File Waltz

I discovered today that the five people I’m closest with aren’t safe from my prying mind. I can just get inside their heads and walk around, and I do. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s like I already took one cookie from the cookie jar without asking, and so I might as well have another, since I’m definitely going to get in trouble anyway.

The insides of people’s heads are exactly like you would expect them – disorderly file cabinets. I waltz into their heads and take a look through their files, first of all, the ones marked Laney, since those are the ones I am most interested in. What do these people think of me?

  1. Mom: My daughter who is lovely in all the right ways, but I’m worried about her dating habits and I wish she were looking for a real man.
  2. Bryan: Laney is the girl I am in love with, but I can never let her know.
  3. Reese: Laney is the girl I am in love with, but I can never let her know.
  4. Farah: My best friend, but not a good one to tell secrets to.
  5. Penny: My sister who is a better person than me all around, but she doesn’t know it.

These people are all right, except for my sister Penny. I do know that I am better than her, at least at being a daughter and a friend, but that’s only because I’m 22 and I have more practice than she does.

I didn’t realize I was actually in everyone’s mind’s file cabinets for real until I repeated something back to my Mom about Dad that she said, “I couldn’t possibly know.”

The conversation went like this. In the role of Laney, I cast Drew Barrymore back before she sucked. I cast Annette Benning as her mom.

Drew: How did it feel to know that Dad was cheating on you in high school?

Annette: Excuse me?

Drew: With that girl, you know. Laura or whatever. How did you get over that?

Annette: Where did you find this out?

Drew: You told me. I dreamt about it, last night.

Annette: Go! To your room. You couldn’t possibly know this. Go to your room.

After that, I knew that my waltzing into heads was a real thing, something that I could actually do. I looked through Mom’s file on Dad that night and I knew never to talk about him again, at least, not until he comes back in a knight costume and whisks her off her feet, which was filed under Dad, subcategory “Hopes and Dreams.”

Right before I go to sleep is the best time to get into everyone’s heads. Or, the only time. I just lie there and think about, say, Reese, with his soft curly hair and his astronomy homework that he needs to finish to get a good grade and graduate. I don’t know why he doesn’t think I know he loves me. I do know.

Bryan and Reese just couldn’t act on it because they are friends and both know that the other loves me but don’t know that both know it.

It was confusing for me too.

So I just think about him and then I think about his ear and opening it like a door, and then I’m inside. Waltzing. There is always waltz music playing, I don’t know why, and it’s fun to waltz by yourself. I keep meaning to go ask a hypnotist or a psychologist if this is how they feel when people tell all their secrets to them.

I don’t really know how to use all this information. It doesn’t help me with my sculpture or art history. It doesn’t help with my business. It doesn’t help me be Laney any better, I’m just going into their heads and sometimes I look out through their eyes.

Farah is lying with her boyfriend tonight, and he is sleeping. She’s getting up, though. She gets a glass of water and then stares at her cabinet and then takes out a bag of flour. I watch and I’m excited. She’s going to bake in the middle of the night? She brings the flour to the bedroom and takes the blankets off her boyfriend, then spreads the flour over him. Then she kicks him awake and shrieks when he gets up.

“A ghost! A ghost!” She runs out of the room and he runs after her, and he stops to look in the mirror and literally jumps a foot in the air. He falls backward and Farah is laughing and all I can think of as I lean against her files is that I was glad to witness what just happened.

I leave when she goes over to kiss him.

In my own bed I realize I don’t want anyone going in and checking out my files. I don’t want anyone to see what I really think of Reese or Bryan, and I certainly don’t want my sister to know that I think I’m better than her or my Mom to know that I can get whatever I want out of her. I want all the power I can get in our relationship.

And then there’s the matter of everyone else. If I can get into these five people’s heads, surely it’s not like that cell phone service where it’s only the people I call the most. Maybe I can get into everyone’s head. Maybe I could be an omnipresence in the city, finding out the deepest secrets of the minds in every apartment. I could tell the mayor if he was going to be assassinated, if it was in a file. I could make sure all couples are true to one another. In the coffee shop, I could know exactly what people planned on ordering.

I wonder if I didn’t file things back where they belonged, if that would change anything. If I just switched files. I could change everything.

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