Excerpt from No Man’s Brooklyn, novel-in-progress.
Anya and I were seated on the rubber mat in the front hallway.
We had been playing marbles. Or rather our own version of marbles, which we called Marble Mash. After having bumped one of my marbles off the mat and into the corner, Anya squealed and riotously clapped her hands together. Direct hits always made her happy.
I braced myself for her customary gloating, but it never came. The wattage on her face dimmed. Not to sad but to contemplative. She stared down at her bare knees, then up at me.
I’m going to show you something, okay?
Okay, I said.
I’m-going-to-show-you-something was a trademark Anya-ism.
She had shown me lots of things. One time it was a purplish bruise on her left arm that she never explained. One time it was a letter she claimed to have stolen from her teacher’s desk. One time it was a dead sparrow. One time it was her underwear.
Anya stood up. I did the same.
No you stay she seated, she ordered.
I sat back down.
Anya let out a big exhale. Then she closed her eyes and rocked on the balls of her feet. She was wearing white socks with navy polka dots. Her shoes were off to the side.
She opened her eyes. This might freak you out a little Daniel, okay?
Okay, I said.
I grew itchy with excitement.
Anya closed her eyes again. Her arms lined the sides of her body. Her hands began to twitch, at first subtly and then violently. I imagined that her fingers would burst forth any second, but they remained furled inside their quivering cocoons. Anya’s face was drawn taut, going from white to pink to red, and then a siege of trembling blurred her features. It looked as if Anya was having a seizure.
I started to freak out a little. I was about to call out Anya’s name but was instantly hushed by what I saw next.
Anya rose off the mat.
For several gravity-defying seconds, there were several inches between Anya’s socked feet and the floor. And then it was over.
Her feet were back on the mat, her arms and hands were freed from their lock, and the blood-tone in her face began to cool down and regulate. Her eyelids fluttered rabidly as she opened her eyes. The whites of her eyes were milked over.
She drew the edge of her T-shirt up to her nostril and wiped away the wrinkly hyphen of blood.
I stared at her and didn’t know what to say. Seeing Anya’s underwear was one thing, but this was a whole other level.
Anya looked at me and smiled weakly. Obviously her act of levitation, brief as it was, had taken a lot out of her.
She sat down on the mat and crossed her legs.
Holy shit Anya, the words flew out of my mouth, you have a superpower.
Anya smiled again and flicked a marble with her finger. She seemed unfazed, or disinterested, in what she had done, and my reaction to it.
Anya you just levitated. Hellooo, you fucking levitated. That’s awesome.
It’s something, she said, and flicked another marble.
I couldn’t tell if Anya was self-consciously playing it cool and aloof, or if she truly wasn’t as impressed with her power as I was.
I kept at her.
Anya, you have a super-power. You understand that, right?
You’re too funny Daniel. And read too many comics. I can rise off the ground a couple of inches, that’s all. It’s not a superpower, it’s a—
It’s a superpower—
No it isn’t. What’s so super about rising off the ground a few inches? Tell me, what do you do with a power like that?
I don’t know, you can, I don’t know.
I was getting frustrated. I wanted Anya to see her gift in the way that I was seeing it.
It doesn’t matter what you can do with it, I went on, just that you can do it is incredible. Do you know anyone else who can levitate?
No, but what does that mean. There are lots of people doing all sorts of amazing things that I don’t know about or that you don’t know about. For all I know you may have a super-power that you’re hiding from me.
Trust me, I don’t. And if I did you would know about it.
Awww that’s sweet, Anya pinched my cheek.
Well maybe you have a super power that you haven’t discovered yet.
I don’t, I just, I don’t.
You never know.
Forget about me, I said, you’re the one who just levitated right before my eyes.
Anya sprang to her feet and proclaimed in a barker’s voice—Come one, come all, to see Anya, the Amazing Levitating Girl.
Anya giggled and melted back to sitting.
Is that what I should with my power? Should I join the circus or a carnival?
Anya giggled some more.
When did you find out you could do this?
It was like three months ago. I was in the shower and it just happened.
What do you mean you were in the shower and it just happened? I’ve taken a million fucking showers and something like that never just happened.
Anya giggled and shrugged.
I don’t know, I guess me and you shower differently.
Come on tell me about it, for real.
Like I said I was taking a shower and my eyes were closed and all of a sudden there was this pressure in my body. It sort of felt like the pressure you get when you’re constipated. Except it felt like my whole body was constipated. So I started pushing but the weight didn’t go out of me it went up. Or I went up. Not far, maybe an inch. Then the weight dropped back into my stomach and my thighs felt cramped. Like I had been charly-horsed in the thighs. And my nose was bleeding. Anyway I couldn’t stand up anymore so I got out of the shower and sat on the toilet and rested and that was it.
Wow. How many times have you done it since then?
Three times. This was my fourth. I wanted to show you. You’re the only one that knows. I’m not gonna show anyone else. And don’t tell anyone, ever. Okay?
Daniel, I’m serious. This is between you and me. You gotta promise. Okay?
Anya’s gaze was intense, her tone uncompromising.
Okay, I promise.
I don’t even think I’m gonna do it anymore. It’s kind of stupid. And exhausting. It doesn’t feel worth it. Now if I could fly, really fly, that would be worth something.
I was pissed at Anya. And jealous. Why had she wound up with this power? Someone who didn’t respect it and wasn’t even going to use it.
Anya, I started, but she cut me off—
I just wanted to show you because you’re my friend. The one who I always show stuff to. So I showed you. And I’m glad you liked it or thought it was cool or whatever, but that’s it. I’m not doing it anymore.
Anya stayed true to her word. She never levitated again. At least not in front of me. On several occasions I asked her if she’d do it again, but she either dismissed me or pretended that she didn’t know what I was talking about.