I have always been a dreamer, I suppose. Ever since I can remember – I’ve always been more interested in the funny little patterns the clouds make – and forget about what I walk into. Or I can watch the ants in our porch for hours together – and not get bored. My mom thinks my head’s in the clouds a bit too much. I don’t think she gets me most times – I’m the total opposite of her. Well I don’t always get her either, so I suppose that makes us even.
Mom’s the real pragmatic one in the family. She teaches English at my school – and has the stern teacher look down pat. She always wears similar looking ‘official’ kind of skirt-blouses in varying shades of brown, horn-rimmed glasses and hair rolled tightly into a bun. I swear if she weren’t my mother, I’d really be scared of her. Well - sometimes I am, anyway!
So then I used to think I must take after my father – whom I don’t remember – because he died in a car accident when I was only six. If I try and think really hard, I sometimes remember the faint whiff of Old Spice as he used to rub his rather prickly cheek against mine. But then I also remember that he was bald – because I know I used to love pulling the leftover hair on the top of his head which used to make him laugh. So it must make sense that he was kind of serious as well – and not just because he was bald – he used to work as a biology professor in college – and I bet that’s got to take a lot of pragmatism too.
I am afraid that one day my mom will finally think I’m old enough to handle the truth and reveal that I was adopted as a baby. Well that would explain a lot of things – especially why I never get good grades in spite of having such academic parents! Anyway, since my mom teaches in the same school as mine, it gets a bit weird at times. Especially in English class – she gets all aloof and distant with me – as if I’m just one of her students – and I guess she wants me to follow suit. But I don’t always remember that. Like last week in her class, I was thinking of the talent competition that our school was having, and I got so caught up with it. So when she suddenly asked, “Jamie – would you please bring your essay copy over to me?” And I said, “Oops – I left it in the kitchen Mom!” and then the class started giggling and that put me in the doghouse for a while.
After school I usually hang out with Scully. Scully is my best friend in the whole world. His real name was Darren Schulz but I never call him that. Of course that made me Mulder – as we were huge ‘X-files’ fans and all. People thought it kind of funny that we had mixed the sexes up of the real Mulder & Scully – but we didn’t mind. The whole point was that we were big alien believers – both of us – ever since Scully saw ‘E.T.’ the first time. I’ve seen it 15 times so far – and I can tell you – I haven’t seen the last of it. These days both of us are practicing very hard for the talent competition. It fit that we were acting out a scene from E.T. for the talent competition. I was E.T. of course, and Scully was going to be ‘the kid’, and we were doing the last scene where E.T goes home. Our practice didn’t go very well today. Scully had this idea of including the “The truth is out there” line from X-files in our scene. But somehow it didn’t seem to fit in anyplace – so finally I asked him to drop it. And he wasn’t ready to – so we just ended up arguing about it till I left for home since it was almost dinner time.
Mom told me that Mr. Thomas was going to join us for dinner again. Mr. Thomas was our new science teacher (you could see how having my mother teach in my school was so going to mess me up when I grew up.) Anyway I didn’t mind Mr. Thomas – or Willard as my mom called him – coming to dinner so much. He was mostly interesting and easy to talk to. And he had these nice twinkling blue eyes. But most of all – it was because he was an alien.
Now I don’t know exactly how I found this out – but I’m pretty sure I am the only one who knows about this – and of course, Scully knows because I told him. You see, Mr. Thomas has this curious looking tattoo on his wrist that no one can figure out. It was sort of like a head with vacant almond shaped eyes and no nose or mouth - and it was dark green in color. And there were some letters on the bottom that looked like curious looking symbols. But what had really got me thinking was the fact that he didn’t have any eyebrows – not a single hair! Once at dinner I’d asked him about his lack of eyebrows - and my mom just sighed and went all “Oh Jamie”. But Mr. Thomas said he didn’t mind and then told me that during the war he was called to do some heavy-duty research with some kind of radioactive stuff - which caused all his hair to fall off. But somehow afterwards when he returned, all the hair on the top of his head grew back on its own - except for his eyebrows! Hah! A likely story.
Dinner went well with the three of us together. My mom and Willard were great pals before he went off to college – they had practically grown up together. Everyone used to think they were sort of like a ‘couple’ and all back then - and sometimes even now. But there was nothing to it, my mom said, they were only best friends like Scully and I were – and people always like to put 2 and 2 together to make 22 – especially she being a widow and him being single still. (I suppose having no eyebrows must make it rather difficult to land a girl!)
“So Jamie, what are you going to do for the talent competition?”, Willard asked me during dinner.
“I am going to be an alien Mr. T”, I replied, giving him a knowing look.
“That’s something I haven’t seen in a while”, he told me, rather shiftily I thought.
“Yeah of course – uh huh”, I replied, nodding my head vigorously.
Mom looked at me strangely. “Jamie and Darren are going to play a scene from E.T”, she said, “Making up her costume is going to use up all of my talents, if you ask me.”
“I might be able to help you with that”, Willard said. I perked up my ears at that. Of course! “I have some paraphernalia like goggles, masks, etc - from this year’s school fair - lying around at my house. You are welcome to take a look and see if you can find something useful”, he said.
“Hey thanks Mr. T!” I replied, trying not to let my excitement show. I couldn’t wait to call and tell Scully after dinner.
“Into his house! Oh man! We might even be able to scout around and find his spaceship or something!”, Scully said. Yeah right, as if Mr. Thomas would keep a spaceship lying around his living room. But nothing would deter Scully. “The truth is out there, Mulder”, he yelled into the phone, “The truth is out there!” He was still stuck onto his favorite cliché, but I was just as excited as he was, to call him on it.
We were on a mission as we trooped into Willard’s living room after school the next day. He was kind enough to offer us cookies and milk, but we waved him off impatiently.
“Boy, you guys are keen”, he exclaimed, blissfully unaware of what was going through our minds. He led us through his living room into a small study, where he pointed to a small closet against the wall. “It’s all in there guys. Are you OK with sorting through that jumble on your own – I’ve got a few papers to grade for tomorrow?”
Were we?! We nodded, smiling beatifically at him.
“Great”, he smiled back at us, “Holler if you need anything”.
We scrounged around the room eagerly trying to find any clues about his real identity. But apart from a moldy fungus that was growing at the back of the closet, we didn’t find anything remotely interesting.
“Scully – watch out for him while I go check into the other rooms. If he even moves, hoot like an owl – OK?” I told him.
“I can’t hoot”, he replied, looking scared and sad at the same time.
We hurriedly did a quick round up of all the animal calls he could make and finally settled on him mooing like a cow. It was only later when I was rifling through his bedroom closet that I realized Willard might find mooing cows in his house rather strange – but by then it was too late.
It was there that I made a real find! There was an old album full of old pictures. I started flipping through them excitedly, when suddenly I heard a loud moo. I almost jumped out of my skin and dropped the album in fright. It fell face open on the floor exposing a picture of Willard with someone I never expected to see. It startled me more than Scully’s moo - even though it shouldn’t have really. I could hear Willard’s voice in the background asking Scully where I was – but somehow I couldn’t move. All I could do was stand there and stare in fascination at my mom’s face grinning out of the photograph – arm in arm with Willard – both dressed as Luke and Leia from ‘Star Wars’ - Willard carrying a light saber to boot!
“Jamie! What are you doing here?” Willard stood at the door, looking suspiciously at me, his eyebrow-less brow furrowed.
“I was looking for the bathroom Mr. Thomas”, I mumbled, “I got lost.”
Fortunately he couldn’t see the album as it had fallen behind the bed, and I surreptitiously shifted it underneath with my foot.
I was quiet as we left from Willard’s house, empty handed. Scully was still chattering in nervous excitement about the narrow escape that we had, but I wasn’t really listening to him. I had other things on my mind. I was thinking about my mom dressed in a shining gold dress and hair rolled in buns behind both ears in the classic “Princess Leia” look. My mom didn’t dress up like that! She put up with all my alien nonsense but deep down I knew she didn’t really believe in it. True, she must have been about 10 years younger, but it just wasn’t her to look so completely starry-eyed like that. And Mr. Thomas had had eyebrows! My head was spinning.
I began to have doubts about all my beliefs about my life so far. By the end of the week I was firmly convinced that my mom wasn’t my mom but a strange kind of 60’s hippie who wore weird shiny dresses and secretly went to Star Wars conventions – and my dad wasn’t my dad but Mr. Thomas!
I was rather distracted the whole week and that affected our practice considerably. Finally Scully couldn’t take it anymore and we had a huge row.
“It’s only a stupid competition Scully, nobody cares about it”, I told him.
“Well I care! If you think its stupid then fine, I’ll just do it by myself!” he said, threateningly.
I couldn’t take it anymore either, so I said, “Fine! Go ahead! You are on your own!” and stomped off.
It’s amazing how I never realized how articulate and witty Scully was until the week after our fight. All the other kids at school seemed totally dull and boring compared to him. So what if he had a penchant for spouting the same dialogues over and over – it was sort of endearing really. Besides, Scully got me, in a way nobody ever did, and sometimes it was all that mattered. I was longing for our fight to be over, but at the same time I didn’t know how to end it.
I suppose with the fight and the new revelations about my mom and Mr. Thomas, on top of that, I was kind of glum and morose the whole week and mom decided she couldn’t take it anymore.
“OK – out with it Jamie”, she demanded, at dinner finally. I looked at her blankly.
“Something’s going on with you this whole week. You are off in your own world - a bit more than usual. You haven’t been paying attention in class – a bit more than usual. And you and Darren have been practicing – a whole lot less than usual!” Oh boy! She was on a roll now. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you two have been fighting about something!” she finished cannily.
I didn't want to talk about our stupid fight, but even I wasn't prepared for what I blurted out next - “Mom – is Willard my real dad?”
Whatever my mom expected to hear, this was not it. She gaped at me for a full minute before she found her voice. “Jamie! What a thing to say! I swear I can never imagine the things that go on in that head of yours! Whatever made you think of something like that??”
So then I had to tell her the whole story – about Mr. Thomas being an alien and then both of us snooping around his house (only I made it sound as though I accidently came across that album). Then my mom did something that made me gape for a full minute. She began to laugh!
“Oh Jamie! And from all that you came up with the idea that he was your father! I think Willard might enjoy being thought of as an alien – I should tell him that! Now if only you could use all that wild imagination towards something fruitful and we just might be on to something”, she said, still chuckling. “You know, you remind me so much of myself, when I was about your age. I was just like you”, she told me, when she had sobered down a bit.
I don’t know why, but then I began to cry. All I could think about was that I would grow up just like my mother - wearing clothes in different shades of brown all the time - and that only made me cry harder. “But I don’t want to be like you!” I wailed in between sobs.
The smile fell right off her face – I could see it clearly, even as I was crying. “And why is that so terrible, Jamie”, she asked quietly.
And then I realized, I wasn’t really upset that I was unlike both of them. I somehow had grown to like that about myself, being different from my sober, staid and serious parents. Willard, on the other hand, had seemed like a cool and interesting person to be related to. And all last week, it was like a glorious secret that I was hugging myself with.
I stopped crying and I told her exactly what I was thinking then. Her face grew more and more serious with every word I said, and she was back to the strict English teacher who scared all her students.
Finally she sighed and said, “Well Jamie, you are stuck with the parents that you have. But for your sake and mine, I hope with all my heart that you get to remain the same way you are. I hope that life never teaches you to grow out of your dreams.” She sighed again, then stood up to leave. “…like it taught me”
She said the last part so softly, I almost didn’t hear her.
I felt terrible, then. I sat thinking alone by myself long after she left, wondering what awful lessons life had taught her to drain all the color out of her, like that. True, things hadn’t been so easy after my dad had died suddenly, but I had very little memory of that time. Still, even now I could very clearly remember the day of his funeral, with both of us wearing stark black dresses – and my mom just gazing blankly at me, in answer to all my confused and frantic questions about where daddy had gone. And then it occurred to me that maybe she just slipped out of that black dress into brown ones, because she couldn’t bear to have any other color back in her life at all.
I made up with Scully the next day, which was the day of the competition, even though he was all set to go it by himself - and scared to death at the very thought! We even managed to scrounge up a runner’s up prize, much to our surprise. It was enough to set Scully dreaming of a future in acting. Not me, though. For now I was content to absorb and enjoy my own crazy dreams – the clouds – and the colors– as long as I could. Future was as far off for me, as aliens seemed to be.
These days we are on a new mission – Scully and I. We are trying to get my mom get together with Mr. Thomas! Sometimes it’s good to have 2 and 2 make 22 instead of the usual predictable 4. Besides, as Scully says, I would get to have my own alien living with me!