The porch rails are yellow and glossy, paint plastered thickly in corners and over bent nail heads. Sticky soap-bubble circles of all sizes overlap across the rails and over the porch itself, with a few big dry patches where the tubs of bubble mix had shielded the ground, cleared away now along with the assorted hula hoops and bubble wands that had been dipped inside of them. Shattered mirrors strung from the ceiling add a magical touch to the garden around the porch; patches of reflected light bouncing around the flowers bundled at its sides like silent, iridescent bees. Tubs of cards, plastic nobs bobs and bangles, and water pails clutter the steps of the porch, spread past the flowers, and onto the yard, which continues uninterruptedly green to the sidewalk pavement.
My friends were here in the yard, in the New Place. They came with my Mom and Dad. We played with big bubbles made of air, soap, and hula-hoops, the ones I can jump in and watch spread into a million rainbows like gasoline. And we drummed against our chests songs until my voice was shaking with the drum beats and I was screaming, screaming because it felt nice and everything was too happy to be silent and still. We ran around and around, and I chased them, and they wiggled under my armpits when I caught them so that I beat my chest again, caught in the excitement, and I ran faster until they fell down, and I just kept running in circles around them. Then they would reach up their arms as I passed, a kelp forest of arms swinging in my way, and grab me down to tickle me again.
Sometimes my thoughts get blurred and I forget how much time has passed, but it feels like a long time since my friends were here with my Mom and my. My feet are dangling off the porch swing, swaying, bulky tennis shoes forcing them faster, and I am trying to remember when they were last here- twenty minutes or twenty hours ago? The bubble splatters are still wet. But just barely wet, I touch one with my finger, rub my finger all around across my shirt, and settle down with my legs crossed now, a calmer pose.
“Wet,” I say.
“Slippery,” I say, because it reminds me of wet.
“Bubbles,” I say, because it reminds me of slippery, wet, and the shiny circles on the ground, and because I would like some more bubbles to play with.
Normally there is enough bubble mix to spill, and enough people to turn to and watch shake their heads as they hand me more, looking at me with sighing soapy-carpet eyes and kissing my cheeks.
“Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles,” I croon.
They were just here! I squint and rub my eyes. I remember they were here, the ground agrees with me, shines with evidence, but they left and now I am alone.
Usually I am waiting by the front door that squeaks, watching as it opens with the dogs barking, and I come running, and I come screaming, and we make dinner with ice cream after. But this is a New Place, a big house, with a room for me, and for my new-friends with a new-Beth to watch me. Soon she will leave and my parents will come home, right? Soon she will leave and I’ll see the porch with the dogs barking, or the ice cream with the bubbles blowing, or my parents with big pails of yellow paint, something will happen, and I will be home or feel home.
Where am I?
“Where bubbles?” I want to know.
I see a black, bulky nob sticking out of the grass.
Wooop I get sucked out of my seat and I am running towards it. A sprinkler! I turn it on and the water explodes outwards!!! I giggle and scream as my shirt collects patches of dampness and my hands cover and uncover the big black nob so that the water rushes out in spouts and spurts.
A woman walking down the street with a dog stares as I play. My dog! She’s half-home! Woop I race down to meet them, my shirt sticking against my ribs and making a fwap-fwap thump as it flaps against my back and my feet run ragged against the ground. I reach her with my hands out but she pulls back and inwards so that I am towering over her, a look on her face like someone just popped her balloon, and I am sorry that I was sucked out of my play for her. Licking my shins, the doggy rubs against a giggling me, giggling hands now shaking in her fur, feeling the muscles straining against her leash being pulled back, and I know she was worth the run.
Just then I hear new-Beth straining to yell from the porch. I was past the ‘safe zone.’ Instead of returning I pretend my feet are floating above the sidewalk, so that I am not doing anything wrong, just petting the doggy and looking away to not be seen.
New-Beth walks up with her slight limp and slowly, because she is slow in every way, reaches up to touch the edge of my shoulder as she turns to me: “Did you ask if you could pet the doggy, Jacob?”
I don’t like her touching me. It reminds me of needles and rolly pollies and a warm blanket with too many holes.
“My doggy,” I say, but I know it is not really her, only half-her, halfway home.
“No Jacob, I’m sorry that’s not Sandy, this is Ms. Kasterman’s dog and you need to ask nicely before you touch,” she says this as she rubs my back, which feels both better and worse.
I look over both their heads, straight outwards toward the street, and search for Sandy in the windows. Nothing.
Glancing down at the lady’s face my mouth asks, “I pet, please.”
Softly stern, her expression has changed from after-a-balloon-pops to mommy’s silly-putty-all-over-the-ground stare and she answers, “Welcome to the neighborhood! If you could please tell his mother I say hello when she visits…” all this straight to new-Beth, then with a smile the lady leads the half-doggy away and we turn around, my feet back on the ground, to walk to the porch with the yellow railing, my face twisting up because the lady mentioned Mommy, who is not here, and took away my doggy, and new-Beth pulls out some bubbles so I stop crying, and I make the porch all wet again with brand new circles just so I can watch them dry from scratch. Again and again, wet tears, dry tears, wet bubbles, wet circles and dry circles, until the next visit.
Born in Israel, Iris Bachmutsky is a neuroscience major and writer at UCLA. Her work focuses on the development and internal struggle of outsiders, trying to lend them an inner voice.