Adonia was already in love with an English boy, Jackson, and they wanted to run away together. The two lovers planned to meet beneath the giant Spanish moss tree; however, Orlando discovered the scheme and killed Jackson. Adonia was so heartbroken she vowed never to leave the tree again. Some say they can still hear Adonia as the wind rustles the moss, forever weeping for her lost love. Mom’s at an interview at some motel so I’m lying against the hood of the car, daydreaming about Adonia and Jackson. The heat from the car seeps into my skin and travels through my veins, warming every crevice of my body. My forehead is wet with sweat and I sweep it off with my hand, imagining that Jackson is stroking my hair. I see mom walk out of the motel, the click click click of her heels echoes in the heavy air and rests in the hollow of my ears. I can tell she didn’t get the job because of the way her eyebrows furrow to the top of her head, like tiny caterpillars inching their way up a flower.She kicks off her heels, gets into the car, and slams the door. I watch as her delicate hands grip the steering wheel, appearing to drag it forward until her forehead rests against the tan leather. Her curly brown hair falls forward, obscuring her thin face, though I know she’s crying. I grab her heels off the ground and get into the car. She turns her head towards me and I watch as her mascara draws thin lines down her face.Mom is beautiful, or at least she used to be. I have an old photograph of her when she was sixteen. She’s wearing a short pink dress and a smile that stretches from one side of her face to the other. I think she’s laughing because her head is titled slightly up and her eyes are pressed together so tiny creases form at the corners of her eyes. I keep the photo tucked tightly between the pages of my favorite book, Jane Eyre. I’m not as beautiful as mom. My hair is straight and thick and has the tendency to frizz in humid weather. My pale skin may have been considered striking if it weren’t for the brown freckles smeared across my nose. While Mom may have been the Adonia of her time, I’m nothing more than a Jane Eyre.Once upon a time, there lived an orphan named Jane. She was a plain girl who caught the eye of the secretive and handsome Mr. Rochester. However, the mystery of what lurked on the third floor of Thornfield Mansion haunted Jane. Eventually, she discovered that it was Mr. Rochester’s reclusive and insane wife. Jane fled from him and in the process discovered who she truly was. After many years, Jane returned to Mr. Rochester, who had been blinded in a fire. They fell in love and got married, living happily ever after.The mascara has made its way down Mom’s cheeks and I fish a tissue out of the glove compartment and hand it to her. We’ll drive someplace else, away from these trees and their oversized trunks and crooked branches and strange moss. Mom digs the keys out from her purse and starts the car. The leather begins to stick to my skin, confining me in my own once upon a time.

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