Response to Literature – Every Day by David Leviathan
I wake up to the reflection Arianne Somers’s face – or more like my face for the day.
I am not like any other person. I don’t wake up in the same body, with the same life every day. I never wake up in the body I fell asleep in. I don’t remember it being any different for as long as I’ve lived – well if you’d consider my funny half-existence living.
Anyway, today, I am Arianne. I’ll live today as Arianne would.
I’ve been doing this for about fourteen years now, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
I haven’t left her bed, which is unnervingly close to floor to ceiling mirrors, and I already know that I’m not alone in the room. She shares a bedroom with her older sister, Courtney, whose alarm is about to go off. I decide to get up now, and get ready so I have the bathroom to myself. As I take a shower I access her memories to see what her schedule for the day looks like.
It’s a Friday, consistently the breeziest and best day of the school week for Arianne. Fortunately she also organized herself for the day ahead, so all I had to do was get changed and eat breakfast before heading over to the bus stop.
I had a plan to follow her sister around on the public transport to school – as I was still trying to access all of Arianne’s biography – however that went down the drain when I receive a message from Robyn:
Late train, 4th carriage.
I access her memories, to put a name to a person.
Robyn: she’s a close friend of Arianne’s – petite frame with short curly brown hair and a brilliant mind.
Though, it takes awhile for me to get the message.
I get off the bus, with the rush of school kids and follow Courtney to the station platform, on the other side of the tracks. I don’t have to wait very long to see the train slowing down to our platform. As it stops I realize what the message means and I know I’m not catching this train.
It’s a cold morning. Waiting at the platform for longer than I have to seems unfavorable, but in Arianne’ body, for some reason, it feels uplifting. I feel like something good is going to happen. Something in the way the breeze brings the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. My fingertips start to feel frozen and I feel alive.
I realize that Arianne’s a happy person. It makes me think about all the great things about living like I do.
I see and understand the universe from so many perspectives. I understand people how, why and what it’s like to sit where they are socially. I also understand how greatly the past effects the future, even though I’m never in a body long enough to suffer the repercussions of my actions.
It doesn’t take me long to I know the type of person Arianne is. She recognizes, she understands, she accepts and most importantly she appreciates. Even with her basic biography I know that she’s not in the in-crowd, she was done with ‘trying and changing’ to be friends with people 3 years ago. And as a result of that, here I was catching the train into school about too see people she found it effortless to call friends.
I look down the platform, and I see the tracksuit.
I feel Arianne’s heart thumping and her mouth dry up. She’s nervous.
I look at the tracksuit-clad guy’s face. Really, he’s just another guy – gelled hair, freckly nose – but clearly he means something to Arianne. He’s looking back at me now. Her heart beats harder. I expect him to look away and keep walking. Instead he stops right by me.
“Good morning,” he says.
I’m surprised that he’s talking to me. He looks a few years older, and had I been watching this, rather than in it, I’d see it – them together – as very unlikely. Visually, they just look like opposites – grammar school student contrasting against the boy in some sort of sports program.
Trying to make sense of this I access. Then I see him. In memories almost a year old – when they were complete strangers – she’d see him at the platform almost every morning. One day, she saw something special about him and many months later, of plucking up the courage, she talked to him for the first time. They never stopped talking.
“Morning to you, too.” I reply with a smile.
I’m watching him. I want to see what Arianne sees. This sounds ridiculous since I am seeing him through her eyes but I’ll never know what she’s thinking or feeling as she looks at him. This way, I constantly feel like I’m missing something.
He takes a deep breath. He’s not looking at me anymore.
“It’s Friday,” he says, exhaling.
“Yeah, it is. Are looking forward to anything this weekend?” I ask to get a conversation going.
This relationship between them is something Arianne really doesn’t want to screw up, so I’m going to leave her with a great memory of this day.
We get on the train, he jokes about mini-golfing for his eighteenth. I laugh in all the right places and then tell him about Arianne’s experience of mini golf. It’s an easy conversation.
The train comes to a stop at the next station and I see more guys in a similar tracksuit. They’re his friends.
“I’ll catch ya later,” he says.
He walks down the carriage, while a girl in the same uniform as me – Robyn, approaches me. She smiles at me knowingly. To Arianne this is very familiar. It’s just a regular morning.
In the first few minutes at school I learn that peer interaction only gets harder. Talking to Robyn was easy – she only asked a few questions otherwise she was telling stories about last night and going on tangents of her own thought. Once we arrived at school, I was surprised by the amount of friends Arianne had. Generally people like her, whose bodies I’ve been in, struggled to find friends but the few they had were great, close friends. For Arianne this was different.
I couldn’t understand how she found so many people that she was so close to and genuinely appreciated in the one place.
The thing is that they are unbelievably strange and quirky people, which was cool though none of them asked generic questions. Some of them I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have even made sense to Arianne. Another thing is that they like to talk to her exclusively, and this is sometimes regardless of whose already talking to her. I wonder if Arianne actually has the ability to talk to two people at the same time.
One thing that I’m sure of is that I don’t and that I only felt relief once class started.
During classes I make sure that I’m taking coherent enough notes for them to be able to wholly learn the lesson they missed. I don’t know how well they remember the day I inhabited their body, let alone the classes, so I write what they should know. As I do this for Arianne I realize that her handwriting is like a bombsite. It’s possible that she won’t even be able to read this when she looks back at it.
The classes feel short and I get through the recess break fairly well keeping up with conversation of one group of her friends.
At lunchtime I’m reminded of Arianne’s band lesson. She plays bass. I realize that I cannot.
I’ve tried in the past and I know it’s impossible to adopt the person’s musical ability.
I want to skip out on the lesson, but I know her band mates would bring it up later. I go anyway. I walk into the room with her band mates, who are all good friends, including Robyn. I access to be able to set up the bass. Arianne isn’t nervous – but I am.
A man walks into the room. He’s sporting skins, shorts, a waterproof jacket and runners. He’s the band’s instructor, Tim – an absolute musical genius to Arianne.
“Okay, great that you’re all set up,” He says, “let’s start with what we know of Robyn’s piece.”
I know the piece is called ‘Our Ghosts’ and I can see what my fingers are supposed to do, but I know I can’t do it.
I’m off beat. The notes aren’t ringing out properly. I miss sections out all together. I’m trying, I’m failing and I’m getting frustrated.
Arianne’s band mates – Lindsey, Amanda and even Robyn, whose body is facing away from me as she sits at the piano – are all staring at me. They know something’s up.
Eventually, Tim does a quick one-on-one bass lesson with me. It’s really basic stuff, too. I feel stupid for not thinking of a way out of this and I feel bad, for Arianne, because to everyone it looks like she’s forgotten how to play bass. So I’m eager to learn this as quickly as possible to get this over with.
Tim’s tapping out the beat and I’m finally getting it, then feeling it falling into muscle memory. Impromptu, the rest of the band comes in and it sounds amazing.
When the lesson ends, I’m proud of myself because I’ll always have this basic knowledge of playing bass. Anything practical that you learn always becomes a handy tool when you live like I do.
The feeling goes away when Amanda comes up to me. She was sitting behind the drums, the whole lesson, staring at me.
“You really don’t seem like yourself today,” she begins, “like you’ve been really quiet all day, you haven’t been laughing very much because it looks like you’re to busy trying to solve math problems in your head and just then it was like you forgot how to play bass… but you picked it up towards the very end,” she explains.
I’m nervous all over again. I look at her.
Amanda’s face is one of genuine concern. She really cares about Arianne, and it makes me want to tell her the complete – and admittedly unbelievable – truth. I know I can’t, though.
Amanda assures me, “If there’s anything going on you can always talk to me.”
I take a deep breath. “You’re right.” I swallow, “I really don’t feel like myself today. You know, when you wake up and get up, but that conscious part of you is still sleeping?” I ask. I’m manipulating parts of what Arianne’s learnt in her few Philosophy lessons. “It’s kind of like that, but don’t worry about me, I should be back to normal tomorrow.”
Amanda nods, thinking. “Well, we should do something tomorrow then, after Saturday sport.” She suggests.
I smile and nod, “Sure, I’ll text you.” I say, before racing off to the last class of the day.
After school I walk back to the train station with Robyn and luckily enough she doesn’t bring up the band lesson. Instead she tells me about the dissection she did in science during the last lesson. I remember to smile and laugh, then reply whenever necessary. Talking to one person was easy, talking to Robyn, even easier.
I could see why Arianne was so close with her, and why they appreciated each other so much.
We arrive at the station just as our train slows down to the platform. Robyn and I run onto the train and feel like legends, with our fists in the air as the door closes behind us. People are staring. we gingerly place our arms back by our sides and quietly laugh at ourselves.
Robyn gets off at the first stop and then I’m off at the next station.
I see the tracksuit when I walk off the platform. When he looks back at me, I remember this morning, wanting to feel what Arianne felt about him.
I stop and ask him about his day. He seems worn out and replies vaguely, so I wish him a good weekend as a goodbye. He wishes the same with a little smile.
I decide to walk back home from the station.
I really like taking walks by myself, because for a little bit I can think and find myself, before I forget. It’s really hard to remember who I am when I’m so busy being a different person each day, so I find this is the most important thing to find time for.
As I walk I think about the difference between Arianne and myself. I especially think about how lucky she is to have the relationships with people that she has, and that I’ll never really have that.
I’m always borrowing someone else’s and without the emotion. When I do feel something, I know it’s not going to end well, because the next day I won’t be there, then for countless days after that I’ll be mourning and longing to have it back.
I remember that normal people go through similar things – loss. It helps to know that the things that I feel are commonly felt.
Though I still feel a bit down, and a bit of envy for Arianne, I adapt like her – recognizing, understanding and accepting.
When I get home I talk to Arianne’s sister. She’s over the moon. She’s done brilliantly in one of her tests. It’s easier to have a decent conversation with siblings, when they’re in this sort of mood.
She starts talking about her friends and school – all the good things and bad things about them. Our conversation leads on to their immature cousins they grew up with.
Before I know it, it’s nearing midnight. Arianne and I need to sleep.
Under the covers, with the lights out I can truly appreciate the day, knowing that I’m going to leave a little bit better and better equipped for the next.
I’m not sure if the person ever actually receives it, but I leave them a little mental message anyway:
Arianne Somers, it has been a pleasure.