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On each was a battle scene from the Civil War. In each 43 W a lt e r M o s l e y tableau there were scores of small, hand-carved wooden figurines engaged in battle. The individual soldiers — tending cannon, engaged in hand-to-hand combat, down and wounded, down and dead — were compelling. The figurines had been carved for maximum emotional effect. On one table there was a platoon of Negro Union soldiers engaging a Confederate band. Lee carves each one in a workroom in the attic.
He has studied every aspect of the Civil War and has written a dozen monographs on the subject. He owns thousands of original documents from that period.
The office was a nearly empty, windowless room with cherry floors. Along the white walls were a dozen tall lamps with frosted glass globes around the bulbs. These lamps were set before as 44 Cinnamon Kiss many floor-to-ceiling cherry beams imbedded in the plaster walls. All the lights were on. In the center of the room was an antique red lacquered Chinese desk that had four broad-bottomed chairs facing it, with one behind for our absentee host.
This brought on a disapproving frown. I held up my hand for his silence. I can brief you on the job at hand. I needed that money and I knew how powerful white men could act. Hell, there was an armored car waiting for me in the state of Texas.
Thinking about the robbery, everything that could go wrong came back to me. So, standing there before my chair, I was torn between walking out and apologizing. I turned to see that a panel in the wall behind the lacquered desk had become a doorway. A man emerged from the darkness, a very short man. He might not have made the full sixty inches.
He had short black hair and wispy sideburns, a completely round head, and the large dark eyes of a baby who had wisdom past its years. He marched up to the chair behind the desk and sat with an air that could only be described as pompous.
It was obvious that he had been watching us since we entered the office. I suspected that he had probably been monitoring our conversation from the moment we entered the house. He touched something on his desk and the portal behind him slid shut. Might give you some tips. Lee said. Is that enough for your mother? I had never loved anyone in life as much as I did my mother — at least not until the birth of my blood daughter and then when Jesus and Feather found their way into my home.
The idea that this arrogant little man would refer to my mother in that tone made me want to slap him. But I held myself in check. Do you vouch for Mr. And he is the best in certain parts of town, especially if that town is Los Angeles. A moment before, that would have angered me, but now I was amused.
His effort was petty. I turned to Maya Adamant and winked. There was deep certainty in his voice. If not I have things to do in L. Lee pressed his lips outward and then pulled them in. He looked at me with those infant orbs and came to a decision. This associate has absconded with a briefcase that contains certain documents that must be returned as soon as possible. I knew from the way he lifted his chin that my potential employer meant to show me who was boss. This was nothing new to me. Beyond him, on the far wall, next to a lamp, was a small framed photograph.
It was the only decoration on the walls and it was in an odd place. In my opinion he was acting like a buffoon but those eyes made me wary. He brought his fingers together, forming a triangle. I sat back and turned my palms upward. The month before that I read Invisible Man. I shook my head and smiled. Are you a licensed PI, Mr. Then he rose, barely taller standing than he was seated.
Now I understood. From the moment I flushed him out of hiding he intended to dismiss my services. She also rose from her chair. He told me that Mr. Rawlins has the complete support of the LAPD.
There was too much information to sift through on my feet. This woman could get the mayor of Los Angeles on the phone, the mayor knew my name, and the Los Angeles cops were willing to say that they trusted me. Not one of those facts did I feel comfortable with. Lee sighed. Rawlins to us. Maya let out a deep breath and lowered, catlike, into her chair. Saul was looking at us with his emerald eyes evident. For a deadpan like Saul this was an expression of bewilderment. Lee was regarding his own clasped hands on the red lacquered desk.
It would take a few moments for him to swallow his pride. He has a storefront practice in San Francisco, where he and an associate attempt to help miscreants evade the law. This Cinnamon worked for Bowers as a housekeeper at first, but she had some education and started doing secretarial and assistant work also.
Miss Cargill answered and said that Bowers had left the country. It is known that she came to Berkeley from Los Angeles, that she was raised near Watts.
It is also known that she and Axel were very close, unprofessionally so.
You are to go to L. Maya will give you any information she deems necessary. Do you accept? Philomena Cargill also known as Cinnamon, somewhere on the streets of L. Lee rose from his chair.
He turned his back on us and made his way through the hole in the wall. The panel closed behind him. I crossed the room, approaching the small out-of-theway frame. It was a partially faded daguerreotype-like photograph, imprinted on a pane of glass. The general was in full uniform.
He had, at some point during the exposure, looked down, maybe at a piece of lint on his magnificent coat. The result was the image of a twoheaded man. The more tangible face stared with grim conviction at the lens while the other was peering downward, unaware of history. I was intrigued by the antique photograph because of its vulnerability. It was as if the detective wanted to honor the past general in both victory and defeat.
He went through that whole song and dance about getting rid of me because he wanted you to beg him. Rawlins, by using your detecting skills to find Philomena Cargill. She saw this and moved her head back half an inch. But even then she smiled. We went down to the library. I gave her my office phone number. It records a message and plays it back when I get in.
A cool breeze blew over Nob Hill.
You choose. Making Lee come out to talk to you. Looking at Maya like that. I know that because I know you. And when he is he will tell you that every other white man he meets will sell an innocent black man down the river before he will turn on a white crook.
I had waited years to be able to slip that piece of intelligence into his ear. I could see in his eye that he was halfway convinced by my argument. Neither does Lee.
He was due to meet with a client the next morning. I had him drop me off at a Hertz rental car lot. It only took them an hour and a half to call Los Angeles to validate my BankAmericard. He had a fat face, thinning hair, and a slender frame. The Bay Area street map in my glove compartment put it a block or so up from Telegraph. Derby was a major education for me. Everything about that block was in transition.
But not the way neighborhoods usually change. This neighborhood was transforming as if under a magic spell. The houses had gone from the standard white and green, blue, and yellow to a wide range of pastels.
Pinks, aquas, violets, and fiery oranges. Even the cars were painted like rainbows or with rude images or long speeches etched by madmen. Music of every kind poured from open windows. Some women wore long tie-dyed gowns like fairy princesses and others wore nearly nothing at all.
Half of the men were shirtless and almost all of them had long hair like women. Their beards went untrimmed. American flags were plastered into windows and tacked to walls in a decidedly unpatriotic manner. Many of the young women carried babies.
It was the most integrated neighborhood I had ever seen. There were whites and blacks and browns and even one or two Asian faces. It seemed to me that I had wandered into a country where war had come and all the stores and public services had been shut down; a land where the population was being forced into a more primitive state. But there he was, singing for a street filled with hairy men and women of all races in a country that was no longer the land of his birth. Its plank walls were still white, but the trim was a fire-engine red and the front door was decorated with a plaster mosaic set with broken tiles, shards of glass, marbles, trinkets, and various semiprecious stones: rough garnets, pink quartz, and turquoise.
I rang the bell and used the brass skull knocker but no one answered. Then I went down the side of the house, toward the back. There I came across a normal-looking green door that had a pane of glass set in it. Through this window I could see a small room that had a broom leaning in a corner and rubber boots on the floor. A floral-pattern apron hung from a peg on the wall. I knocked. No answer. I knocked again. When nobody came I took off my left shoe, balled my fist in it, and broke the window.
I was unarmed, which was either a good or a bad thing, and caught red-handed. The strange character of the neighborhood had made me feel I could go unnoticed, doing whatever I needed to get the job done. That was a mistake a black man could never afford to make.
He walked the slender, ivy-covered corridor with confidence — as if he were the owner of the house. He was short, five six or so, with greasy black hair down to his shoulders.
Most of his face was covered by short, bristly black hairs. He had on a blood-red shirt that was too large for his thin frame and black jeans. He wore no shoes but his feet were dirty enough to be mistaken for leather. His dark eyes glittered in their sockets. Golden earrings dangled from his ears in a feminine way that made me slightly uncomfortable. Second cousin. We were raised not six blocks from each other down in L.
He looked deranged but his question was clear and persistent. This guy Manly, over in Frisco, asked me to find Bowers. Cinnamon is missing too. I decided to take his money and to see if anything was wrong. It was just as if he had said Joe or Frank. But instead of making him ugly the spaces reminded me of a child playing pirate with pasted-on whiskers and a costume that his mother made from scraps.
Dream Dog smiled. We were in the door. She had a business degree from Berkeley and wanted to get on Wall Street. Oh yeah, that Philomena got her some spunk. Did she tell you where she was going?
The utility room led into a long kitchen that had a lengthy butcher block counter with a copper sink on one side and a sixburner stove-oven on the other.
It was a well-appointed kitchen with copper pots hanging from the walls and glass cabinets filled with all kinds of canned goods, spices, and fine china. Dream Dog opened a cabinet and pulled down a box of Oreo cookies.
He took out three and then placed the box back on the shelf. The backless sofas stood upon at least a dozen Persian rugs. The carpets had been thrown with no particular design one on top of the other and gave the room a definitely Arabian flavor.
The smell of incense helped the mood as did the stone mosaics hung upon the walls. These tiled images were obviously old, probably original, coming from Rome and maybe the Middle East. One was of a snarling, long-tongued wolf harrying a naked brown maiden; another one was a scene of 64 Cinnamon Kiss a bacchanal with men, women, children, and dogs drinking, dancing, kissing, fornicating, and leaping for joy.
In each of the four corners was a five-foot-high Grecian urn glazed in black and brown-red and festooned with the images of naked men in various competitions. He had stretched out on the middle lounger. I learned that from a brother talks down on the campus before they have the Congo drum line.
On a side table, set at the nexus where two of the loungers met, were two squat liquor glasses. Both had been filled with brandy but the drinks had evaporated, leaving a golden film at the bottom of each glass. Next to the glasses was an ashtray in which a lit cigarette had been set and left to burn down to its 65 W a lt e r M o s l e y filter.
There was also a photograph of a man, his arms around an older woman, with them both looking at the camera. He had light brown hair and a handsome smile.
Down one side of the hall were Japanese woodprints framed in simple cherrywood. Each of these prints which looked original had the moon in one aspect or another as part of the subject. There were warriors and poets, fishermen and fine ladies. Down the other side were smaller paintings. It was the work of Paul Klee. Upon closer examination I saw that all of the paintings on that side of the wall were done by him.
Dogs and cats and ducks. The oversized bed seemed like a raft on a wide river of blue carpet. The sheets and covers were a jaundiced yellow and the windows looked out under a broad redwood that dominated the backyard. A newspaper, the Chronicle, was folded at the foot of the bed. The date was March There were whiskey glasses at the side of the unmade bed. They also had the sheen of dried liquor. The pillows smelled sweetly, of a powerful perfume.
I had the feeling that vigorous sex had transpired there before the end, but that might have been some leftover feeling I had about Maya Adamant. The room was so large that it had its own dressing nook. There was an empty briefcase next to the cushioned brown hassock that sat there between three mirrors. Next to the handle was a shiny brass nameplate that had the initials ANB stamped on it. There was a bottle of cologne on the little dressing table; it smelled nothing like those pillows.
Axel gets down. And he shares the wealth too. One contained two plastic bags of dried leaves, marijuana by the smell of them. Another drawer held condoms and various lubricants.
The bottom drawer held a typed letter, with an official heading, from a man named Haffernon. There was no stamp or address or postmark on that letter.
He was protecting his friend from invasion, but this had nothing to do with my being black. That was a rare experience for me at that time. There was an empty teacup on the dressing table too. It was also dried up. Many of these subjects came to believe the false feedback and indicated less preference for drinks containing rum or vodka in comparison to control subjects.
In another project involving wine, we examined real behavior by measuring actual wine consumption after subjects received false feedback concerning their past experience with white wine. We suggested to some subjects that they previously got sick after or loved drinking white wine. Moreover, false positive memories were accompanied by increased self-reported and acutal prefer- ence for white wine Wudarzewski et al.
Several important questions arise from these studies. One question involves the extent to which our findings relate to memory or mere suggestion. It is possible that merely suggesting to people that they got sick on a particular food in the past is sufficient to alter preferences and eating behavior. We have data that speak directly to this question. In nearly every experiment that we have conducted on this topic, we find that Believers show more consequences than do Nonbelievers or controls.
If the suggestion itself is sufficient to elicit attitudinal and behavioral consequences, then the Nonbelievers should also show consequences because they too received the false suggestion.
Thus, mere suggestion does not seem sufficient to produce the kinds of results we typically see. Beliefs pertain to ideas which may or may not be accurate that we have about the past in the absence of specific detail that can be recalled. For example, we know and believe that we were born, but we do not remember the event itself.
Memories, in contrast to beliefs, pertain to recollected details of past experiences. For example, many of us can recall details about our first kiss.
Using this distinction, we can examine the formation of false beliefs and false memories. At the end of our studies, we ask subjects whether they have a general belief in or a specific memory for the event. Thus, most subjects are forming false beliefs rather than false memories in our studies. The reason that we have not distinguished these subgroups in this chapter is because the two groups are largely indistinguishable in terms of their confidence that the critical event occurred as measured by their responses to the Food and Beverage History Questionnaire or the consequences that we measure.
Thus, because false beliefs and false memories similarly affect atti- tudes and behaviors in our studies, we combine false beliefs and false memories into Believers and then compare these subjects to Nonbelievers and control subjects but see Table Table One last question arises concerning whether we can know that our manipulation produced a false memory or whether it triggered a true memory of the food experience.
Without knowing the actual past of each of our subjects, we cannot be sure. However, there is a clue in one study that argues against the idea that we triggered a true memory. Notably, of those subjects who entered the study denying the event and postmanipula- tion developed a memory for it, none of their parents corroborated the event. Readers might wonder whether parents would be expected to recall this event even if it had happened. In fact, many subjects who appeared to have true memories of getting sick on egg salad had parents who corroborated this event Geraerts et al.
Demand characteristics. If our subjects figure out the true nature of our experiments investigation of false food memories and their consequences , then they might pretend to form false memories for the suggested event and show consequences of those false memories. Several lines of evidence argue against this possibility. First, we ask subjects at the end of our studies what they think the purpose of the study was. Very few subjects guess the true nature of our studies.
When we exclude subjects who guessed the purpose of the study, our overall findings do not change see Laney et al.
Second, in some of our studies e. If subjects are responding to demand, one would think they would form false memories for both events. Thus, we do not think that demand characteristics are responsible for our effects.
Boundary conditions. So, false memories can be planted and they have consequences for people. For some foods, like potato chips and chocolate chip cookies two commonly eaten, and perhaps overeaten junk foods , our procedure did not seem to work. Thus, our false food memory technique does not work with all foods. Typically fewer than half of our subjects come to form false memories i.
Thus, some subjects are more prone than others to forming false memories Hyman and Billings Although we have frequently included measures of individual differences in our studies, they generally have not been related to the likelihood of developing a false memory. Theoretical considerations. What is the mechanism behind the false memory diet? In two unpub- lished studies, we ruled out the possibility that behavioral consequences were due to simple positive or negative associations with target foods.
When subjects trained to merely associate certain critical foods e. Mazzoni, Loftus, and Kirsch proposed a three-step model to account for the formation of false memories. Elsewhere, we have expanded on aspects of this model Bernstein et al.
Here, we extend the model to include the consequences of false memories. Researchers typically define ease of processing as speed, and speed of processing as fluency, because processing speed is easily measured with reaction time.
Fluency can be enhanced by different stimulus variables such as repetition, clarity, and presentation duration see Alter and Oppenheimer, in press When people are unaware of the source of their fluency, they may mistake that fluency for familiarity. Put another way, when people experience fluent processing of some material, they sometimes mistakenly believe that the material is familiar to them. We propose that fluency and familiarity precede plausibility in the formation of autobiographical beliefs and memories see Fig.
Moreover, we argue that the consequences that we have observed in our work depend on the formation of autobiographical beliefs and memories, although it is possible that consequences like food and alcohol preferences and eating behavior also link directly to fluency, familiarity, and plausibility.
For example, Scoboria et al. In their study, subjects ate less peach yogurt after reading a phony government report aimed at boosting the plausibility that they got sick eating peach yogurt as children. In fact, in that study, eating behavior was unrelated to false autobiographical beliefs and memories, thus providing further evidence for a direct link between plausibility and eating behavior. Why should the plausibility of a food-related experience matter? From an evolutionary perspective, familiar objects tend to be more preferable, likely because familiar things are perceived as safer than unfamiliar things see Bornstein ; Bronson It is less plausible that a familiar food would be unsafe and capable Fig.
Fluency ease of processing produces feelings of familiarity, which increase plausibility, autobiographical belief and autobiographical memory pertaining to a food-related experience e. False feed- back experimental versus control subjects in our studies may produce consequences directly. Belief in the false feedback Believers, Nonbelievers partially mediates this effect. Believers and Nonbelievers are those who do and do not believe the false feedback, respectively.
Dashed arrow denotes a weaker link than a solid arrow of causing sickness. Thus, if a food is more familiar, it will be more preferred Loewen and Pliner ; Mennella et al. This explains the observation that familiarity of a food how frequently it is eaten enhances preference for it, apparently making it more difficult to develop false memories for having become sick from that food Bernstein et al.
These mechanisms can help us understand food preferences, which, as we will see, is useful when it comes to therapeutic applications. We end this section with a hypothetical model to explain the consequences of false food memories. Moreover, we propose that belief in the false feedback partially mediates this link between false feedback and con- sequences. Work is underway to test this model. We then discuss neophobia, lack of dietary variety, and obesity, followed by a therapy called covert sensitization, as well as several ethi- cal concerns.
We suggest possible applications of implementing false memories of food experiences for therapeutic means. However, we emphasize that such suggestions are cautious, in light of the scant literature on the ethics and safety of utilizing false memories for eating behavior.
There are two general ways by which false food memories could be utilized to positively influ- ence our general eating habits. One is to increase preference for healthy foods and the other is to introduce aversion to unhealthy junk foods. This method would be beneficial for people who do not already consume enough vegetables and fruits in general. In order to reduce or eliminate certain foods from the diet, aversion to those foods via false food memo- ries could be implemented.
False Memories Alter Food Preferences have health conditions requiring them to be vigilant about their diets. Obesity is one such condition, and may actually be related to neophobia. In each case, a goal is to increase healthy food intake and simultane- ously decrease junk food consumption. We now consider the problems of neophobia and obesity.
Food Neophobia and Obesity. Food neophobia is the fear of trying new foods. Having evolved as omnivores with an interest in novel foods, humans historically avoided novel foods because such foods could be dangerous Rozin ; Rozin and Fallon However, novel foods are rarely dangerous in our current society, reducing our need for neophobic tendencies. Furthermore, by defi- nition, food neophobia has a constraining effect on dietary variety Falciglia et al.
This could limit the variety of nutrients consumed Martins , reducing overall health. Indeed, neophobic children tend to have poorer overall diets than non-neophobic children, consuming less vitamin E and more saturated fat Falciglia et al.
Increased dietary variety in early life increases willing- ness to try novel foods Mennella et al. Thus, if a neophobic or other person who had limited childhood dietary variety formed false memories of having tried different foods as a child, they might increase their food variety in general, alongside the new penchant for eating the food for which they have the false memory.
Evolutionarily speaking, humans are presumably adapted to seek out high fat, sugary, salty foods Galee When neophobia is coupled with the abundance of these foods, as found in North America, such foods would conceivably become the mainstay of neophobic people Birch Indeed, as mentioned, neophobic children have higher saturated fat intake Falciglia et al.
This suggests that one answer to the burgeoning problem of obesity may lie in addressing not only the food preferences in obesity itself, but also the underlying neophobia if present. To this end, a false memory diet the formation and consequences of false food memories could be used by training individuals to avoid eating fatty, sugary foods while simultaneously increasing vegetable intake. Pezdek and Freyd assert that false memories probably will not be able to produce aversion to a foods that do not naturally elicit disgust already and b commonly eaten and enjoyed foods.
Regarding obesity, they rightly remind us that no one food is responsible for obesity. Moreover, because becoming sick would be a rare occurrence for many of the culprit foods which tend to be familiar, fatty, and sugary or salty , this event would be implausible.
Thus people would be more likely to resist false memory formation for the target event Pezdek et al. However, these objections may not be as widely applicable as Pezdek and Freyd suggest. With regard to a and b , the following foods have been used to date in published false food memory studies: Hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, strawberry ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, aspar- agus, egg salad, and peach yogurt. With the exception of chocolate chip cookies, the rest of these foods produced consequences such as lowered food preference, taste ratings, and actual consump- tion.
With the exception of hard-boiled eggs and egg salad, none of the other foods listed here is typi- cally associated with a disgust reaction. Moreover, two of these foods are eaten regularly, including ones that do not naturally elicit disgust i. What we can say so far is that foods most amenable to the false memory diet seem to be less common foods Bernstein et al.
Prima facia, the potential ease of applying a false food diet to disgusting foods appears related to the plausibility of those foods inducing illness Pezdek and Freyd Considering disgust in particular, people tend to be disgusted by meat or fat Martins and Pliner , ; Martins et al. Regarding other fatty foods in general, the non-disgust-inducing common ones seem to be resistant to memory modification. In addition, a possible solution to modifying those tenacious memories for less common foods may be to use stronger manipulations such as photo- doctoring, whereby subjects see themselves eating the culprit food see Wade et al.
There is, however, another tentative method for the modification of nutritional behavior, called covert sensitiza- tion. Unlike the false memory diet, it does not include false belief or memory formation per se, though like the false memory diet, it is based on detailed visualization of a given script. Covert Sensitization: A solution to alcoholism and obesity? First introduced by Cautela , covert sensitization is a modification of aversion therapy, which originally used physical condition- ing by way of chemical or electrical means to induce nausea and disgust associated with a particular behavior see Davidson for review.
Sensitization occurs as the aversion intensifies across sessions see Table When this reaction remains consistent over time, therapy is considered successful. Covert sensitization is supposedly rapid and has appeared useful in treating some forms of overeat- ing, including snacking between meals, and chocolate addiction Kraft and Kraft However, other studies have brought its efficacy into question Little and Curran However, this is not ideal if one still would like to enjoy the occasional dessert; strawberry ice cream and vomit do not make an appealing combo.
Furthermore, there may be ethical issues to consider in applying covert sensitization or false memory diets to individuals suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
The same could be said for false memory diets. Ethical considerations. As asserted by Davidson , whenever a therapy involves intentional change in behavior, ethics must be considered carefully. In this chapter we suggest not only solutions for eating behaviour alteration, but a possible, new way of doing so via memory modification. We know that memories are naturally fluid, subject to reconstruction, including false details. Yet when it comes to purposeful, complete fabrication of memories, one must ponder the ethics involved and whether the potential benefits outweigh the costs.
A few false memories of loving asparagus or getting sick from strawberry ice cream may or may not outweigh the ethics involved in planting these memories.
Physical relaxation and deep breathing 2. Incrementally introduce aversion to alcohol a 1st stage: Imagine 3 steps above , in certain settings, and at home b 2nd stage: Imagine more scenes, different settings Cautela ; Anant c 3rd stage: Imagine smell of liquor inducing nausea and vomiting d 4th stage: Imagine that the desire to drink leads to sickness e 5th session: Learn differentiation between liquor as sickness inducing and nonalcoholic beverages as comfort-maintaining 4. Patient repeats critical procedure 10—20 times, twice per day Cautela and Kearney 6.
False memories for a food or alcohol-related experience can affect diet and food preferences. Key Terms Believers: Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content. CIP Data is available. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is.
Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and a lot of kings named Louis. I'm not sure what they did either, but I think it has something to do with the French Revolution, which has something to do with Bastille Day.
The art museum is called the Louvre and it's shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with that statue of the woman missing her arms. And mimes.
The food is supposed to be good, and the people drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes. I've heard they don't like Americans, and they don't like white sneakers.
A few months ago, my father enrolled me in boarding school. His air quotes practically crackled over the phone line as he declared living abroad to be a "good learning experience" and a "keepsake I'd treasure forever. And I would've pointed out his misuse of the word had I not already been freaking out. Since his announcement, I've tried yelling, begging, pleading, and crying, but nothing has convinced him otherwise. And now I have a new student visa and a passport, each declaring me: Anna Oliphant, citizen of the United States of America.
And now I'm here with my parents--unpacking my belongings in a room smaller than my suitcase--the newest senior at the School of America in Paris. It's not that I'm ungrateful. I mean, it's Paris. The City of Light!
The most romantic city in the world! I'm not immune to that. It's just this whole international boarding school thing is a lot more about my father than it is about me. Ever since he sold out and started writing lame books that were turned into even lamer movies, he's been trying to impress his big-shot New York friends with how cultured and rich he is.
My father isn't cultured. But he is rich. It wasn't always like this. When my parents were still married, we were strictly lower middle class. It was around the time of the divorce that all traces of decency vanished, and his dream of being the next great Southern writer was replaced by his desire to be the next published writer. I'm serious. And it totally depresses me, but the ladies eat it up.
They love my father's books and they love his cable-knit sweaters and they love his bleachy smile and orangey tan. And they have turned him into a bestseller and a total dick. Two of his books have been made into movies and three more are in production, which is where his real money comes from. And, somehow, this extra cash and pseudo-prestige have warped his brain into thinking that I should live in France. For a year. I don't understand why he couldn't send me to Australia or Ireland or anywhere else where English is the native language.
The only French word I know is oui , which means "yes," and only recently did I learn it's spelled o-u-i and not w-e-e. At least the people in my new school speak English. It was founded for pretentious Americans who don't like the company of their own children. I mean, really. Who sends their kid to boarding school? It's so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn't have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons.
Instead, I'm stuck with ninety-nine other students. There are twenty-five people in my entire senior class, as opposed to the six hundred I had back in Atlanta. Oh, yeah. Beginning French. No doubt with the freshmen. I totally rock. Mom says I need to lose the bitter factor, pronto, but she's not the one leaving behind her fabulous best friend, Bridgette. Or her fabulous job at the Royal Midtown 14 multiplex. Or Toph, the fabulous boy at the Royal Midtown 14 multiplex.
And I still can't believe she's separating me from my brother, Sean, who is only seven and way too young to be left home alone after school. Without me, he'll probably be kidnapped by that creepy guy down the road who has dirty Coca-Cola towels hanging in his windows.
Or Seany will accidentally eat something containing Red Dye 40 and his throat will swell up and no one will be there to drive him to the hospital. He might even die. And I bet they wouldn't let me fly home for his funeral and I'd have to visit the cemetery alone next year and Dad will have picked out some god-awful granite cherub to go over his grave.
And I hope Dad doesn't expect me to fill out college applications to Russia or Romania now. My dream is to study film theory in California.
I want to be our nation's greatest female film critic. Someday I'll be invited to every festival, and I'll have a major newspaper column and a cool television show and a ridiculously popular website. So far I only have the website, and it's not so popular.
I just need a little more time to work on it, that's all. Mom stares at me and twiddles the turtle charm on her necklace. My father, bedecked in a peach polo shirt and white boating shoes, is gazing out my dormitory window. It's late, but across the street a woman belts out something operatic. My parents need to return to their hotel rooms. They both have early morning flights. Dad steps away from the window, and I'm alarmed to discover his eyes are wet. Something about the idea of my father--even if it is my father --on the brink of tears raises a lump in my throat.
Guess you're all grown up now. He pulls my stiff limbs into a bear hug. His grip is frightening. Study hard and make some friends. And watch out for pickpockets," he adds. And then he's gone. My mother lingers behind. I try to breathe. Count to three. Her skin smells like grapefruit body lotion. Atlanta isn't my home anymore.
Take care of Seany for me. And make sure he doesn't give him too many treats because they make him fat and then he can't get out of his igloo. But make sure he gives him at least a few every day, because he still needs the vitamin C and he won't drink the water when I use those vitamin drops--" She pulls back and tucks my bleached stripe behind my ear.
And then my mother does something that, even after all of the paperwork and plane tickets and presentations, I don't see coming.