The rain, pouring from the sky, shimmers like the tears of the gods. The air is heavy and smells the earthy smell of fallen leaves, trampled until there’s nothing left of its delicate fibers except a mushy pulp, threatening to avenge itself by humiliating us. The mortifying moment after you slip on those very same leaves makes you wonder just how powerful and humane Mother Earth is. Very powerful, it seems, but not powerful enough to go against science, against genetics, Not powerful enough to assure we all have what we need. Like Doi. Her nubs of hands are the subject of much teasing, even though she is just a quiet child, the same as the meaning of her name. Doi, my best friend.
Doi and I met as kindergarteners, when we were young and innocent. I was lucky enough to be born with nimble fingers and keen blue eyes, but what struck me about Doi first was not her hands, but her hair. Long, silky, black… I immediately envied it, as it was like a shimmering waterfall compared to my frizzy blond hair. I wanted it so bad that I took the largest pair of scissors from the box, and was about to chop off a large chunk when she turned around and said, “Hailey, right?” I was so shocked I dropped the scissors, reddening in embarrassment. I was about to apologize when I noticed her hands. Small, with no fingers at all, and I continued to watch as she struggled to color in a monkey. I finally grabbed another marker of the same color, red, and helped her finish it. We’ve been friends ever since.
Waiting for the end-of-school bell to ring, I stared at the clock, willing it to go faster. As usual, in its mischievous way, it simply decided to feel as if time was moving along even more sluggishly than before. I resigned myself to listening to my teacher drone on about the Great Depression and the strength of our country during this time. I roll my eyes. How more pretentious could my Social Sciences class get than the so-called strength of our country during a huge economic downfall? When thousands of Americans could no longer stand all the bills, losing their jobs, their debts, and plunged to their deaths, wasting the one chance to live their lives out? I’m so lost in my thoughts that the bell rings and I haven’t taken any notes for the next day’s test. Groaning, I haul myself out of my chair and out the door, praying for a miracle the next day.
Walking along the sidewalk under my clear umbrella, I search among the crowd for Doi. Unfortunately, my 5’2 at 15 years old is no longer practical, and I am swallowed up and spit out by the crowd near Friendly’s, Doi and I’s favorite ice cream shop. I peer through the window. No sign of Doi, though our favorite table was currently empty. I walk inside, the chimes hanging from the door merrily clinking when the door swings open and closed. The familiar red, cushiony seats are a welcome sight after seven hours of sitting in hard, flat seats, and I sigh as I plunk my stuff and my tush onto the seat facing the window.
Hey! I’m at Friendly’s, at our fave table. Join me? I text Doi, and sit back. Doi’s responses always took a couple minutes, as she only had her nubs to type with. Thirty seconds later, though, to my great surprise, a “ding!” interrupts my debate of which ice cream flavor to order. Quickly grabbing my phone, I read the response. Coming. I frown. She only responded in brief messages when something was wrong. And never had it been that short. What could have gone wrong? I think just as Doi bursts into the shop, red-eyed and nose dripping. Jumping up immediately at the sight of the normally serene Doi in such a terrible state, I lead her to her seat. Before she even sat down, she began to blubber.
“Shh, Doi. Take a deep breath.” She did as told. “Now, tell me, what’s wrong? You know you can tell me anything!” I say, as I order our usuals, frozen hot chocolate for both of us.
“Well, I-I… you know I like Rex Coleman, b-but he’s always so m-mean to me, a-a-and…” Doi stuttered, deep brown eyes shining with tears. She burst into tears again, and I wiped the tears from her face with the red and white gingham napkin on the table.
“And?” I inquired, gently, as to comfort her but still get the full story.
“So I t-told him that my h-hands were just a little different from e-everyone else’s. A-and you know what he did? He laughed in my face and said that unlike everyone else, no one would ever hold my hand!” exclaimed Doi, no longer stuttering. Her eyes flashed for a moment, then went back to the quiet, sad glimmer it was before. I stared at her, not knowing what to think. Then, slowly, I reached out and took her hand. Shrinking back, she gave me a bewildered look. I laugh.
“No, no, this is just as friends. To prove him wrong.” Relieved, she met my hands. Really, holding her nubs weren’t so bad. They were soft and slightly shapeless, not clinging or resisting like hands linked with mine. Carefully dropping her hands, I murmured, “You’ll find someone one day. Someone who cares. Someone who will hold your hands. I promise.” She sniffled but met my eyes.
“Hailey.. I know you’ve always been jealous of my hair, but…” I laugh at this. Oh, Doi.
“Yes, Doi?” I replied, still smiling.
“I’ve always wanted your hands. They’re… perfect. Slim, nimble, with long fingers. I would definitely trade my hair for your hands, even just one of them!” Startled, I look down at her hands as she bursts into tears once again.
“Doi. Listen. Listen! You were right when you said your hands were just different. Just try to stop crying. Doi, just forget Rex Coleman. He’s an idiot who doesn’t deserve you. Okay?” She sniffles but looks right into my eyes, her eyes dark as coal but deep as a well full of water and secrets. I hug her and breathe in the scent of her conditioner, lavender and shea butter. We sit there for a while, letting the feelings mellow out and the gods finish crying their hearts out.
The chirping birds wake me the next morning to a blue-gray sky and a heavy heart. Rolling out of bed, I call Doi, who picks up on the first ring.
“Hailey, when you say you’re going to call me at 7:30, I would think you would know how to tell time,” Doi gently chided. “But apparently, you don’t know how to tell time, as it isn’t 7:30 but 8:30, and if you don’t get your butt to school in half an hour, Mrs. Kellerman will make sure you no longer have a butt to haul to school.” Cursing, I throw on the first thing I see, a pair of ripped mom jeans, white tank top, and a loose yellow sweater, then run out the door, nearly stepping on my orange tabby cat, Butterscotch. Butterscotch hisses, then slinks away as I slam the door shut, bolting to the bus stop just as the bus comes.
I manage to jump onto the bus just before the doors close, and turn around to see a giggling Doi, in her usual oversized gray hoodie and black leggings. I slide into the seat next to her as she begins to cry with laughter.
“What, Doi?” I demand, just as I catch a glimpse of her watch. The time reads 7:43 A.M. Mouth agape, I attempt to smack her on the arm, but am laughing so hard I miss her completely and end up slapping myself in the face, which makes us double over in laughter.
Just as we begin to breathe normally again, the bus pulls up to our school. Doi and I hop out of the bus, and we’re chattering about some thing or another when a boy walks up to us.
“Hi, I’m Jeremy. This is kind of awkward, but I’m new here and I have no idea where I need to go. Could you guys, er… maybe help me?” He says all of this while fidgeting with something in his hands. No, I think. He’s wringing his hands together. He has a prosthetic! Before I could state my observation, Doi responds, “Of course! I’ll give you a tour, and Hailey can tag along if she wants. I’m Doi, by the way.” Jeremy looks at her shyly from behind his thick glasses. He has long-lashed green eyes, tousled chestnut-colored hair, and stands about 3 inches taller than 5’4 Doi.
“Thank you! That would be great,” Jeremy murmured. They walked a few steps together, but stopped. Doi briefly turned around.
“Hailey? Are you coming?” I smiled at this.
“I think you guys will be better off without me this time. Catch you at lunchtime?” I asked. Doi nodded, then ran to catch up with Jeremy. I, too, walk off towards my first class.
Huffing and puffing, I manage to snag the last seat at the lunch table, next to Doi, who in turn is next to Jeremy.
“Oh my gosh, Hailey! You look like you just ran five miles!” Doi exclaimed. I give her a look.
“Hello, I’m on cross-country? Thank goodness I am, too, because we had the push-up test today, and you know that is not my thing,” I pout a little bit while saying this, as I know I’m going to have to make it up. Jeremy mimicked my pout so perfectly that I couldn’t help but giggle like a little girl.
“Jeremy, if you do that again, I’m going to whup your face away!” I said, faking a mad face.
“Jeremy, if you do that again, I’m going to whup your face away!” Jeremy squeaked out in a horribly high-pitched voice. Taking my lunch tray, I smack him upside the head, which only makes him laugh harder. Giving up, I say, “If you weren’t so funny, I really would whup your face off your head!”
Lunch passes fast, and soon, I am once again in my least favorite class, and, unfortunately, the last class of the day. That’s right, Social Sciences once again. Before walking into the classroom, Doi slips me a note.
“Good luck on the test! Remember, the country was “strong” during the Great Depression!” is what the note reads. I knew I could count on Doi to help me, as she always did!
The bell ended the day mercifully, as I ran out of the classroom, nearly knocking over Doi and Jeremy, already outside my classroom.
“Whoa, horsie, whoa!” Jeremy and Doi cry at the same time. I noogie them both one at a time, just to show that it would always have a consequence. We continue to walk.
“Ooh, is that an ice cream place? Can we go?” Jeremy begged as we passed in front of Friendly’s. Doi and I shove him inside and steer him to our favorite table as he squeals the entire time. One thing we had yet to know was that he could eat an entire sundae and not get constipated!
Doi and I decided to take our ice cream to go, and walked out on either side of Jeremy. I soon realize that we’re all humming the same tune, the “Hand in Hand” UNICEF song! Just as I was about to say so, though, who comes around but Rex Coleman. Doi and I groan, and Jeremy asks, “What?”
“Oh, look! Freak’s got a new friend! A plastic freak!” Rex taunts. Doi walks faster, as do I, but is bungeed back to Jeremy, who stopped.
“You call that an insult? Being a freak is a compliment to me. I mean, at least I know how to zip my pants up all the way, especially when I’m wearing the Wonder Woman underwear my grandma got me!” Rex goes crimson and stalks off, muttering about regret and trying in vain to zip up his pants. All three of us laugh, even Doi, who is still slightly embarrassed.
“You know, I was thinking, why don’t we sing the “Hand in Hand” song, hand in hand?” I suggested. Both Jeremy and Doi looked slightly awkward, but nodded anyways. “Here, I’ll start,” I said as I took Doi’s soft nub and she took his hard, plastic hand.
“Ready?” I asked. They cheerfully swung their hands and mine in response.
“Hand in hand, we’ll change the world,” I began, as Doi cleared her throat to continue.
“Hand in hand, we’ll paint the future!” Doi exclaimed, her delicate soprano vibrating in the cool October air. Jeremy frowned slightly.
“Er, I have to sing this an octave lower. My voice is going to crack like crazy otherwise,” he stated so solemnly that I had to press my lips together to keep from laughing. “Okay, here I go. Raising our voices to the sky-”
“Hand in hand, let’s sing and dance!” we concluded all together, laughing, skipping. Our hearts were light, our souls soaring into the sky to dance, freely, hand in hand. The clouds parted shyly to reveal a bright sun and blue skies, a beautiful road in the prairie of the sky. We followed it home. Together.