A LITTLE ABOUT MOI
I may be fourteen, but I read the New York Times. I don't wear hair clips or paint my cell phone with nail polish, and I'm not boy crazy. I don't have a subscription to Twist or Bop or Flop or whatever they call those glossy magazines full of posters of shiny-haired, full-lipped hunks.
Whatever you do, don't call me a tween. That makes me feel like I'm trapped in some adolescent purgatory where I get force-fed Disney-themed cupcakes while watching Hannah Montana reruns--that stage is over. Who came up with that name, anyway? I bet the person who came up with the name Hannah Montana gets paid a quarter of a million dollars a year and drives a Lexus. My cousin could've come up with a better name, and she's five and rides a tricycle.
I grew up in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, and when I was really little, I thought my driver was my father. He'd take me to school every day and make sure my shoelaces were tied. Sometimes he'd let me listen to NPR while he chatted with the doormen. He seemed to know them all, a secret society of men in pressed black coats standing as straight as the buildings they protected. But of course, he wasn't my father. My real father is a film director who was at the height of his career when I was born, which is why he was never around. He was always shooting in places like Africa, Japan, Australia, and Canada. Now some critics say he's washed up, but I think the reason people become film critics is because they failed to be film directors themselves. I don't usually feel famous myself, but I went to the premiere of his last film (the one that supposedly washed him up) and a couple months later there was a picture of us in Vanity Fair. My overenthusiastic English teacher, Ms. Gray, cut out the picture and taped it to the whiteboard. At first I was thrilled, but then I felt weird about it. I ended up sneaking in after class and bending the page so that you could only see my father, with his shiny face, his jet-black hair, and those wire-thin glasses that always seem to be sliding off his nose. He's the one who should be recognized. He literally spends years putting actors, writers, cinematographers, editors, studios, and locations all in a big blender until his movies pour out smoothly onto the screen. All I did that evening was walk next to him and carry the cheat sheet for his speech.
My little brother, Tile, was too young to come to the premiere with us or have his photo taken. When my mom was pregnant with him, the only thing that helped her nausea was lying on the cold Spanish tile in our townhouse bathroom, so that became his name. Everyone calls him Kyle by mistake.
My uncle, a professor who lives in Italy, gave me a small book of Shakespeare's sonnets for my tenth birthday, and sometimes I read Tile my favorite ones. Even though he's ten, he pretends to understand them. I think he just likes the musical way the words go together. Tile is a good listener, and he leaves me alone pretty much every time I ask him to. If a genie said I could wish for any little brother in the whole world, I would stick with Tile. He smells nice and never talks with his mouth full. He also keeps my secrets.
Here's one: I know I told you that I'm not boy crazy, mostly because boys are dirty and unpredictable, but there is one I've had my eye on since I was eight. He is very clean. He lives across the street and our drivers are friends. He goes to a school somewhere outside the city. I like to imagine it's an exotic place like Barbados, but it's probably in Westchester. He's only said ten words to me in seven years. Sometimes when I read Shakespeare's sonnets I think of his big mop of strawberry curls, and the way he swings his book bag in wide circles.
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground
He's one year older than me, and his name is Oliver. He walks with a peculiar grace, almost like he's floating. He also plays the cello, and he's so good at it that when I listen to him through my bedroom window, the tiny hairs on my arms stick up.
Sometimes I lie on my bed imagining the music was written just for me, coming in through the window as a personal serenade. Music sounds better when you close your eyes.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis. Copyright © 2011 by Stewart Lewis. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.